Aromatherapy Complimentary Medicines Thesis

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Complimentary medicines have long been a subject of debate in Western medicine, especially in the United States, but a renewed interest in them has occurred over the past several decades (Halm 2008). Aromatherapy is one such method of complimentary medicine that has been more popular in Europe, Canada, and Australia than the United States, but several studies showing the treatments efficacy are helping to change that (Halm 2008). Margo Halm, a clinical nurse specialist and Director of Nursing Research and Quality at the United Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, conducted a review of past studies concerning aromatherapy, and her findings of other' results with the method are highly encouraging.

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The stated purpose of Halm's article was to summarize and synthesize "current evidence related to the following question: How effective are essential oils in management of symptoms in critically ill patients?" (Halm 2008). Basically, Halm wanted to research and put forth her findings on modern applications of essential oil aromatherapy, which she claims to have been in medical use for thousands of years (Halm 2008). Because she did not have any specific results in mind -- indeed, shed did not develop any studies, but merely collated and synthesized existing research -- this leaves her article very objective and its evidence even more compelling for the fact that there was no definite clinical objective related to specific patients or types of car. The stated purpose of her article is simple and direct, which led to results that are easily analyzed and in many situations immediately applicable.

Thesis on Aromatherapy Complimentary Medicines Have Long Been a Assignment

Halm limited her review to studies conducted between 1995 and 1998 that focused on aromatherapy, whether they were individual case report, experimental or non-experimental studies, and other literature reviews, but Halm herself only analyzed data from studies that enrolled critically ill patients. Thus, though armed with additional background information, Halm's results are limited to those directly applicable to clinical situations. She used the MEDLINE, CINAHL, and COCHRANE databases to collect the studies she reviewed, using the following key words: essential oils, aromatherapy, massage, symptom management, anxiety/stress, insomnia/sleep, pain, and intensive care unit (Halm 2008). In addition, the bibliographies of each study found in this method were examined for further possible studies (Halm 2008).

Because Halm did not conduct her own research, her study is limited to what others in the field have done before her. At the same time, because she was not focused on the outcome of a particular study, Halm's review takes into account a much broader view of the subject of aromatherapy, broadening the implications and applications of her findings. These findings showed, in large part, a high degree of efficacy in aromatherapy as a treatment (Halm 2008). From 1995-1998, the period on which Halm focused, five clinical studies were published, as well as an ICU case report, a systematic review, and a literature review. All but one of these studies occurred in the UK, reflecting U.S. reluctance towards many complimentary medicinal treatments.

This reluctance ought to change however, given the results of Halm's review: of the five clinical studies whose data Halm analyzed, three found significant reduction in stress and anxiety levels in aromatherapy-treated patients when compared to controls, two of the studies found increased restfulness in patients and one even found a reduction in pain levels (Halm 2008). The studies do not show a change in coping or mood due to aromatherapy, which suggest the more narrow focus of treatment for aromatherapy techniques of anxiety and stress reduction. In addition, several studies incorporated massage with oils, but anxiety and stress levels between groups massaged with aromatic oils and those without were not significantly different, suggesting that the massage itself was the most medically beneficent aspect of such treatment.

Patients are not the only ones that can benefit from aromatherapy. A study conducted by Australian nurses and researchers showed that aromatherapy techniques, especially in tandem with music, were also very effective in reducing the stress and anxiety levels of nurses, especially during the winter when stress levels were shown to rise significantly among emergency room nurses and staff (Cooke et al. 2007). The purpose of this study was twofold; first, it attempted to measure the effect of aromatherapy and aromatherapy massage on stress levels of emergency room nurses, and second, it attempted to determine the change in stress levels and the change in efficacy of aromatherapy and aromatherapy massage in the summer and winter, if any such changes did in fact exits (Cooke et al. 2007). The first purpose was determined in response to commonly accepted influences on nursing staff stress, including workload and patient demands, to see if other external factors could help offset these stressors (Cooke et al. 2007). The second purpose of the study was determined to either confirm or disprove the commonly accepted belief that emergency rooms are busier, especially with cardiac and respiratory complaints, and that they were therefore more stressful during winter months than in the summer (Cooke et al. 2007). Massage was the main treatment used to test the latter objective of this study, though aromatherapy techniques were used in tandem (Cooke et al. 2007).

The experiment was designed using a single group of emergency room staff, who were given assessments both before and after two twelve-week periods of aromatherapy, aromatherapy massage, and music therapy on breaks in their shifts during the winter and summer (Cooke et al. 2007). The self-assessments that the staff filled out measured their stress and anxiety levels, and additional test and measurable factors, including changes in the rate and prevalence of sick leave, were compared before and after the periods of study in order to determine the true efficacy of the aromatherapy, aromatherapy massage, and music therapy treatments (Cooke et al. 2007). No characteristics were looked for in the group studied beyond their employment in the selected emergency room. The limitations of such a study are fairly obvious; this was a test in only a single hospital, and only on nursing staff, limiting the applicability of the results to a very narrow set of circumstances (Cooke et al. 2007). The research does show a broadening of the practice of aromatherapy techniques beyond patients, however.

This study found that there was indeed a beneficial response in stress and anxiety levels among emergency room staff treated with aromatherapy, massage, and music (Cooke et al. 2007). A total of 365 treatment sessions were completed over the two twelve-week periods in summer and winter, with greater reductions for stress shown in the winter months probably due to higher pre-treatment stress assessments of stress levels during these months (Cooke et al. 2007). Neither workload nor sick leave increased during winter months, however, nor was this latter indicator of stress affected by the therapy techniques, leaving the question of why emergency room anxiety levels rise during the winter still open (Cooke et al. 2007). Because stress and anxiety of healthcare providers, especially nurses who often have more direct contact with patients, these results suggest that aromatherapy and aromatherapy massage could aid in patient treatment by reducing the stress levels of nurses and other members of emergency staff and thus improving the efficacy and basic level of their treatment of patients (Cooke et al. 1997).

Both of these studies, as well as those referenced by the authors of the studies cited here, show that the most applicable arena for aromatherapy in the practice of nursing is in reducing patient and nurse anxiety and stress. Though this is not a direct medical benefit, much research has shown that a reduction in stress levels tends to increase the efficacy of other treatments by allowing the body's natural healing resources to be more effectively employed in aiding recovery and treatment. Stress produces certain hormones and other compounds within the body that can inhibit the progress of recovery and even cause or exacerbate new or existing conditions. This is especially true of various cardio-pulmonary disorders, most prominently high-blood pressure and cardiac arrest. In addition, hospitals -- especially emergency rooms -- are known to cause anxiety and stress in many patients even before treatment begins. The use of aromatherapy could be used to lower general anxiety levels in these settings.

The use of aromatherapy for general relaxation -- which can be equated almost by definition with the quantitative reduction of stress and anxiety -- has been around for centuries; a millennia, in fact, according to Halm (Halm 2008). The benefits of aromatherapy are currently more touted in the world of commercial products such as the widely available and heavily advertised candles and various essential oil electronic atomizers than they are in the realm of medical treatment and nursing, especially in this country. The fact that of all the studies Halm collected only one was not performed in the United Kingdom suggests that the United States has some catching up to do in regards to its use and application of complimentary medicinal techniques. Part of this reluctance on the part of United States medical practitioner might stem from the fact that few… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Aromatherapy Complimentary Medicines.  (2009, January 26).  Retrieved July 10, 2020, from

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