Fourteen Scents That Can Help Relieve Symptoms of Memory Loss

As the search continues for a cure for Alzheimer’s and related dementias, some research suggests that aromatherapy and the use of essential oils may treat certain symptoms of the disease.

More and more memory care centers are using aromatherapy in scent programs as managers and clinicians learn how effective scenting is in helping individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s adapt to their illness and live a fuller life.

Here’s a list of 14 scents that may help relieve symptoms of memory loss including anxiety, depression and malnourishment.  

Using these scents – or a combination of them – can make a difference in the lives of individuals with memory loss as well as their loved ones and those who care for them.


#1: Lavender

Lavender is thought to be calming and to help balance strong emotions. It has been used to help with depression, anger and irritability, and can even help in some cases of insomnia.

Lavender scent is used to encourage rest and relaxation, especially helpful in reducing the common occurrence of ‘sundowning’, which is characterized by confused and agitated behavior.


#2: Peppermint

Peppermint is an energizer and can be used to simultaneously stimulate the mind and calm nerves. This scent also boosts energy, concentration and clear thinking.

One study even showed that participants rated their mood and level of vigor higher, and their level of fatigue lower when influenced by the scent of peppermint.


#3: Rosemary

Similar to peppermint, Rosemary is used to stimulate the mind and body. It may even improve cognitive performance and mood. Rosemary has also been known to ease constipation, symptoms of depression and to reinvigorate the appetite.

This scent has also been show to improve memory retention, and contains stimulating properties that fight physical exhaustion and mental fatigue.


#4: Bergamot

Bergamot can be used to relive anxiety, agitation, mild depression and stress. This mood elevating and calming scent can also be used to relieve insomnia.


#5: Lemon

Lemon scent has been shown to help calm and relax people who are dealing with anxiety and insomnia as well as to improve memory and ease indigestion.


#6: Ylang Ylang

The scent of Ylang Ylang can help ease depression while also promoting good sleep. This is a great scent not only for those living with Alzheimer’s, but also for caregivers struggling with restlessness and lack of sleep.


#7: Ginger

Ginger scent is helpful for anyone struggling with digestion issues. Commonly used to treat a loss of appetite and constipation, ginger can help promote good eating habits.


#8. Food scents

Food scents such as popcorn or chocolate chip cookies are used to stimulate appetite, which is often diminished due to memory loss, resulting in poor nutrition and weight loss.


#9: Vanilla

The familiar scent of vanilla has been a part of the American culinary landscape for decades.  It’s no wonder then, that this scent can have a nostalgic effect on memory care patients, taking them back to their childhood memories and making them feel comfortable and at home.


#10: Citrus

The scent of citrus energizes, promotes concentration and a sense of community.

Citrus also has calming properties as well as antiviral and antibacterial properties by boosting the immune system and improving circulation.


#11: Cinnamon:

The scent of cinnamon promotes alertness and a sense of purpose. It can also help combat mental fatigue, improve concentration and focus.

Researchers from Wheeling Jesuit University performed a study and found that participants who took a whiff of cinnamon improved cognitive functions such as visual-motor response, working memory and attention span.

The fragrance is also known to invigorate and warm the senses, produce feelings of joy, and reduce drowsiness and irritability.


#12: Nutmeg

A patent by International Flavors and Fragrances details research showing that

nutmeg oil has stress-reducing effects. Four separate studies showed that nutmeg significantly reduced systolic blood pressure in response to a mild stressor.

Nutmeg has also been found to lower anxiety, tension and anger as well as increase calmness, relaxation and happiness.


#13: Pine

A Japanese study found that participants who took a walk through a pine forest reported significantly lower levels of depression and stress. The research also revealed that those who were anxious felt more relaxed after experiencing the scent of pine.


#14: Floral

The familiar scents of roses, gardenias and other flowers take people back to a time when they literally stopped to smell the roses. Floral scents can stimulate memory recall, helping memory care patients remember events associated with the scent of a certain flower at their grandmother’s house, a bouquet of anniversary roses, or memories of their home garden.


The Most Effective System for Diffusing Scents in Memory Care Centers

Thanks to new state-of-the-art scent diffusion systems, these scents – or a combination of them – can be used in memory care center scent memory programs more effectively than ever.

According to Bryant Wilson, CEO of Aroma Impressions based in Shreveport, LA, cold-air diffusion scent machines atomize oils, convert them into invisible molecules and scent the desired space.

“These systems are programmed to control scent dispersal over targeted areas, offering broad coverage, efficiency and safety,” he said. “This enables memory care centers to achieve specific objectives using these strategic scents.”


If you’d like more information about how these scents can help patients in your memory care center call us today at 318.934.1125 or visit our memory care page.