Last week my Mom had knee replacement surgery, and among the things she packed were her diffuser and oils! Makes this little aromatherapist daughter so proud! Turned out she was the most popular room on the floor. The staff were congregating at her doorway to visit, to exchange reports, and to wait for the next call light. There were many questions and there were a few who knew about the oils, "My girlfriend uses those, I can smell the thieves...," so I know we were not the first to introduce them.
So why not bring your diffuser friends? If you goggle search it, you will find that there are several studies talking about the use of aromatherapy post surgically, in delivery/postpartum units, and more. For my friends at convention, remember Dr. Olie talking about his experience with patients' family members asking to use them? I can foresee in the next 5 years that asking for a diffuser will be just as common as some durable medical equipment. The benefits and possibilities are endless!
Let's talk history of aromatherapy in healthcare for a moment. During the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale was stationed in Turkey. While there she managed to reduce mortality rates by 45% simply by ordering the hospital to be cleaned. Conditions were bad, beyond bad, with neglected patients and medical supplies in short supply. Hygienic conditions were so bad that massive infections were common, and soldiers could be found lying on the bare floors surrounded by vermin. With Cholera and typhus on the rise, soldiers were more likely to die in the hospital that on the battlefields. Imagine your own anxiety and fears of common hospital acquired infections in today's healthcare and multiply that for these soldiers. Times have changed from 1954 but there are things from that experience which modern medicine could learn from.
It was under these conditions that Florence Nightingale first began to use aromatherapy and essential oils. She is credited with putting lavender on the brows of injured soldiers, believing correctly that the lavender would soothe them and she believed that “modifying the noxious aspects of the critical care environment” was very important. (McDowell B. Nontraditional therapies for the PICU, part 1. J Spec Pediatric Nursing 2005). She saw it work. She he benefits for herself. In a letter she wrote later, she ordered Myrrh as well. It was clear that like me, she saw the proof herself and wanted to explore more.
As a nurse, I am very familiar with the impact of Nightingale's legacy on the profession of nursing, but until I began my studies with the school of aromatic studies, I did not appreciate the role she played in introducing aromatherapy in the nursing profession. According to Nursingcentre.com, “the most prominent nurse aromatherapist was Madame Marguerite Maury (1895–1968)”. Madme Maury is credited with classifying essential oils and it is believed that she established the first aromatherapy clinics in Paris, England, and Switzerland.
So bring this back to present day shall we. Let's drive the profession a little more and until hospitals decide to offer the aromatherapy to us, we will bring it WITH us to them. During her stay, there were no complaints that I am aware of about the aromas. We kept the diffusion ratios low because after all the hospital rooms are generally smaller than an open space at home. It was common sense that after surgery when nausea can be a factor, you do not want heavy aroma. Just a little will do I promise!
So what was the plan for mom? Well we had a few recipes that I wrote out for her to use and we alternated them thru the day.
Post operative nausea/post anesthesia grogginess: frankincense and peppermint. Why? Well, the frankincense was chosen for its calming effects and combat post surgical anxieties and pain stimulus from the adrenaline, and peppermint to calm the stomach and mind.
Midday: frankincense and Thieves as she became more alert and was practicing her breathing techniques on the little apparatus. I had acquired a touch of a cold between chemo and travel and I didn't want to share that with Mom during such a critical time. Plus the combination helped support her immune system and well as respiratory system after her busy morning.
Evening and bedtime: frankincense and lavender. She was beginning to get a little restless as some of the pain blocks were wearing off and her pain levels had been under excellent control without heavy doses of narcotics, but as a nurse I knew day 2 was going to be hard so we were mentally prepping for a good night sleep, in a strange place and with interruptions.
Day 2 was much of the same. She packed her Dew Drop diffuser which ran for approximately 4 hrs at a time. We didn't need to be concerned about "vaporizers" as the care center was later on, because the diffuser does not use a filter, and can be sterilized and cleaned between uses if needed. That is the beauty of our hospital quality products.
By bedtime of day 2, the pain and over ambition of PT was taking it's toll and her pain was worse. It was back to lavender and frankincense to help calm the nerves and sooth her emotions just like Nightingale demonstrated to us.
Mom did think that the diffuser made a difference for her emotionally. I would have loved to test out a few more oils, but I didn't want to push my luck on the cooperation of the hospital staff with our trials. But we will continue with our diffuser combinations at the rehab facility and I added another one of frankincense and orange to the list and orange and peppermint to help boost the moods as she struggles with frustration over limitations and wanting to heal faster. I think all of us can understand the desire to get our lives back to normal as quickly as possible after an injury or surgery, but the body does require some time to heal. Did you notice all the frankincense?
One of the beautiful things about the oils that I cannot begin to empathize enough to users is the multifaceted uses for the oils. It is not like advil that you are just taking for pain or fever, the oils can do any number of things all at the same time. Some oils have affinities to multiple organ systems and if chosen correctly can offer significant support to the injured body as well as the psyche.
I encourage you to read more about the research out there on hospital use, but if anyone questions your methods, remind them that aromatherapy is being used in hospitals, pain clinics, oncology services, and even emergency rooms around the world and have been for decades. Let's embrace this and be part of the movement to show them the best ways to use the oils. I did offer to do an in-service for the staff at their nursing desk, no one took me up on it this time, but if you know of health care facilities that would like to learn, I am happy to come speak and share.
So I hope that many of you have no need to think about bringing your diffuser because you stay out of the hospital, but for those that do, maybe this will give you some inspiration to make the experience more pleasant. Be well my friends and keep those diffusers running even at home!