Aromatherapy could reduce nurses’ stress, says study
A new pilot study has found that aromatherapy could be used during work shifts to reduce nurses’ feelings of stress and anxiety.
Led by researchers at West Virginia University School of Nursing, the new small-scale study looked at 13 nurses who worked at the Infusion Center at the WVU Cancer Institute.
The nurses were each given aromatherapy patches infused with a citrusy blend of essential oils (lemon, orange, mandarin, pink grapefruit, lemongrass, lime and peppermint) which they could attach to their ID badges.
They were asked to wear the patches for periods of four to eight hours while working and on eight separate occasions during the study. Before and after wearing the patch, the nurses completed a survey about their mood and rated different emotions and feelings, such as stress and fatigue, on a scale of one to 10.
The findings, published in the International Journal of Professional Holistic Aromatherapy, showed that the levels of anxiety and fatigue reported by the nurses fell by 40% after wearing the aromatherapy patches, and feelings of stress and being overwhelmed dropped by half, suggesting that the natural therapy could be effective in boosting well-being at work, even in particularly stressful occupations such as nursing.
“I sat down with people from the WVU Cancer Institute’s Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, and we smelled three different oil blends,” said lead author Marian Reven, a PhD student and registered nurse with WVU Medicine and certified, registered aromatherapist. “When they smelled this blend, everybody’s face lit up, and they were immediately happy.”
“If we can improve our nurses’ emotional reserves and give them more resiliency by using aromatherapy, give them a place to step back to do some mindfulness, we’re doing a good thing at the other end of it by improving patient care,” she said.
The researchers add that aromatherapy could also help non-healthcare workers and be used outside of a medical setting. They give the example of the current COVID-19 confinements, a situation which can be stressful and overwhelming even when experienced in the comfort of our own homes. They suggest using aromatherapy in the form of an essential oil diffuser, or adding a drop of pure lavender essential oil to a teaspoon of body lotion to inhale the soothing scent. Even just savoring comforting at-home scents can make us feel better.
“Baking is aromatherapy,” Reven said. “Cutting up an orange is aromatherapy. We need some aromatherapy all the time.”
However, if you do decide to buy products, Reven stresses that it is important to buy essential oils only from reputable sources.
“There are two professional organizations that can give the layperson credible information about where to find essential oils and how to use them safely: the Alliance of International Aromatherapists and the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy,” she said. JB
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