Patients undergoing surgical procedures often experience anxiety and nausea. Both symptoms can be caused by a variety of factors ranging from fear to anesthesia. In order to deal with them, hospitals tend to rely on medications. That is changing though, thanks to a new and greater awareness of aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy offers hospitals another way to treat anxiety and nausea without having to rely on a pharmacological approach. Instead of prescribing medications, hospitals provide aromatherapy patches infused with essential oils that tend to have a calming effect. This calming effect addresses both anxiety and nausea.
An Ancient Form of Medicine
Aromatherapy is relatively new in the US. Elsewhere though, it’s rather old. It traces its history back to ancient Chinese, Egyptian, and Indian civilizations. Even the Greeks and Romans turned to aromatherapy from time to time. Also note that aromatherapy isn’t always therapeutic. Sometimes people embrace it just to make their environments more pleasurable.
Aromatherapy relies on essential oils extracted from a variety of plants. These oils contain the essence of the fragrance of each plant they are derived from. It is believed the fragrances offer numerous benefits based on the signals they send to the brain.
Lavender is a good example. It is one of the best essential oils for relieving anxiety. It can also be used as a sleep aid. The fragrance of lavender is such that when resulting olfactory signals are sent to the brain, the brain responds by inducing a calming effect. Lavender is said to work very well for treating postoperative anxiety and nausea.
How It Is Deployed
There are multiple ways to deploy aromatherapy for its medicinal and pleasurable benefits. One way is to use a diffuser. Zephyr Fresh, a Salt Lake City company specializing in whole-home scenting, offers a diffuser that connects directly to a home’s HVAC system. The device diffuses essential oils in every room of the home.
This sort of thing would be impractical in a hospital environment. Hospitals could use local tabletop diffusers but doing so would create a lot of extra work. So what do they do? They use a patch that can be attached directly to a patient’s gown.
MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center in Sioux City, Iowa is one such hospital that uses this approach. They offer patients a patch infused with 100% essential oils. The patch, which doesn’t have to contact the skin, can diffuse scent for up to 24 hours. Patients can even take the patches home if they are discharged prior to the essential oils being fully diffused.
Controlling Scent Strength
It is the volatile compounds in essential oils that put off the scents the human nose recognizes. Some essential oils offer stronger scents because their volatile compounds are more volatile. In addition, the strength of individual scents can be controlled just by manipulating the amount of oil infused into a patch.
This is good for the hospital inasmuch as it can vary scent strength depending on the patient. MercyOne officials say that no patients under the age of five are treated with aromatherapy. Children between 5 and 12 are given patches with a minimal amount of scent while those over the age of 12 can receive full scent patches.
MercyOne has already conducted its own three-month trial to great success. Now that they know aromatherapy can be an effective way to treat postoperative anxiety and nausea, they intend to use it as much as possible.
Aromatherapy may be an ancient form of medicine, but it still has plenty of modern applications. Hospitals are now discovering it can replace medications in some cases.