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7 Recovery-Boosting Essential Oils for Brain Injury

Bottles of essential oils for brain injury

Essential oils offer a natural, alternative treatment for many brain injury symptoms, including nausea, anxiety, and even memory problems.

These oils soothe discomfort and boost brain function without the negative side effects of heavy medication.

To help you navigate the overwhelming amount of oils available, we compiled a list of the seven best essential oils for brain injury.

This guide should help you find the right oils to reduce your brain injury symptoms.

Essential Oils for Brain Injury

Essential oils are compounds extracted from plants that capture a plant’s scent or “essence.”

They are most commonly used in aromatherapy, where the patient inhales the scent through a diffuser. You can also apply some oils directly on your skin, but they typically should be diluted with another carrier oil.

Most essential oils work by stimulating the limbic system, the part of the brain that controls emotions and helps form memories. This area also controls unconscious functions such as heart rate and blood pressure.

Therefore, essential oils, by stimulating this part of the brain, can lower stress and help a patient relax, which is crucial during TBI recovery.

The following are nine essential oils that can reduce some of the symptoms of brain injury.

1. Frankincense

bottle of frankincense essential oil for brain injury

Frankincense holds many benefits that make it useful for brain injury patients. For example, it has a potent anti-anxiety effect and can help reduce inflammation and nausea.

However, the primary reason frankincense is so powerful for TBI recovery is because it is rich in compounds known as sesquiterpenes.

Sesquiterpenes deliver oxygen molecules directly to cells. They can also pass through the blood-brain barrier, which means they help bring more oxygen to damaged brain cells.

Therefore, since the brain needs extra oxygen after an injury to fuel the healing process, frankincense could help speed up recovery.  At the very least, it might prevent brain cells from starving due to a lack of oxygen (a common problem after TBI). 

In fact, studies that use frankincense on animals with brain injuries show that it prevents further damage and boosts brain function.

2. Cedarwood

Another essential oil that improves cognitive function is cedarwood.

Because it also is high in sesquiterpenes, cedarwood helps the brain heal in many of the same ways that frankincense does. Since some people prefer the scent of cedarwood over frankincense, this makes it a great alternative.

Cedarwood also has sedative properties, which is ideal for brain injury patients struggling with insomnia and other TBI sleep disorders.

Finally, cedarwood can also make scars and other skin conditions heal faster.

3. Black Pepper

black pepper is another great essential oil for brain injury

Most people think of black pepper as a food spice, but it possesses many healing benefits as well.

For instance, black pepper packs a strong anti-inflammatory punch that reduces inflammation in the brain, which will promote a faster recovery.

Even more exciting is the fact that key components of black pepper assist cognitive function and even prevent decline.

In addition, black pepper boosts circulation throughout the body, including the brain. This increased blood flow means that your brain will have more access to vital nutrients that help it heal.

4. Lavender

bottle of lavender essential oil for brain injury

Lavender is perhaps the best essential oil for brain injury patients with anxiety problems or sleep disorders.

According to studies, lavender oil causes a significant decrease in blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature, which indicates that it triggers a calming response in patients. Because it can reduce blood pressure, you’ll definitely want to speak with a doctor about safety before using lavender oil, since blood pressure dysregulation is common after a brain injury.

Lavender also improves sleep quality and helps patients improve their insomnia symptoms. Some studies show that it even increases the time spent in deep, slow-wave sleep.

Besides these benefits, many people claim that lavender helps reduce their nausea and boosts their moods.

All of this makes lavender an excellent option for brain injury patients.

5. Sage oil

sage leaves used in sage essential oils

This essential oil can help boost memory and concentration in brain injury patients.

In particular, sage oil helps improve word recall, which makes it especially ideal for TBI survivors struggling with aphasia.

Sage oil can also treat muscle and joint pain, and even headaches.

6. Rosemary

rosemary leaves used in essential oils for brain injury

Rosemary is another seasoning that works as an essential oil.

During the time of ancient Greece, rosemary was believed to strengthen memory, and recent research has begun to support this idea.

