Essential Oils for Autism

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

Essential oils are the essence of a plant, and they give plants their unique aroma. There are more than 3000 known essential oils, and they are a very concentrated source of compounds which provide many health benefits. They are extracted from plants by a process of steam distillation or cold pressing.

Essential oils have been used throughout history by many different cultures in a variety of applications. The Ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Chinese used oils in perfumes, personal care products, and as medicines. And it seems that they were onto something. In the early 1900’s, a chemist discovered by accident that lavender oil could heal a burn, and essential oils became the treatment of choice for wounded soldiers during the World War. Scientists then developed ways of extracting the active compounds from plants and their oils to form the basis of some of the drugs we know and still use today. Essential oils are increasingly being studied for their healing properties, and there’s some exciting research that suggests that these humble natural wonders do far more than just smell nice.

The Role of Essential Oils in Plants

How Can You Use Essential Oils?

Oils protect plants from bacteria and fungi, and they deter potential predators from eating the plants. The fragrance from the oils attract insects like bees, which can aid pollination but will repel insects that might destroy a plant.

But essential oils don’t only benefit plants, they benefit us too. Our bodies interact and react with and to chemical compounds in the plants which can provide us with therapeutic benefits.

Essential oils are present in everyday items and products probably more than we realise. We inhale them, consume the oils present in foods, apply them to our bodies in the form of products, or use them as medicines.

How Can You Use Essential Oils?

How Can You Use Essential Oils?

Ingestion

Ingestion

This is not generally recommended unless you are doing it under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. Some oils can be very toxic when they are consumed, though they can be used as a gargle, mouthwash, or in toothpaste and chewing gum.

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy

This is a very effective method of use, as essential oil droplets are easily carried to the part of the brain that regulates emotions by scent receptors in the nose. This means that they can have a calming or uplifting effect when they are inhaled. They can be added to a diffuser, inhaled from a handkerchief or from the bottle, or even applied to your pillow to promote restful sleep.

Steam Inhalation

Steam Inhalation

If you are suffering from congestion from a sinus infection or a cold, add a few drops of oil to a bowl or basin of hot water. Cover your head with a towel and sit over the bowel or basin, close your eyes, and inhale the vapour. Eucalyptus and tea tree oil are very effective oils to use for this purpose.

Massage

Massage

Essential oils can be effectively used in massage to boost health when mixed with a suitable carrier oil. Massage can help to increase the absorption of the oil into the skin, so it can have local or systemic benefits.

In the Bath

In the Bath

Place a few drops of an oil in your bath for a relaxing aromatherapy experience. Be sure to mix the oil well so that it disperses and doesn’t just lie on top of the water and cause irritation to your skin. Rinse the bath well afterwards, as oil can leave a slippery film on the tub.

Around the Home

Around the Home

As many oils have powerful antiseptic properties, they’re great for use around the home. You can make a household cleaner for showers, toilets, and worktops by mixing an oil like lemon with water, or adding an oil to some water in a spray bottle and using it as a room or linen spray. You can add oils to your laundry or to your carpet before you vacuum to give them an extra fresh scent.

Essential Oil Safety

Essential Oil Safety

  • Never ingest essential oils unless you’re doing so under the supervision of a qualified professional.
  • Keep essential oils away from children and pets, as many oils can be highly toxic if ingested, and some oils, especially the citrus oils might smell good enough to eat for children.
  • Some oils, especially the citrus oils, can be irritating to the skin, and make it more sensitive to the sun. If you are going to be in the sun, don’t expose the skin you’ve applied oils to for at least 24 hours to avoid irritation.
  • Don’t use oils near the eyes, genitals, or ears, or on any areas of broken or damaged skin.
  • Pregnant women should generally avoid essential oils, as there is not enough evidence to say that they are completely safe. Some oils can behave like hormones in the body and cause miscarriage in rare cases.
  • People with conditions like high blood pressure and epilepsy should speak to their doctor prior to using essential oils. In fact, this applies if you have any existing health condition or you’re taking medication, as the compounds in essential oils can act like drugs in the body and interact with medicines.
  • Always dilute an essential oil before using it topically to reduce the risk of irritation. If you are still unsure about an oil, do a patch test on the skin of your upper arm to test for any reaction.

