Aromatherapy in Nursing Practice

Tuesday, 8 July 2008: 3:55 PM
Zhenyu Zhou, RN, RMN, BHSc(Nursing) , Department of Nursing, Institute of Mental Health/Woodbridge Hospital, Singapore, Singapore

Learning Objective 1: discuss the current knowledge of aromatherapy in nursing practice.

Learning Objective 2: identify directions for future research.

Background.Aromatherapy is one of the fastest growing and widely used complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies in the world today. Nurses use aromatherapy both in their working and private life for many purposes. Many researches provided much evidence in the area. However, there is little clear indication about the use of aromatherapy.

Aims.This paper critically evaluates the current knowledge of aromatherapy and provides supportive evidences for nurses to incorporate aromatherapy into practice.

Search strategy.Databases include Journals@Ovid Full Text, Ovid Medline, EBSCO, Google and Yahoo were used to search for articles. Search terms such as “aromatherapy”, “aroma”, “essence oil”, “complementary therapy” and “alternative therapy” were used. The search was not limited to nursing journals. Only original English research paper and review papers published from 1990 to 2007 were included. Papers were excluded if the sample size was too small (less than 20) or lack of detailed description.

Results/Findings.Over 200 articles were retrieved from the electronic databases. These include both qualitative and quantitative research papers. Preliminary results show that most aromatherapy was delivered through inhalation or massage. Aromatherapy enhanced relaxation, reduced anxiety and promoted sleep, especially for the elderly. It helped people to feel invigorated or rejuvenated, depending on the types of oil used. Some studies stated that aromatherapy only had transient effect. While other studies revealed massage had better effect than inhalation in reducing anxiety level and pain, but more research are required to support these therapeutic claims.

Conclusion.Aromatherapy promote relaxation and reduce anxiety. More encouragingly, aromatherapy appears to be without the adverse effects of many conventional drugs. However, there is a need for more large scaled, well-designed, randomized control trial (RCT) research to provide more detailed scientific evidence. Nurses need to be more initiated to analyze, investigate and evaluate the knowledge about aromatherapy before transforming it into clinical practice.