By Lyn Gardenchild and Martin Watt

Originally published many years ago in: 'TAI CHI & Alternative Health', issue 1.

Note to Overseas readers: This was originally written for UK readers

Massage and aromatherapy can provide valuable supportive care to people
suffering from A.I.D.S. related illnesses, or if they are suffering the mental
anguish of being pronounced H.I.V. Positive (1). However, people who work
with such illnesses do require some specialist training, and there are several
organisations which can provide advice and training on the following:

a. Risks of contracting the disease.

b. Risks of infection from pathologies associated with the syndrome.

c. Developing the caring skills necessary when working with people who may
be suffering the emotional problems resulting from; anger, despair,
isolation and ostracism.

Health authorities, Social Services, etc. can provide further guidance.


a. Inhalation of the oil's vapours using room diffusers, oil burners or from
warm water.

b. Adding the oils to baths, footbaths, sitz baths and douches

c. Direct application (when diluted in a solvent) for skin ailments.

d. Diluted in a massage medium for use over the whole body, or just for
individual areas of the body.

Massage alone will tone flaccid muscles, reduce muscle spasm and improve
circulation. It has also been demonstrated that massage releases endorphins
the body's natural pain killers (2). The experience of massage can be either
stimulating or calming depending on the techniques used. There are contra-
indications to massage, for example people being given anti-coagulant drugs
(massage causes haemodilution). Therefore, some basic training is essential
for anyone massaging people suffering from medical conditions.

Essential oils can have potent emotional effects and are ideal mood changers.
Some oils uplift the spirits while others relax or calm. The same oil can produce
different effects depending upon the emotional state of the individual at the
time. Choosing the appropriate oils for an individual does require a certain
amount of training in order to optimise results. However, even without training,
excellent results can be gained from self-use. Simply adding a few drops of
Lavender oil to a bath is, in reality, "Aroma- therapy". Some care must be
taken with the choice and amount of oils used, but safety information is readily

Natural essential oils when given internally as medicines do contain beneficial
pharmacological agents. However, they do not represent the full range of
therapeutic properties of the plants from which they are extracted.
Furthermore, due to the unreliability of their origin, i.e. natural or semi-
, essential oils should not be used internally except under expert
guidance. Aromatherapists do not receive detailed training in medical diagnosis
or on the suitability of oils for internal use.


There is little evidence that most essential oils, when applied to the skin in the
amounts used in aromatherapy massage, can be absorbed into the body in
sufficient volume to have any systemic medicinal activity. However, there is
now a body of evidence indicating that essential oils can gain access to the
circulation via inhalation. Essential oils are highly volatile substances, and as
soon as you can smell an oil you are taking into your body elements of that
fragrance. It is well documented that certain drugs can achieve significant
systemic absorption via the nasal passages.

In Martin's opinion, H.I.V. positive patients stand more chance of deriving
medicinal benefit from plants by consulting a Medical Herbalist, who will be
able to prescribe a variety of plant extracts internally. Plants contain hundreds
to thousands of natural chemicals and many have recorded pharmacological
activity. Thousands of these compounds are still unidentified and their activity
therefore is unknown to chemists.
The combination of aromatherapy and herbal medicine is ideal treatment for
H.I.V. They may not be able to cure it, but will certainly will provide a lot of
physical and emotional support enhancing the body's ability to fight disease
and possibly delay the onset of symptoms.


Candida of the oesophagus, trachea and lungs.
Inhalation of the vapours of Tea tree, fennel, cajuput, German chamomile and
lavender (amongst others) may help provide some relief.

Vaginal and rectal candida.
Pessaries or suppositories containing Tea tree oil can be effective.

Oral candida.
A mouthwash using some of the oils mentioned above, but they must be well
diluted in a solvent such as full fat milk in order to prevent irritation.

Respiratory tract bacterial infections.
Certainly are worth attacking by the inhalation of essential oil vapours. Many
oils have some degree of anti-bacterial actions and as research has shown that
parts of some oils can gain access to the bloodstream via inhalation, a
systemic anti-bacterial action is at least feasible.

