Aromatherapy and Palliative Care - by Penny Price

by Penny Price June 13, 2024 7 min read

Aromatherapy and Palliative Care - by Penny Price

Benefits of Aromatherapy in Palliative Care

Palliative care is a specialised area of healthcare that focuses on relieving and preventing the suffering of patients. Unlike hospice care, palliative medicine is appropriate for patients in all disease stages, including those undergoing treatment for curable illnesses (such as some cancers) and those living with chronic diseases (such as COPD), as well as patients who are nearing the end of life. Palliative care can be provided alongside curative treatment and may begin at the time of diagnosis.

The goal of palliative care is to improve quality of life for both the client/patient and their family. It is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists who work together with a patient's other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. It is suitable at any age and at any stage in a serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatment. However, traditional, orthodox care can be enhanced with complementary therapies such as aromatherapy. Penny Price Aromatherapy supports some Hospices in the UK with training and products, and Walsall Hospice, in particular, has a partnership with us to promote well-being and reduction of common symptoms.

Palliative care focuses on these symptoms which include areas such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping and depression. It also helps patients gain the strength to carry on with daily life and can improve their ability to tolerate medical treatments. Furthermore, it helps patients have more control over their care by improving their understanding of their choices for treatment.

What is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils derived from plants to promote well-being physically, emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically. The blends that Penny Price Aromatherapy recommend are those applied topically (in a cream or carrier oil base), or via inhalation in nasal inhalers or rollerballs. Many times, both topical application and inhalation can be used for the same symptom.

The way that a blend is applied will dictate its effect. For instance, to help with mood, inhalation is ideal, although using one of our creams on the chest area where the oils can be detected, is also an option. For aches and pains, topical is the most effective, but in addition to that, inhalation can also have a very positive effect on pain perception.

Vegetable carrier oils are used to dilute essential oils to the proper and safe percentage (as essential oils can be quite potent), while also preventing the essential oils from evaporating too quickly. A carrier oil helps to carry or bring the essential oils to the skin for topical applications.

There is so much information about essential oils on the internet today, and it is important to note that not all the information may be true or even safe.

In fact, not all the oils that you see in high street shops may actually be essential oils. Many are fragrance oils or chemical reproductions where sensitivities and benefits can be unknown, which is why it is so important to buy the best quality and true essential oils that are available through Penny Price Aromatherapy. We specialise in naturally farmed and distilled essential oils that, while there are still some precautionary notes to use, are the very best to use on a person who is weak, on medication, and maybe elderly. Some oils should not be used if you intend to spend time in the sun. Some are not advised with certain medical conditions. When trying essential oils, always look for bottles that contain the Latin name. Better yet, seek the help of a company such as ours (or indeed ours!) as the safety data will be made available. We can also help write protocols and promote the best ways to use the essential oils on different patients with differing conditions.

Some Benefits of Aromatherapy in Palliative Care

  • Manage pain
  • Improve mood, helping to promote a re-engagement in the pleasures of life
  • Increase appetite through the use of appetite stimulating blends
  • Promote sleep at night by using calming essential oils and massage
  • Improve skin quality, reducing skin tears and discomfort
  • Improve circulation with warming essential oil products and massage

Essential oils can also help mentally to:

  • Reduce anxiety, fear, and depression.
  • Give a sense of purpose and self-worth.

Ways to Administer the Essential Oils

Rollerballs and nasal inhalers

These are so effective and very simple to make and can be carried in the pocket or be near to hand on a bedside table.

Rollerballs – use 10% of total essential oil blend in a rollerball. This may sound a lot of oil, but the roller only delivers a very small amount of product to the wrists, pulse points, elbow creases etc. and so more is better. 1ml equates to 30 drops in the rollerball, then top this up with 9ml of coconut or sunflower vegetable oil. Apply the roller and lid, and label with ingredients and method of use.

Nasal inhalers – have all the components out ready. Blend the essential oils you want to use (15 – 20 drops) in a small measure.  Dip the ‘sponge’ interior into the undiluted oil blend and wait for it to be taken up and absorbed. Put the sponge into the large outer housing, apply the lid and base lid. Make a label with ingredients and method of use.

These can be used as a Vick’s inhaler, or in the case of severe asthma or breathing difficulties, sucked through the mouth.

Both the above are safe and effective methods of treatment.

