Researchers: Can essential oils help kids with autism?

OHIO — It’s no secret that using essential oils – like lavender and sandalwood – can make you more relaxed. Parents of children with autism have claimed that using these oils throughout the day helps them become calmer and sleep better. ABC 10’s Sarah Mac has more on how scientists are putting that theory to the test.

Bed time was once a battle between Sam Coconis and his mother, Shannon, but she says trying this new routine has helped. Before bed time Shannon rubs essential oils – like lavender and frankincense – on his head and feet, which she says helps him relax.

“He’s gotten so much better,” Shannon added, “If I have to go up maybe once to tell him to stay in his room and that’s it, versus 10 to 15 times before. I use cedar wood, lavender and vetiver. Vetiver is really good for calming him quickly. It’s a good oil for us.”

Throughout history essential oils were used as topical treatments and remedies. Nowadays essential oils are normally massaged into the skin and used for relaxation.

Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder have taken to the internet to talk about how the use of these oils helps their kids relax, especially through daily transitions – like between dinner time and bed time.

Now researchers are putting that theory to the test.

Jill Holloway, Ph.D. of the Nisonger Center at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center says, “We are offering the topical method for all children in the morning, so for one minute they’ll rub it on for either the neck or the feet, and in the evening all children will get a diffuser and the oils will be diffused in the bedroom.”

After that they use a device that looks like a watch to measure sleep patterns.

They’ll collect data from the children for a few weeks while they’re using oils and a few weeks while they’re not using oils, and then compare.

The researchers hope to provide parents with evidence-based data to help inform them on the safety and effectiveness of this oil therapy.