Can the Use of Essential Oils in Hospitals Reduce Patients’ Anxiety Prior to Surgery?

March 20, 2024

In the past few years, the use of essential oils for health and wellness has seen a significant rise. From homes to spas, and now, even in hospitals, these potent plant extracts are being utilized for their various therapeutic properties. Among the many potential applications, one particular area of interest is the use of essential oils to ease preoperative anxiety in surgery patients. But, is there any scientific evidence to back up these claims? Let’s explore the results of recent clinical trials and studies, delved from trusted scholarly databases such as Google Scholar and PubMed.

Essential Oils and Anxiety: A Biochemical Perspective

Every day, people around the world face stressful situations that trigger anxiety. Whether it’s a job interview, public speaking, or in this case, an impending surgery, these situations can lead to an uncomfortable state of apprehension and nervousness. Essential oils, especially those derived from lavender, are often touted as a natural remedy for anxiety. But how do they work?

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Research has shown that essential oils can affect certain physiological parameters. For instance, lavender oil has been found to reduce cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone, thus inducing a calming effect. A study published on PubMed demonstrated that inhalation of this oil significantly reduced cortisol levels in the blood of subjects, supporting the idea of its anti-anxiety effects.

It’s also believed that inhalation of essential oils stimulates the olfactory system, the part of the brain connected to smell. This triggers the limbic system, which controls emotions, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and stress levels, promoting a sense of relaxation and calmness.

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Clinical Trials Involving Essential Oils and Preoperative Anxiety

Moving from the realm of theory to practice, let’s turn our attention to the clinical trials that have been conducted on this subject. These studies are essential in validating the purported benefits of essential oils in a controlled environment, with a clearly defined patient group.

One such study published on Google Scholar involved patients undergoing general anesthesia. The controlled group inhaled a blend of lavender, chamomile, and neroli oil, while the control group received routine preoperative care. The results indicated that the patients in the aromatherapy group experienced significantly lower levels of preoperative anxiety compared to the control group.

Another study focused solely on lavender essential oil. This double-blind, randomized, controlled trial involved patients awaiting cardiac surgery. Here, the patients in the aromatherapy group were instructed to inhale lavender oil for 20 minutes. The study concluded that these patients reported lower levels of anxiety and had lower cortisol levels than the control group, thus echoing the findings of earlier biochemical studies.

Implementing Aromatherapy In Hospitals: Practical Considerations

The clinical evidence supporting the use of essential oils to alleviate preoperative anxiety is indeed encouraging. However, incorporating aromatherapy into a hospital setting isn’t as simple as it seems. There are several factors to consider.

Firstly, not all essential oils are created equal. The type of plant, its origin, the extraction method, and the purity of the oil all contribute to its quality and, by extension, its therapeutic effects. As such, hospitals would need to ensure they source high-quality oils from reputable vendors.

Secondly, the method of administration needs to be considered. Inhalation via diffusers is the most common method of using essential oils. However, in a hospital setting, this could pose a problem due to the risk of allergic reactions or sensitivities among other patients or hospital staff.

Lastly, there’s the issue of dosage and potential side effects. While essential oils are natural, they are incredibly potent. Improper usage can lead to skin irritations, allergic reactions, and, in extreme cases, toxicity.

Essential Oils and Pain Management: An Emerging Area of Research

While we’ve focused primarily on the use of essential oils for anxiety management, it’s worth noting that research in this field is extending into other areas of patient care, including pain management. Clinical trials are currently being conducted to understand the potential benefits of essential oils in alleviating post-operative pain.

One study on PubMed involved patients recovering from knee surgery. The participants who inhaled lavender oil reported significantly less pain than those who received traditional pain medication. This finding opens up exciting possibilities for the use of essential oils in not just preoperative but also postoperative care.

The evidence supporting the use of essential oils in hospitals to reduce patients’ preoperative anxiety seems promising. However, more research is needed to address the practical issues associated with their usage in a clinical setting. As researchers continue to explore this field, we can hope for more definitive answers in the near future.

Incorporating Essential Oils into Preoperative Care: The Role of Medical Professionals

It is crucial to remember that the implementation of essential oils in a hospital setting shouldn’t be a unilateral decision. The inclusion of essential oils into preoperative care should be a collaborative effort involving doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and aromatherapists.

Medical professionals play a pivotal role in ensuring the safe and effective use of essential oils. They need to be well-informed about the benefits and potential risks associated with essential oils. Doctors, in particular, will need to assess the patient’s overall health, potential allergic reactions, and possible interactions with other medications. Nurses will need to be trained in the correct administration methods, while pharmacists can advise on the quality and sourcing of the oils.

In addition, aromatherapists, who specialize in the therapeutic use of essential oils, can offer their expertise in selecting the right oils and blends to optimize the calming effect and ensure patient safety. They can also provide valuable guidance on dosage and application methods.

Collaboration between different healthcare professionals is necessary to explore the best potential ways to incorporate essential oils into preoperative care while mitigating any potential risks.

Conclusion: Moving Forward with Essential Oils in Hospitals

The use of essential oils to alleviate preoperative anxiety in hospitals is a topic that continues to gain momentum within medical circles and beyond. Numerous clinical trials, published on reputable scholarly databases such as Google Scholar and PubMed, have provided promising results that underline the potential benefits of essential oils in reducing preoperative anxiety.

While the positive effects of essential oils are compelling, the implementation of aromatherapy in hospitals necessitates careful consideration. The quality and sourcing of the oils, the methods of administration, and the potential side effects are all aspects that need to be addressed to ensure patient safety and efficacy.

Moreover, the role of medical professionals in this process is imperative. Their knowledge, expertise, and diligent care are paramount to the successful integration of essential oils into preoperative care. Collaboration between doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and aromatherapists can pave the way for a holistic approach to patient care, combining the best of conventional medicine and complementary alternative therapies.

As further research is conducted, and as we understand more about the intricacies of essential oils, their place in hospitals could become a standard part of patient care. The journey towards broader acceptance and application is ongoing, but the potential for enhancing patient comfort and reducing preoperative anxiety is an exciting prospect. With careful planning, collaboration, and research, the use of essential oils in hospitals could well become a common preoperative practice in the not-so-distant future.