Brain fog, or chemo brain, can occur during and after cancer treatment, but one breast cancer survivor found essential oils helpful.
Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
People treated for cancer often notice a change in mental acuity during or after treatment. This condition is commonly called brain fog or chemo brain. It can be very frustrating.
Chemo brain may profoundly affect some people’s lives while it spares others. And, in some cases, it will last years rather than months. Although it can feel like a form of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it’s not.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer, I noticed a lack of mental clarity. It wasn’t a profound change, but more of a subtle forgetfulness. I’d find myself standing in the middle of my kitchen wondering why I was there, or I’d be driving in my car and forget where I was going. It was a scary feeling not being in control of all my faculties. After talking with my husband about it, he laughed and said, “You’re just getting old.” That answer did not make me feel any better. While I did realize age could be a contributing factor, I knew in my heart it wasn’t the reason behind what I was experiencing.
Talking with the doctor, I was told to get more rest, reduce my stress level and stop multi-tasking. I took the advice to heart and it helped, but not entirely.
While on the phone with my oldest daughter one day, I explained the problems I was having. She asked if I’d ever tried using essential oils to boost my mental acuity. I’d never heard of using essential oils for chemo brain but she assured me they would help.
A week later, I received a package in the mail. My daughter had sent several essential oils, a bottle of fractionated coconut oil, and a roller bottle. On a small slip of paper, she’d given instructions on mixing the oils and on usage. Though skeptical to try them, I figured it couldn’t hurt and it would be wonderful if they helped.
The oils she included in the box were rosemary, peppermint and clary sage. Those oils, she explained, were considered best for improving mental clarity. Directions she provided explained that I could apply them directly on my skin or diffuse them.
The following morning, when I was feeling especially fuzzy headed, I saw the oils on my bathroom counter. Mixing up a blend of the oils, I placed three drops of each oil into the roller bottle, then filled the rest of the bottle with the fractionated coconut oil. After giving it a good shake, I applied the oils to the inside of my wrists and at my temples. Within a few seconds, I could smell the oils and instantly felt more alert. Thinking there might be something to using the oils for clarity, I took the roller bottle and rolled the oils just underneath my nose where I could smell them better.
Throughout the day, I found myself more focused. I was pleasantly surprised by the results.
Aromatherapy, which is the therapeutic use of essential oils, has been around for thousands of years dating to many ancient civilizations. Clinical trials have examined its use in patients with cancer for anxiety, nausea, vomiting and other health-related conditions, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. But none were published in peer-reviewed science journals.
Although there are no studies on essential oils for alleviating chemo brain in patients, I’ve found them helpful for improving my mental clarity and focus.