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Aromatherapy for ME/CFS?


Phoenix Rising Founder
What about aromatherapy to cool down the system, turn down that fight/flight response and turn on the rest/digest response. It sounds good...there are some smells that I just love...but I worry about this problem with MCS. I can't even handle the smells (gases?) from pine trees. Still I'd like to give it a try.

Anyone tried aromatherapy?


Senior Member
Melbourne, Australia
Aromatherapy for the chemically challenged?

Hi Cort,

Yes, I am super chemically sensitive too (& pollution, perfumes, some flowers/trees, mould...............& so on).

(I will have to save up & get a computer for home - typing over a sandwich at lunch or after work is too hard to get in what I want to say).

Your question gives me the opportunity to give some good advice, but I need to speak on the do's & don'ts as well. It's important to understand that because something is natural doesn't mean you can't have an allergic response (& possibly an anaphylactic sp? episode).

The same applies for herbal medicine & so on...................

Secondly, pure essential oils are very potent & I had a couple of remarkable cures with them, some highly amusing results, & some bad reactions/rejections.

I can't stand the smell of some of them - they make me sick - expecially rose geranium. When the aromatherapy tutor used my back for demo. time in class, the carrier oil (grapeseed oil on this occasion) with some Basil essential oil raised enormous red welts across my whole back - it felt like someone had poured hot tar across my back. He quickly smeared neat grapeseed oil over my back to "dilute" the effect & rubbed it off (he did this several times until my back eventually calmed down).

But I eat Basil (& used to make pesto many years ago).

An allergic reaction could result in your throat swelling (like a food allergy) & the usual reactions which one might get in food allergies. Fainting too.

Rare, but possible. Never swallow essential oils (unless you are a qualified aromatherapist).

I use lavender oil neat - it doesn't affect me, but in general it's better to dilute them (in a cream, massage oil base like grapeseed, almond or avocado oil for example). I also add a few drops of lavender oil to vitamin E cream for healing, or arnica cream if I want to use arnica on a bruise or sprain.

Work calls me, Cort, I will have to continue this another time.



Phoenix Rising Founder
I look forward to it. Are certain oils supposed to help certain states? or illnesses?

Do you just put it on something and let the smells calm you down? I guess I have alot to learn here. There are a couple of smells that are so soothing for me; one is from a perfume called 'Ciarra' I think it is. It's been at least a decade since I smelled it last - but it just hooks me. So do the smell in Chinese Five spices - wonderful.

Most perfumes on the other hand are just horrible (no surprise there I guess).

I'm glad you have MCS!;) I have more faith when I hear another MCS patient can handle these smells OK.

It would be nice to be surrounded by good smells - very soothing; I'm into soothing, happy things now.


Phoenix Rising Founder
ME/CFS Researcher on Aromatherapy (!)

Check this out. Ace ME/CFS researcher and olfactory specialist Jame Baraniuk mentions aromatherapy in a 2009 paper.

: Acta Clin Croat. 2009 Mar;48(1):65-73.Links
New concepts of neural regulation in human nasal mucosa.

Baraniuk JN, Merck SJ.

Division of Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy, Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20007-2197, USA. baraniuj@georgetown.edu

Nasal mucosa is innervated by multiple subsets of nociceptive, parasympathetic and sympathetic nerves. These play carefully coordinated roles in regulating glandular, vascular and other processes. These functions are vital for cleaning and humidifying ambient air before it is inhaled into the lungs. The recent recognition of distinct classes of nociceptive nerves with unique patterns of sensory receptors ....has revolutionized our understanding of the complexity and subtlety of nasal innervation.

These findings may provide a rational basis for responses to air temperature changes, culinary and botanical odorants ("aromatherapy"), and inhaled irritants in conditions as diverse as idiopathic nonallergic rhinitis, occupational rhinitis, hyposmia, and multiple chemical sensitivity.

Idiopathic non allergic rhinitus - rhinitus that is not associated with allergy. That reminds me of hypersensitivity to food that is not associated with allergy - that concept that you can have a bad reaction to food that is not based on anaphylaxis - which the medical profession just doesn't seem to get (altho they are getting better).