Enjoy Your Journey into Using Essential Oils

Enjoy Your Journey into Using Essential Oils

Always do your research on an oil you want to start using. Learn about possible interactions, how to use it, and recommended dosages. They are natural wonders and have so many possible applications, but you’ll enjoy using them so much more if you use them safely. Start off using a small amount of just a few oils and you’ll find that they enhance your life in so many ways.

Autism

Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the name for a group of similar conditions, that affect interaction, communication, interests, and behaviour.

In children, the symptoms of the condition are present before the age of 3, although a diagnosis is often made after this age. More boys are diagnosed with the condition than girls.

The Symptoms of Autism

The Symptoms of Autism

  • Problems with interaction and communication
  • Younger children don’t tend to make sounds or ‘babble’ like other children of a similar age. Older children have difficulty with eye contact, body language, and understanding gestures.
  • Children seem to lack awareness or interest in other children
  • Many autistic children tend to play alone, or with children much younger or older than themselves.
  • Lack of understanding of feelings and difficulty starting a conversation
  • Language development might be delayed and so will nonverbal communication methods like appropriate facial expressions or gestures.
  • A tendency to repeat things others have said
  • Children with autism tend to copy other people’s phrases and tend to lack imagination during play.
  • A need to stick to a routine
  • Changes in routine tend to spark temper tantrums in children with autism. Some children engage in repetitive behaviours such as lining up items or switching lights on and off.
  • A tendency to develop emotional and behavioural problems
  • Many children with autism tend to have comorbid depression or ADHD.
  • The majority of autistic children have an IQ of below 70. Around 50% of people with severe learning disabilities also have a form of autism.

Causes of Autism

Causes of Autism

The exact cause of autism is unknown. Here are some factors which are thought to contribute:

  • Genes

Many researchers believe that certain genes a child inherits from their parents could make them more likely to get ADHD. Autism tends to run in families, and it’s common in identical twins.

  • Environmental Factors

A genetic predisposition to autism can make developing the condition more likely if the child is exposed to an environmental trigger.

Possible triggers include being born prematurely and being exposed to alcohol or to certain medication while in the womb

  • Other Health Conditions

There are some health conditions that are known to be associated with autism:

Muscular Dystrophy: an inherited genetic condition that causes the muscles to weaken

Down’s Syndrome: a genetic condition that causes a learning disability and a range of physical symptoms

Cerebral Palsy: a condition that affects the brain and nervous system, and causes problems with movement and coordination

Treatment of Autism

Treatment of Autism

  • There’s no cure for autism but there’s a range of interventions available that aim to improve communication skills and social development.
  • Interventions to help with development
  • Using pictures to help children communicate
  • Teaching children how to use their imagination when they play
  • Helping them with their writing, reading, and maths

Other Interventions

Other Interventions

  • Parent education and training
  • The parents of an autistic child need to know how to properly support their child and improve their skills. Parental education is centered around how to communicate with their child.
  • Communication is challenging for children with autism. Helping a child to communicate effectively can reduce anxiety and improve their behaviour.
  • Advice on communicating with an autistic child
  • Always use the child’s name, so they know they are being addressed
  • Minimise distracting background noise
  • Use simple language and speak slowly and clearly
  • Use simple gestures
  • Give your child time to process what you have said

Psychological Treatments

Psychological Treatments

If your child has behavioural problems, they’ll likely be assessed for any associated mental or physical health conditions. If any such problem is found, it will be treated with medication and psychological treatments.

Medication

Medication can keep some of the symptoms associated with autism in check. Here are some examples:

Sleeping Problems: may be treated with a medication such as melatonin

Depression: may be treated with antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRIs)

Epilepsy: this may be treated medication known as anticonvulsants

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): can be treated with medication such as methylphenidate to help a child focus and calm down

Aggressive and Challenging Behaviour: may be treated with antipsychotic medication if other treatments haven’t helped

Essential Oils for Autism

Essential Oils for Autism

Frankincense Oil

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Frankincense Oil

Frankincense oil is derived from the resin of the Boswellia carterii or Boswellia sacara tree that grows in Somalia. The oil has antibacterial and antiviral properties that can help you to recover from various illnesses such as respiratory infections, digestive problems, arthritis, and joint pain. Research has shown that it can also help to boost the health of your immune system.

