Harnessing the power of Mother Nature, fragrant essential oils from plants are being used in medical settings to enhance a person’s physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.
Blends of essential oils, such as lavender and lemon, are diffused in Swedish Covenant Hospital’s inpatient rehab unit to improve the mood of patients, says Judi Gavlick, RN, a certified clinical aromatherapist at the hospital.
Swedish Covenant’s nurse-midwifery group uses diffused orange and rosehip oils to ease a woman’s anxiety during labor and bergamot to relieve muscle spasms. Clary sage can also help to relax the nervous system and reduce labor pain, says Allison Manko, MSN, CNM, co-director of the nurse midwifery group at Swedish Covenant Hospital.
Essential oils can be diffused in a room to release their scent into the air. But since the oils are very strong, they should not be applied undiluted directly to the skin or consumed orally unless they are specifically formulated for human consumption, Manko cautions.
“In the spring, energy is rising, so we see more vertigo, migraines and insomnia, and we use lemon and lime oils to detox the body and clear away anger and frustration,” she says. For stress relief, she recommends diffusing oils such as chamomile, lavender or frankincense at bedtime.
While research on the effectiveness of aromatherapy has been inconclusive, Goebel-Angel says, “Scientists know that when you inhale these oils they connect to the limbic part of the brain that helps with emotional well-being.”
Originally Published in the Spring/Summer 2018 issue
Erin O’Donnell is a freelance health and science writer, parent, and graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. Walks by Lake Michigan make her happy.