Friday, November 30, 2012

Aromatherapy and Essential Oils

A recent study (1, 2) showed that essential oils reduce blood pressure and heart rate - but only if they are used for 15 - 60 minutes at a time. There is evidence that they reduce heart rate, but they can cause other issues (asthma, for example) in longer doses.

Aromatherapy is often touted to help reduce anxiety. The National Institute of Cancer (NCI) says this about it:

A large body of literature has been published on the effects of odors on the human brain and emotions. ... Such studies have consistently shown that odors can produce specific effects on human neuropsychological and autonomic function and that odors can influence mood, perceived health, and arousal. These studies suggest that odors may have therapeutic applications in the context of stressful and adverse psychological conditions.

The NCI (3) looked at a research done with cancer patients using aromatherapy to treat anxiety and other symptoms of cancer. The studies, which included children, show that aroma therapy can be effective - and especially when combined with massage. Here are some of the results. The full results are here.
  • Chamomile combined with massage appears to work well.
  • Smelling and tasting orange helped with physical symptoms of cancer treatment in children. There was no report on its effect on anxiety.
  • Various essential oils (selected by patient) appear to reduce anxiety.
  • Bergamat did not work and in fact, increased anxiety in children.
  • Lavender did not appear to work as a relaxant in these studies. By the way, there is some evidence that exposure to lavender in boys and men can enlarge mammary glands.
As noted above, essential oils should be used for only 15 - 60 minutes at a time.
For more information on essensial oils and aromatherapy go to:

  1. Chuang K-J, Chen H-W, Liu I-J, et al. The effect of essential oil on heart rate and blood pressure among solus por aqua workers. Eur J Prevent Cardiol, 2012 DOI: 10.1177/2047487312469474 
  2. A synopsis of the above article is at ScienceDaily: Mind&Body:
  3. Study with cancer patients:

Autism and Fear

Researchers at Bringham Young University showed that children with autism hang on to the association of fear for a particular object long after other children have let it go. In a series of trials, children were given a puff of air in the face after seeing a yellow card. All of the children registered fear when shown a yellow card. At some point the card associated with the puff of air was switched to a differerent color. Typical children figured this out quickly and soon lost their distrust of the yellow card. Children with autism continued to be fearful of the yellow card long after the others. The length of time they stayed fearful was related to the severity of thier autism diagnosis.

The authors conclude that this heightened sense of fear ("anxiety", in their words) is not just associated with autism but is an integral part of it.

1. Synopsis can be found at Science Daily: Mind and Brain

2. Mikle South, Tiffani Newton, Paul D. Chamberlain. Delayed Reversal Learning and Association With Repetitive Behavior in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Autism Research, 2012; DOI: 10.1002/aur.1255

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Do you REALLY think he has Asperger's?

Check out New York Magazine article, Are You On It?  .... If so, you're in good company.  From Asperger's to "Asperger's", how the spectrum became quite so all-inclusive about ? Finally someone shaking a finger at those who would lightly diagnose husbands, colleagues, politicians or themselves with the disorder.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

iLs Pillow Insert

Just received an email about a new sleep product from iLs that helps with auditory sensitivity. It is priced at $295 and available for purchase by parents. It is described as follows:
 The iLs Pillow delivers processed music through a vibration which is carried by the body (our bones are great conductors). The music travels internally to the bony area surrounding the inner ear, and is audible only by the user. It is used to de-senstitize those with auditory sensitivity, reduce anxiety and improve sleep.

Patterns of Early Development in Autism

Follow this link to a short article on the normal development cycle for a child with autism. In fact, there are two development cycles - one for children with an early diagnosis of autism (14 months) and the other for children who are typically identified between 24 - 36 months of age.

1. Rebecca J. Landa, Alden L. Gross, Elizabeth A. Stuart, Ashley Faherty. Developmental Trajectories in Children With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorders: The First 3 Years. Child Development, 2012; DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01870.