I wrote this article to mark Schizophrenia Awareness Day however it has a broader context. There can sometimes be interactions between essential oils and schizophrenia and antipsychotic medications. Some essential oils contain high levels of a chemical group called ketones. These are best avoided by people suffering from schizophrenia and other psychotic conditions. There are no specific essential oils for schizophrenia, relaxing and comforting essential oils like vetiver and frankincense can be very helpful.
Are Psychosis and Schizophrenia the Same Thing?
No. Schizophrenia is an illness, where psychosis is a symptom. Schizophrenia can cause psychosis as well as other symptoms. Psychosis is a symptom rather than a disorder and is defined as losing touch with reality. People living with schizophrenia experience psychotic symptoms as part of a bigger picture. Other mental disorders can cause psychosis too. These include depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder and dementia.
Psychosis causes people to suffer delusions convincing them that things are happening. For example, they may believe that people are watching them but in reality, they are not. You and I might say they are imagining, but that they believe it is a truer picture. In addition, they may imagine they see or hear things that do not exist. These hallucinations can be visual or auditory.
Thoughts become disorganized and confused when someone has schizophrenia. This can also make it more difficult for them to communicate as well as they once could.
For some, it can become more difficult to control posture or motor movements. Sometimes psychosis affects the way you move. Even basic tasks like walking can become confusing and difficult.
The day to day mechanics of social interactions get lost. Facial expressions do not work in the same way. It becomes difficult to maintain eye contact. Conversations are often infected by distrust. These feelings can be overwhelmingly powerful. So, it can feel more comfortable to avoid social interactions at all.
Both schizophrenia and psychosis can cause people to withdraw from family and friends. It can also make you feel unable to function or to lose any sense of motivation in life. Suicidal thoughts are common.
Ketone Rich Essential oils and Schizophrenia
Some essential oil constituents cause problems for people suffering from psychosis. Ketones have their own uses. They are wonderful for coughs and colds because they can break down phlegm. In the same way, they break down scar tissues and improve the skin.
Aromatherapist, Dr Malte Hozzel, calls ketones “Disincarnators” because they break things down.
It also relates to these oils that seem to make the mind feel like it is leaving the body.
These oils can also be difficult for people who have epilepsy. They seem to disturb brain circuitry. To make things more confusing, not all ketones cause seizures. Indeed some are anti-convulsant.
Likewise, while paranoia is not the same as psychosis, there are distinct overlaps. This can sometimes manifest in people who use cannabis. There is no proof that cannabis causes schizophrenia. Studies suggest that cannabis may disturb latent schizophrenia traits.
In summary, people from the following groups should be carefully observed when using essential oils. Those living with:
- Psychosis from depression, especially postpartum depression
- Bi-polar disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
- Psychosis, generally
The same applies to people who have long term cannabis use.
It is best to avoid essential oils with high levels of ketones. This also applies to essential oils that may be neurotoxic for other reasons. A qualified aromatherapist can help you navigate the pitfalls.
Oils best avoided are:
Neurotoxic Essential oils and Schizophrenia
To be clear, the amounts of essential oils used in aromatherapy are so minute, that they would not be psychotropic for most people.
I say that about nutmeg in particular which has garnered a lot of incorrect scaremongering.
However, in the same way we are over cautious about using essential oils in pregnancy, so it makes sense to err on the side of being more circumspect here. Psychotic symptoms are terrifying enough without adding more worries to them.
Valerian Essential Oils and Schizophrenia or Anti-Psychotic Medications
The Valerian plant is known to negatively interact with around 245 different medications including aspirin and gabapentin. But, according to Essential Oil Safety for Health Professionals by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young, there are no known contraindications for the essential oil.
Valerian is the most calming of the essential oils and is a wonderful sleep aid. It is very helpful when someone is panic stricken. The brain slows considerably when it meets valerian. But, it does smell like last week’s socks. Always blend it with something floral or citrus to bring it to life.
Memory and Concentration Essential oils and Schizophrenia
Choosing the usual stimulant and focusing essential oils can be problematic here. For many people, they don’t have a problem with focus. More, that their focus is on a troubling belief. It can be more helpful to soften the thoughts with oils that feel tranquil.
Some Ideas of Calming Essential Oils For Schizophrenia
Seems to order thoughts and reduce agitation.
Calms fearful thoughts.
For top rung fear, terror and horror
Slows the breath. Is comforting and reassuring
Grounding and tranquilizing
Very relaxing and euphoric. Clary sage essential oil has antispasmodic properties. This can help if the person lives with ticks or involuntary movements
Pacifying and has an anti-conflict component
Again, very grounding and soothing.
Soothing, relaxing and settling.
There are many reasons why essential oils and schizophrenia can work well in partnership. Avoid oils high in ketones and the soothing effects can be very helpful indeed.