For children with autism, frankincense oil can improve the ability to focus. It is also known to reduce stress and control negative emotions.

Vetiver Oil

Vetiver oil is derived from the roots of the vetiver plant through a process of steam distillation. The plant is a perennial grass which is native to India. The oil has antiseptic and antispasmodic properties, and it can heal skin wounds and scars, and relieve inflammation.

A study found that revealed that vetiver essential oil can benefit children with autism, as its relaxing and calming effects can help children concentrate, and be less distracted and impatient.

Sandalwood Oil

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Sandalwood

Known for its woody scent, sandalwood oil is derived from the roots of the sandalwood tree through a process of steam distillation. The more mature the tree, the more potent the extracted essential oil is.

One of the main benefits of sandalwood oil is that it promotes mental clarity, especially when used in a diffuser. It also has a relaxing and calming effect that can be helpful for children with autism. Other health benefits include its anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and anti-viral effects.

Cedarwood Oil

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Cedarwood Oil

Cedarwood oil is extracted by steam-distilling pieces of the cedar wood tree. The main compounds of this essential oil include alpha-cedrene, beta-cedrene, cedrol, widdrol, and thujopsene. It can be used for treating eczema, hair loss, dry scalp, and inflammation of the joints and tissues.

Cedarwood essential oil can also benefit children with autism. It has calming and relaxing properties and its scent promotes the release of serotonin, which is converted into melatonin in the brain to promote restful sleep.

Lavender Oil

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Lavender Oil

Lavender oil has been used through the ages for its medicinal properties. The Egyptians and the Romans used it for bathing and cooking.

Lavender oil has many benefits. It has antioxidants that protect your body from illness and disease, it can also help to heal burns and wounds, alleviate headaches, and it may be useful in the treatment of diabetes. It has a calming effect on children with autism and it can help to improve their sleep quality, reduce their anxiety and emotional stress.

Mandarin Oil

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Mandarin Oil

Mandarin essential oil has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. It is known as the sweetest and most calming of all the citrus essential oils because it is very mild and has many healing properties.

It is useful for treating acne, reducing insomnia, managing digestive problems and might even be used for treating some types of cancer, due to its antitumour properties.

It is particularly useful for children with autism, not only because kids tend to love its sweet, citrus scent, but it is also a very effective anxiety reducer.

Peppermint Oil

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Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil is one of the most versatile essential oils. It is perfect for children because it is cooling and calming, and it is known to improve mental focus.

Peppermint essential oil also has antimicrobial properties, it can help get rid of bad breath and treat digestive issues. It can also help to relieve headaches, clear the respiratory tract, and soothe aching and tired muscles.

Ylang Ylang Oil

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Ylang Ylang Oil

Ylang ylang essential oil is derived from the flower petals of the ylang-ylang tree which is often found in tropical climates. The essential oil is popular for its sweet, floral scent and you’ll find it in many perfumes.

Ylang ylang oil has sedative, antiseptic, antispasmodic, and antidepressant properties. It is known for balancing emotions and this is how it can be helpful for children with autism.

Bergamot Oil

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Bergamot Oil

Bergamot essential oil is extracted from the peel of the fruit of the bergamot plant through compression. It is known to reduce pain caused by headaches and muscle tension. It has antibacterial properties that can help to heal skin wounds and improve overall skin health and tone.

It is a known mood enhancer, and it is considered to be a very effective essential oil for autism. It boosts energy but at the same time, it has a calming effect which can relieve stress and anxiety.

Chamomile Oil

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Chamomile Oil

Chamomile oil has been used for thousands of years to treat ailments. It’s popular in tea or in oil form, and it is packed full of disease-fighting antioxidants such as terpenoids and flavonoids.

Chamomile essential oil is one of the best oils to use to combat stress and anxiety. According to a study published in a prominent Alternative Medicine Journal, inhaling chamomile vapours promotes relaxation and has a calming effect. Aside from this, Chamomile oil also has potent anti-inflammatory and pain reducing properties and can help to relieve congestion, boost heart health, improve digestion, and even fight cancer.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.