For example, in one study, volunteers performed better on cognitive assessments in both speed and accuracy after inhaling rosemary oil.

In another study, nursing students reported increased concentration and recall during a test after inhaling rosemary. Another group that did not use any essential oils did not report the same results.

Besides boosting memory, rosemary oil can make you feel more alert and attentive, which will significantly benefit patients with cognitive fatigue after brain injury.

7. Peppermint

bottle of peppermint essential oil with fresh peppermint twigs

Finally, one of the best essential oils for brain injury patients is peppermint oil.

The main ingredient in peppermint oil is menthol, which acts as an analgesic (i.e., painkiller). As a result, peppermint oil can ease muscle pain and headaches, common problems after a brain injury or concussion. It’s also helpful for treating stomach issues.

Besides relieving pain, peppermint boosts blood circulation throughout the body, including the brain, which, as mentioned above, will help the brain heal faster.

And lastly, peppermint is famous for its invigorating effect on the brain. Like rosemary, peppermint has been found to enhance a person’s memory and concentration skills.

Therefore, if you ever feel like your brain needs a boost of energy, try breathing some peppermint.

Are Essential Oils Safe?

For the most part, essential oils are harmless when inhaled. However, it is still possible to have an adverse reaction, which could include rashes, headaches, and asthma attacks.

Therefore it’s still a good idea to consult with a doctor before using these oils to help with your brain injury symptoms.

Swallowing essential oils can be dangerous, however, and even fatal in some doses.

Therefore, the safest option is to use a diffuser.

You can also place essential oils on your skin, but only if you combine them with a base oil.

Choosing the Right Essential Oils for Brain Injury

When shopping for essential oils, keep in mind that the quality of the oils often varies.

That is because the FDA does not regulate essential oils. As a result, companies can use different standards, which don’t always turn out well for the consumer.

That’s why, to find high-quality essential oils, you’ll want to look for the following:

  • Purity. Some companies will add other substances to their oils, making them cheaper but less effective. You can usually tell if the oil is pure if the label lists the plant’s scientific name.
  • Quality. Choose an oil extracted through distillation or mechanical cold pressing. Other extraction processes can change the oils and make them less potent.
  • Reputation. Do a little research on a company to see if they are known for making high-quality, pure oils.

These three signs should help you find essential oils that will work effectively.

Aromatherapy for Brain Injury

While they should not replace traditional treatments, essential oils can help relieve many symptoms of brain injury.

Of course, as with all alternative therapies, not everyone will see results. Essential oils are not miracle cures, and you will still need to take part in your physical therapies and medical treatment to make a functional recovery.

But although they can’t cure you, essential oils can offer you a nice boost that might make your other therapies more effective.

We hope this article has shown you the benefits essential oils can bring to your brain injury recovery.

Image credits: ©iStock/Madeleine_Steinbach

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Get Inspired with This TBI Recovery Story

Independance, motivation and hope!

“My son Sharat suffered a severe traumatic brain injury 23 years ago leaving him with Aphasia and right sided weakness from his vision,hearing to his limbs. The lockdown in June was a great challenge for him as his caregivers stopped coming, no gym workouts and no outings for a coffee.

Being his mother and primary carer I feared that this was a hotbed for depression. I scoured the net and chanced upon FlintRehab. As there was a trial period it was safe for us to risk getting it across to Auckland.

His OT checked it out and felt that it was ideal. I can honestly second this.

He enjoys working on it and now after three months can do it on his own. His left hand helps his right hand. The FitMi video explains and shows him what to do, it gives him marks and applauds him too!!

He has to use both sides of his brain. The caregivers are OT students who returned enjoy working on it with him.

In three months there motivation built up in him with a drive to use his right hand. There is definitely a slight improvement in his right hand.

This encourages him as well as the caregivers to try harder.His overall mood is upbeat. He enjoys it, so much so, that it doesn’t matter if his caregiver is away.

FitMi is a blessing.”

Sharat’s review of FitMi home therapy, 10/10/2020

5 stars

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