Braving Breast Cancer with Aromatherapy

October may be known for jack o lanterns and candy corn, but as we near closer to Halloween, we can’t forget that this month is also time for a different kind of frightening awareness that affects about 1 in 8 U.S. women — breast cancer. Receiving a diagnosis is a harrowing time for everyone involved and is the beginning of a battle that can often leave both patients and loved ones mentally and emotionally drained. 

In such a trying time, many people faced with such an unsettling diagnosis have turned to aromatherapy to help ease some of the distress that the battle with cancer may bring. At the very least, essential oils are a great way to make your home environment smell great and feel cozy, but many have found that these herbal extractions can help with a multitude of ailments ranging from stress to mental clarity. 

The world of aromatherapy is a vast one, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the myriad of oils out there — but don’t let that dissuade you! The benefits of aromatherapy can be reaped by carefully crafting a collection of key essential oils that are both versatile and easy to find.

Peppermint: Known in the scientific world as Mentha Piperita, peppermint is wildly popular as both a medicinal herb and a refreshing addition to recipes both sweet and savory. In aromatherapy, peppermint is a favorite for stimulating the mind, boosting energy levels and can also be used as a mood elevator during times of great stress or sadness. Due to its refreshing, cooling nature, peppermint  oil is often used as a key ingredient in topical formulas as well! 

Pro tip: Peppermint essential oil is notoriously strong, so be sure to dilute it (preferably in a carrier oil) before applying directly onto your skin!

Lavender: Ah, sweet lavender. Arguably the most popular essential oil in aromatherapy, lavender is an invaluable addition to an aromatherapy arsenal.  It has been used throughout history for its stress-relieving and calming properties. 

Pro tip: Lavender is one of the few essential oils that does not need to be diluted! For restless nights, try applying a few drops of lavender oil on your pillowcase or on a compress to lay on your temple. 

Rosemary: Hailing from the Mediterranean, rosemary’s crisp woody scent can aid in reducing stress, battling fatigue and sweeping away mental fogginess. This is a perfect scent to uplift spirits during particularly tough times!

Pro tip: There’s a lot of research around Rosemary and it aids in helping relieve dry scalp and stimulate hair growth. Add it to a shampoo or incorporate a rosemary rinse into your scalp care routine for a circulation boost.

Eucalyptus: Favored by both humans and koalas alike, eucalyptus’ intoxicating, refreshing and invigorating scent is commonly used to clear the air in a given space as well as to boost energy, stimulate mental activity and alertness.

You may have noticed that eucalyptus is commonly seen in a variety of over-the-counter drugs like mouthwashes, lozenges, rubs and salves — to name a few. This is due to the compound eucalyptol (aka cineole) which has known antimicrobial properties. 

Pro tip: Thanks to the aforementioned properties, eucalyptus oil is a great natural remedy to heal small wounds and abrasions.

Lemon: A reigning champion in Ayurveda, lemon essential oil is a powerful antioxidant and mood booster that has been extensively studied for its range of health benefits. Reach for a bottle of lemon essential oil whenever you need to take a second to refresh your mind and relieve tension!  

Pro tip: Lemon oil is extremely photosensitizing— do not use on skin prior to sun exposure! Generally, it’s recommended to avoid direct sunlight for up to 12 hours after using lemon oil topically.

EO Test Kitchen 

You know what they say — teamwork makes the dream work — and that also rings true with essential oils. While all the oils we just talked about are wonderful to use alone, you can boost their restorative properties by mixing them with complementary oils. When it comes to mixing oils, we recommend starting simple so that you don’t overwhelm your mix with one scent or the other. It’s all about personal preference, so play around with the scents and see what best suits you and your needs. 

Don’t know where to start? While we can’t claim to be experts, we can confidently say that we’ve got a few years of essential oil experience under our belts! These are some of our go-to combinations when we need a little pick me up:

  • Rosemary + peppermint + lemon = energizing
  • Eucalyptus + peppermint = breathe
  • Lemon + peppermint = revitalizing
  • Lavender + lemon = stimulating 
  • Lemon + lavender + rosemary = spring cleaning
  • Eucalyptus + peppermint + rosemary = clear your mind

Keeping Your Skin and Mind Healthy During Treatment

Chemotherapy, while being an effective way to kill cancer cells, often causes patients’ skin to become dry, itchy, and hypersensitive to light. Because of this, patients need to be extra diligent about their skin care routines! When cared for correctly, many of these symptoms are very manageable but if you notice something out of place, don’t ever hesitate to reach out to your doctor. Some quick tips for managing skin care during treatment:

  • Stay away from all artificial dyes and fragrances, additives and unnecessary chemicals. Instead, look for natural products that contain ultra-moisturizing ingredients like coconut oil, cocoa butter and vitamin E that penetrate deep into the skin without irritating it. 
  • Be extra diligent about moisturizing right before and right after treatment! This will help reduce the possibility of dry, flaky skin.
  • Be gentle! This applies to both what you put onto your skin and how you put it on (no rubbing!) Harsh ingredients like alcohol and chemical exfoliants can be too harsh on post-treatment skin.

At this point, you may be asking, “what’s aromatherapy’s place in my skincare routine?”

While most people enjoy aromatherapy by means of an oil diffuser, essential oils can be combined with the healing properties of natural skincare products to truly maximize the benefits of both products! Play around with adding one or a combination of essential oils into your favorite body lotion or cream so that you can take your aromatherapy on-the-go. You can also dilute essential oils into a high-quality carrier oil like jojoba, argan, avocado or coconut for a relaxing and invigorating massage oil or hair and scalp treatment. 

Breast cancer does not discriminate, it attacks all ages and races.  This diagnosis is scary for the patient, their family and friends.  The treatment can be harsh and can take a toll both physically and emotionally.  We hope the tips we have provided on how to incorporate aromatherapy into your routine will help reduce discomfort and stress.  For our readers who have breast cancer, have been recently diagnosed or have a love one suffering we wish you all the best.  Keep fighting!