Interesting - Baraniuk and aromatherapy - wonder what he thinks about it. Gotta try to get his paper.


Senior Member
Melbourne, Australia
Hi Cort,

I'll write a decent article on aromatherapy when I get a home computer.

But a few snippets at a time might help.

In general, go by your initial reaction to any smell. If you can't stand a perfume or essential oil then it is not the "correct" one for you. Whether it be a floral, spicy, woody or mixture of several oils.

If you went to an aromatherapist for a consultation (& massage), she/he would certainly take a brief health history & talk to you first. They would want to know about any pre-existing condition from blood pressure, heart (or if female, if you were pregnant) etc

They would also ensure you liked the smell before they applied it to your skin. Essential oils are usually mixed into a carrier oil.

Say 3-6 drops into 50ml of grapeseed oil.

Certain essential oils can exacerbate pre-existing conditions. Aromatherapy massage deals with soft tissues & is a relatively gentle, lymphatic drainage style of massage. It is not the deep tissue massage of a sports masseur. Secondly, any decent masseuse would ask whether the pressure they are exerting is ok (painful? or too light? or whatever).

Never lie on a massage table in excruciationg pain because you were afraid to tell the therapist you had certain tender points.

Aromatherapy is not about inflicting pain. I think it is one of the subtlest therapies (along with Bach Flower Remedies or Homeopathy).

Essential oils can be applied in a number of ways from massage, foot baths, creams, oil burners (synthetic oils have no therapuetic value) but I used to often burn pure essential oils when I was stressed, to uplift when I was feeling down,or steam inhalations for colds & flu etc.

If you can't get in/out of a bath, you could try sitting on a chair (with someone getting you a foot bath (with a few drops of essential oil mixed in). Most essential oils would form a drop on the surface of the water, so you could mix it with a tablespoon of full fat milk first, which would help disperse it.

Essential oils travel quickly through the lymph system. A bed ridden person's lymph system would be very sluggish (if it was moving at all). But it doesn't take much movement for the lymph system to start working to expel toxins etc. So a very slow walk around the room would be a positive start to getting that lymph system working (if you're normally restricted to bed most of the day).

But in the case of my FM I would probably only use a couple of oils these days. I have decanted my eucalyptus oil into a small spray bottle & spray directly onto my painful hips & just rubbed it in. Sometimes it works wonderfully, sometimes it doesn't & I've had to resort to prescription analgesics. As I said in a previous post, in the winter I put 7-8 drops of lavender oil onto my hot water bottle cover & put on my bed pillow at night for about an hour before I get into bed. Then I move the hot water bottle down to my feet & wrap my feet around it.

And while a physiotherapist might apply an icepack to my painful back (which I couldn't stand - it actually hurts my back), I would use a hot water bottle (with essentail oils permeating my skin through the application of heat).

Except for sprains where ice, elevation & rest is the usual protocol, I prefer heat for my aches & pains.

There are anti-inflammatory oils & analgesic oils, there are oils that calm & oils that uplift. Some oils like lavender have a synergistic effect. Combine them with 2-3 other oils & they seem to work hundredfold better.

In general, you would not put more than 3-4 oils together. When combing oils, you would probably put spicy ones together or floral ones together.

There is French lavender, Australian lavender & a multitude of others. Some I don't like at all. The time of day, side of the hill, region or season also affects the quality or aroma. Consider how flowers smell at different times of the year or different varieties of the one species.

For the sake of simplicity, why not go into a health/chemist store & check if they have sample bottles open. Just open the sample bottle & wave it a few inches beneath your nose & see if your chemical sensitivity will allow this.

Actually, at one stage I couldn't walk into a chemist without feeling ill. The perfume section of a large department store was like a death sentence. Some trees have the same effect on me.

There is a new assistant in my local chemist whose "deodorant" is so repulsive, I have to get my supplies & get out fairly quickly (as I was reminded at lunch time today).

So, before I say any more, try to get to a health store & sniff a few samples, to see if you can tolerate the different odours. Also, try to determine whether you particularly like woody scents or florals. I prefer lavender, rosemary, lemon, mandarin. I can't stand the scent of rose geraium essential oil. I prefer spicy, woody scents as compared to florals, some of which I find too sweet & sickly.