Bacterial and fungal infections of the skin.
Blends of oils like lavender, tea tree, fennel, Roman and German chamomile in
a cream base, or just diluted in fractionated coconut oil can produce a broad
spectrum of healing actions.

Herpes simplex virus.
Essential oils like tea tree, bergamot, eucalyptus and cajuput should ideally be
diluted slightly in alcohol such as gin or vodka. This solution can then be gently
applied to blisters, if stinging is too intense then wash the area with cold milk
or water. A good herbal remedy is fresh lemon balm leaves crushed and
applied - research has indicated anti-viral complexes in the water-soluble
portion of this plant.

Karposis sarcoma.
All citrus oils except F.C.F. bergamot (furocoumarin free) should be avoided on
skin cancers. terpeneless lavender, F.C.F. bergamot, tea tree, German
chamomile are all highly recommended.

Fungating cancers.
Great emotional relief can result from the use of essential oils. They will
enhance the self-image of severely ill patients by covering unpleasant body
smells, and some oils may also provide relief from itching and soreness.

Brain tumours.
Aromatherapy may well help to control vacillating moods; depression;
irritability and lethargy.

Care of the terminally ill.
We strongly believe that relief from stress and pain at any cost is paramount,
therefore ANY essential oil or other plant extract that can provide relief is
worth using, (provided it does not result in further discomfort). Morphine and
cannabis remain some of our most potent pain relievers despite the wonders of
the pharmaceutical sciences, and we should never forget they were traditional
herbal medicines.

The Carers: Aromatherapy for terminally ill people helps relatives and
partners when they realise that 'something is being done' to help their loved
ones, rather than just letting them lie in bed slowly dying. Surrounding the
patient with the wonderful scent of fragrant plant oils helps everyone cope with
emotionally charged situations. Carers may feel ‘more involved’ if they obtain
some education in how to use essential oils for palliative care.


Only a few aromatherapy courses provide sufficient training in the verifiable
adverse or therapeutic effects of essential oils, and few aromatherapists are
trained in any of the medical or botanical sciences. It is lamentable that
training of teachers in particular has not kept pace with the exacting
requirements of using of this therapy within a clinical setting.


We hear a lot about how they "protect the public", but in fact, they are of little
real protection. They are not enforceable in law and anyone who watches the
B.B.C. television "Watchdog" programme will have seen time and time again
how ineffective such trade codes of conduct can be. These codes are there to
protect the trades concerned and to hoodwink the public, they give no realistic
protection in aromatherapy.

Many Aromatherapists and some training organisations maintain that essential
oils are "only safe in their hands". They use this marketing ploy to promote
their often overpriced and inadequate courses. In fact the vast majority of
essential oils have been passed as "safe for retail to the public other than in a
pharmacy" by the UK Dept. of Health. However, a few oils ARE unsafe and
some are still retailed to the public by unscrupulous suppliers without adequate
- Don't use any citrus oils except F.C.F. Bergamot on skin cancers or on
damaged skin.

- Don't use essential oils which could cause photosensitisation on anyone being
treated with drugs that also cause this problem.

- Don't use verbena oil on the skin.

- Don’t use benzoin on the skin (there is no such essential oil).

- Use all essential oils cautiously and extremely well diluted on anyone who has
very thin or fragile skin.

To summarise: aromatherapy can have wonderful benefits as a supportive
role in the treatment of individuals with H.I.V. but please be wary of all the
, use lots of common sense and study any safety guidelines carefully. If
you have just read this and you know someone with an A.I.D.S related illness,
or who is H.I.V.+, buy them a bottle of lavender or geranium oil. Then advise
they use 6-10 drops in a bath, or in a room diffuser. Their sense of well being
will soon improve, due to the beneficial effects of plant fragrances on the

1. R1-9 pages 15 & 29 National Aids Manual Centre for disease control and prevention

2. Kaada B. & TorsteinbØ O. 1989. Gen. Pharmac. Vol. 20. No. 4. 487-489.

Source and copyright: aromamedical.org
More posts