Essential oils and acupuncture provide gentle relief…

If you or a loved one has Parkinson’s disease (PD), you want to do everything possible to control the brutal symptoms, such as tremors, stiff muscles and anxiety. 

Until recently, the standard treatment regimen mainly paired powerful medications, such as carbidopa/levodopa (Sinemet) and pramipexole (Mirapex), with exercises to ease symptoms.

Now: More people with PD are adding gentle, nondrug therapies to the mix. Essential oils and acupuncture are two safe options with a growing body of evidence—and clinical success—to support their use alone or in combination as a complement to PD treatment. For example…*

Essential oils for tremors, anxiety

When using essential oils, nonmotor symptoms, such as anxiety, often improve within a few days. Tremors may require a few weeks of regular use before showing improvement.

Frankincense. Scent: Spicy, woodsy. Helps with: Tremors. 

In PD, nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates many motor and cognitive functions, progressively die off, leading to tremors. In a 2019 animal study published in Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, frankincense was shown to have anti-inflammatory and ­antioxidant properties that protected dopamine-producing neurons, improving the motor impairments of PD.

Bergamot. Scent: Citrus. Helps with: Anxiety and agitation. 

Perhaps due to its nonsedating, analgesic effects, bergamot essential oil is used to relieve anxiety and agitation in people with PD. Researchers also are investigating bergamot’s ability to control agitation in patients with dementia.

How to use essential oils for PD

To get the most benefit from essential oils, they are best applied to the skin of the person with PD. This combines the calming, therapeutic qualities of touch with the benefit of inhaling the healing scent. Even though up to 96% of newly diagnosed patients with PD have lost some degree of their sense of smell, essential oil is still beneficial because the oil’s healing compounds not only penetrate the skin but also are still inhaled, even if the scent is not as strong as it would be to a healthy person. 

What to do: Add a few drops of your essential oil to one ounce of a carrier oil (such as almond, olive or coconut oil), and massage it two to three times a day into your or your loved one’s neck, temples (being sure to avoid the eyes), arms, legs and/or soles of the feet…use a diffuser…or, with agitated or aggressive patients, add the drops to a cotton ball and discreetly pin it to the upper half of his/her shirt so that it’s inhaled. 

Important: Do an allergy test before full application. Apply a small amount of the diluted oil to an area of skin, and check for an allergic reaction after 24 hours. (Allergic reactions can, in rare cases, occur several days later.) Never ingest an essential oil. If you want to use more than one essential oil, wait at least three minutes between oil applications.

Good essential oil brands: Rocky Mountain OilsdŌTERRA…and Plant Therapy.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is based on a system of energy pathways, called meridians, through which life force, or qi, flows. When these pathways become blocked, pain, illness and degeneration can develop, according to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). By inserting ultra-thin, stainless-steel needles along various meridians, acupuncturists strive to rebalance the flow of energy to restore health—or, in the case of PD, improve symptoms. 

Scientific evidence:In a published in CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics involving 519 patients with PD, acupuncture improved motor symptoms, such as tremor, rigidity and slowed movement, and “markedly improved” nonmotor symptoms, including sleep problems and depression, according to research. When acupuncture was used with levodopa, the medication was more effective.

With acupuncture, nonmotor symptoms often improve within one to six treatments, while tremors and other motor symptoms may require about a dozen treatments. 

To find a licensed acupuncturist, consult the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, NCCAOM.org.

*Consult your physician before trying these therapies—especially if you have a chronic medical condition such as high blood pressure.