Do Essential Oils Work for Chemo Mouth Sores?
In recent years, essential oils have become one of the most popular products for a wide variety of uses, whether cosmetic, aromatic, or health-based. They have found their way into skin care products, home fragrances, soaps, shampoos, and many other types of goods; some even believe that essential oils have healing powers. To a cancer patient grappling with mouth sores caused by chemotherapy, a widespread health fad can sound promising, even if the evidence doesn’t necessarily support its use. So do essential oils work for oral mucositis, or are tales of their usefulness simply exaggerated? Keep reading as the team from Chemo Mouthpiece™ tackle that question and more.
Why Mouth Sores Appear After Chemotherapy
We all know that chemotherapy causes a slew of negative side effects, but fewer people know exactly why this happens. After all, isn’t chemo meant to make a patient better, not worse?
The drugs used in chemotherapy are chosen for their ability to seek out and destroy fast-growing cells like those found in a tumor; unfortunately, those same drugs also tend to target healthy tissue that displays similar characteristics. This makes targets of several otherwise normal area of the body, such as the hair, nails, bone marrow, and mucous membranes – all sites of rapid cell division. When the chemo drugs are administered, they circulate through the body, breaking down tissue in these areas and causing the many unpleasant side effects that have become so well-known to many patients.
When these drugs reach the mouth, they begin to attack the mucous membranes that line the oral cavity, leading to the formation of lesions, painful sores, inflammation, and dry mouth. These open sores are not only painful, but they also pose a risk to the patient’s overall recovery, as they can open up the body to infection and make it difficult to take in adequate nutrition. A study published in 2008 found that more severe cases of oral mucositis caused additional days of fever, painkillers, IV nutrition, and hospitalization; they also caused nearly a four-fold increase in the patient’s 100-day mortality risk. Altogether, the cost of these complications can add up to more than $25,000 in hospital bills on top of any expenses related to the treatment of the cancer itself.
Can Essential Oils Help with Chemo Mouth Sores?
A growing body of anecdotal evidence spread through blog posts, social media, and health and cosmetic websites suggests that essential oils are good for more than just making your home smell nice. Some claim that essential oils can be employed to fight infection and reduce inflammation, and to be fair, there is some limited evidence to support these claims. In animal-based and test tube studies, essential oils demonstrated some anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, to be sure, but these results do not necessarily reflect what would happen when used on a human, let alone one with open wounds and a compromised immune system.
If you’re set on trying essential oils anyway, be sure to dilute them in some kind of carrier oil, such as olive oil. Some essential oils can be mixed at a one-to-one ration, but most should be diluted to a much greater degree; tea tree oil, for instance, should be kept to a 5-10 percent concentration. Keep in mind that some essential oils have been known to cause allergic reactions, and many types can be harmful if ingested. For guidance on your specific case, consult your doctor or cancer care team before incorporating essential oils into your oral care routine for chemo.
Relieving Oral Mucositis Symptoms with Cryotherapy
Though no treatment has proven completely effective at preventing oral mucositis from chemo, the leading technique – a treatment called cryotherapy – has shown a lot of promise and is already helping many patients manage this condition. The term “cryotherapy” refers to the use of freezing or near-freezing temperatures to treat the body, and it works by shrinking the blood vessels of the mouth during the infusion of chemo drugs. Leaving less room for the drugs to move through these vessels can effectively limit the amount of harmful chemicals that reach the patient’s mucous membranes, which in turn limits the severity of oral mucositis symptoms.
In many treatment centers, doctors and nurses distribute ice chips or popsicles to patients as a method of cryotherapy, but these objects make for imperfect delivery systems; ice chips and popsicles can only cool a small area, leaving much of the mouth vulnerable to the damaging effects of chemotherapy. They can also be too cold to tolerate. Using a specialized oral ice pack instead can be a much more effective option, as one of these unique devices can cool the entire oral cavity during treatments, providing relief to the entire mouth. The Chemo Mouthpiece™, for example, has been shown to chill a patient’s mouth by as much as 30 degrees over the course of half an hour, making it far more potent than ice chips or popsicles.
Powerful Oral Cryotherapy Device for Reducing Mucositis Symptoms
Relying on something like essential oils as a treatment may sound wholesome and natural, but these compounds have done little to prove their effectiveness against conditions as severe as oral mucositis. Cryotherapy, on the other hand, has the weight of science behind it, marking it as a far better choice for addressing chemo mouth sores. To learn more about how a powerful cryotherapy device like the Chemo Mouthpiece™ can help you or a loved one, visit us online or call (866) 461-7518 today.