And some essential oils are adulterated with chemicals too.

But in general, you get what you pay for. If you bought a bottle of lavender oil for $5, you can bet it's not pure essential oil. The glass should be dark or tinted & should be stored in a cool, dry cupboard or box. If you bought rose oil for $20, then it's sure to be synthetic.

A very small bottle of lavender oil might cost Aust$18-20. I bought a large bottle last month which cost $42. But that should last me months. I have about 25 different essential oils, but really only use 3-4 regularly.

And the cost of each oil varies considerably. Lavender around $20, Attar of Roses might cost $2000 (because it would take many rose petals to be distilled to extract the essential oil. I had a foot massage once in which the aromatherpist put a drop or two of Attar of roses into the massage oil).

I was in seventh heaven. I cannot tell you how uplifted I felt. Of course that person was also very, very good at massage.

Sometimes I think it's not just about the essential oils, it's the feeling of being nurtured & cared for. It's the tactile therapy that is just as important.

I used to be very good at foot massages. But you've got to persuade the person to let you do this. Some people don't like their feet touched. Odd really. If they knew how relaxing a foot massage is, I'm sure they'd be queuing up in droves.

They should do hand & foot massages in hospitals. Patients in pain might not be allowed to move, but they would greatly benefit by having a relaxing hand or foot massage with some calming or uplifting essential oils mixed in to a carrier oil or cream.

Miryam Ehrlich Williamson's book "FIBROMYALGIA - What you can do about chronic pain & fatigue" refers to massage under nonmedical pain management techniques.

More next time.............



Phoenix Rising Founder
Thanks for all the information. (You'd be a great person to write an introduction to Aromatherapy for a website.....;)).

I'll definitely go into my local health food store and see if I can find 'my smells'.
My system craves relaxation and peace - this certainly sounds like one more way to get some of that.


Senior Member
essential oils

I think the use of essential oils are often over looked. If you use therapeutic grade oils they are very effective.

There is a lady name Dr. Ivanova in Orlando. She was a Russian doctor and was part of the team that helped the Chernobal victims. One of the main things they did was to put lots of these people in a room and use big heated blowers and "the very scientific, correct blend" of oils to be infuse the room. The patients were treated 5 days a week for about 45 minutes each time. The idea is that the oils get into the lungs and are directly absorbed into the blood stream. Deep breathing is not allowed as too much Oxygen dilutes the oils. That is a documented fact and it was the most effective treatment to help the body rid itself of the radiation.

This lady does treatments now in Orlando but cannot call herself a doctor. She treats people in individual rooms and puts together the oils just for them and uses a small blower to infuse the air they breath. The oils in one room, with one patient, are different than the next, etc. This woman is very serious and sais the oils are as powerful as any IV treatments. The treatments are expensive and you have to go 3-5 days a week for 45 minutes for months and months. People get better though. I met a lady who could not push the pedals to drive and could hardly walking who had been out dancing. (After 4 months of treatment) It was amazing!! I could never afford it but it made quite an impact on me and I did alot of research.

I worked at a spa at the time and started doing "raindrop" therapy. This was developed by Gary Young who owns Young Living essential oils. It is a treatment where several oils are applied along the spine in a specific order.
Finally a warm towel is placed over the oils for about half and hour. I saw the spa owners son, with horrible asthma attacks go from being barely able to sit up and labored breathing to running around the spa breathing fine after treatment. (Had to kick him out at that point :D)

I recently purchased an anti- microbial blend called Thieves. I have been applying it on my spine and then lying down on a hot/warm towel for half an hour. There is a spot in the middle of my spine that always hurts and it actually sticks out when I go through a bad health crash. After a few weeks of applying the oils in the above way, I started developing a rash that itches like crasy just over the area that hurts. It is in a perfect line on my spine. I apply the oils from my neck to the base of my spine but only the area that hurts has the itchy rash. I didnt apply the oils for about 3 days and the ithcing and rash went away. I know it is not an allergic reaction or the entire area I applied would have a rash.

I think we over look essential oil therapy because it seems so basic. It is very powerful stuff though.