Vaporisers and aroma-stones

These blends are so simple to make and give to your clients, family and friends to help stress levels. Just choose 4 or 5 essential oils that are suited to your client and fill a 10ml amber glass bottle with them. Use 2ml of each oil if choosing 5 oils and 2.5ml of each oil if choosing 4 oils – this keeps it simple.

  • Use 4-6 drops in a vaporizer – PPA recommend Zen vaporisers as they don’t burn the essential oil (or use and aroma-stone).
  • Use 4-6 drops in bath foam in the bath.
  • Use 4-5 drops on the pillow.

Vaporisation is a very safe and effective method of treatment.


Mix 4-5drops of your chosen blend to a desert spoonful of bath foam base for each bath.

Lotions and Oils

Usually 1% - 1.5% is sufficient in palliative care, although you can go higher if the patient needs more oil in a situation.

1% equates to 30 drops in 99ml of carrier oil or lotion.

1.5% equates to 45 drops in 98.5ml of carrier oil or lotion.

Use lighter carrier oils such as safflower, sunflower, grapeseed and hazelnut to cut down on drag and a greasy after-feel, or use a light lotion base. Heavier cream bases can be used for cracked, dry skin, or for wound care.

Oils for Treatments

Pain Management: Essential oils like lavender, chamomile, geranium and peppermint have analgesic properties that can help in managing pain. They can be used in massages or baths to provide relief. To improve the perception of pain, a nasal inhaler is really helpful as the vapours go straight to the pain centre in the brain and are very safe to use as often as needed.

Stress and Anxiety Reduction: Aromatherapy can help to reduce stress and anxiety, which are common in palliative care. Essential oils like lavender, bergamot, and ylang-ylang are known for their calming effects. These oils interestingly also improve self-confidence and self-worth and so are invaluable not only for stress and anxiety, but for depression and apathy too. They are best used in rollerballs, nasal inhalers or during a one to one massage.

Improved Sleep: Aromatherapy can really help to improve sleep quality. Oils like lavender, patchouli, sandalwood, ylang ylang and chamomile are beneficial for promoting relaxation and sleep.  Use in a bath before bedtime, or in a vaporiser overnight. Also use rollerballs and nasal inhalers and massage if the problem persists.

Enhanced Mood: Certain essential oils can help to uplift mood and promote a sense of well-being. Citrus oils like orange and lemon, as well as floral oils like rose and jasmine, are known for their mood-enhancing, calming and uplifting effects. Rollerballs, vaporisers, nasal inhalers and topical lotions for the chest are most effective in treatments.

Nausea and Vomiting: Some essential oils like ginger, sweet orange, bergamot, peppermint, and lemon can help to alleviate symptoms of nausea and vomiting, which are common side effects of some treatments in palliative care. Use in rollerballs, nasal inhalers and vaporisers. Baths can also be very effective.

Improved Digestion: Aromatherapy can also aid digestion. Oils such as ginger, peppermint, coriander, lemon and fennel are known for their digestive benefits. Use a light lotion or massage oil to apply to the abdomen and back for best effect, accompanied by a rollerball for use during the day.

Respiratory Support: Essential oils like eucalyptus globulus, peppermint, hyssop and rosemary can help to support respiratory health, which can be beneficial for patients with respiratory conditions such as chronic asthma or COPD. Again, rollerballs, nasal inhalers and vaporisers are invaluable.

Ready-made Blends from Penny Price Aromatherapy 

Some of these blends are available in lotions, as well as rollerballs to ensure that the patient care is optimised.

Safe Use of Essential Oils

Essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts that have a variety of uses, from therapeutic aromatherapy to skincare. However, they must be used safely to prevent any adverse reactions. Penny Price Aromatherapy are happy to advise on any issue that may arise, from number of drops to safety data on each oil to method of application.

Essential oils should always be diluted before use, unless using them in a nasal inhaler or vaporiser. Applying them directly to the skin can cause irritation or an allergic reaction.

We do not recommend you give essential oils for ingestion.

Lastly, certain essential oils can interact with medications. None of the oils recommended in this article will interact, apart from eucalyptus globulus that will enhance the absorption of corticosteroid creams. Always consult with a healthcare professional before any oils not in this article – for example, sweet birch essential oil should not be used if the patient is on blood thinning medication. All in all, interactions are extremely rare!


The information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.


Should you require help with any aspect of palliative care, please do not hesitate to contact us – we are always happy to help with individual cases or with training in palliative care situations.

01455 201025

Penny Price
Penny Price

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