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New Ulm Medical Center

The sweet smell of aromatherapy

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New Ulm Medical Center has started to offer aromatherapy to patients in the hospital to assist their recovery in a variety of ways. Pictured here are aromatherapy inhalers. Lavender and mandarin can help you sleep and ease stress and anxiety. Sweet marjoram helps manage muscle pain. Ginger can be used to lessen pain and nausea. It can also boost energy if you feel tired.

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Whether they’re delivering a baby, recovering from an illness or having a procedure, patients at New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC) are finding that aromatherapy is helping them feel more relaxed and comfortable.

Aromatherapy is the use of pleasurably-smelling essential oils to manage physical and emotional health. Common symptoms that can be managed with aromatherapy include anxiety, stress, nausea, headaches and insomnia. Aromatherapy may also be used for general pain management.

Nurses in the inpatient and outpatient units offer aromatherapy to help patients feel better. They have found that it helps most patients, no matter the reason for their stay.

How it works

So how do good smells actually help you feel better? Aromatherapy sends a message to the brain that triggers feel-good reactions throughout the body. That can lead to lower stress levels and improvements in pain or discomfort, explained Carolyn Newman, RN. She is one of the nurses at New Ulm Medical Center who has received special training to give aromatherapy treatments to patients.

"Aromatherapy encourages your body’s natural ability to relax and heal," Newman said. "It supports the balance of mind, body and spirit."

Good scents make sense

The hospital uses four fragrances: lavender, mandarin, sweet marjoram and ginger. Each fragrance has different powers to soothe patients. Lavender and mandarin can help you sleep and ease stress and anxiety. Sweet marjoram helps manage muscle pain. Ginger can be used to lessen pain and nausea. It can also boost energy if you feel tired.

The skilled nurses at the hospital can give patients aromatherapy treatments in three different ways. Treatment can involve an inhaler, a massage or bath salts.

The inhaler allows patients to breathe in the scents deeply and slowly through the nose. Or, they can have the essential oils gently massaged into their necks, backs, shoulders, hands or feet. In the Birth Center, post-partum moms can soak in a warm tub with aromatherapy bath salts after delivery to help with pain, healing and relaxation.

Getting aromatherapy treatment

Patients at New Ulm are seeing big benefits from this treatment option. The hospital first offered aromatherapy in April. About 60 percent of the hospital's nurses are trained in aromatherapy. Each unit in the hospital has at least one aromatherapy-trained nurse. Newman said that this is a fairly new trend in hospitals but that all Allina Health hospitals offer it.

Nurses may suggest it or patients can simply ask for aromatherapy treatment.

Pleased patients

Aromatherapy helps patients rest and focus on their recovery. Plus, it's a simple way to feel positive and manage symptoms without taking more medicine.

"Patients have been very receptive to the use of aromatherapy, and we have seen great results," Newman said.

They feel less anxious about being in the hospital and have less pain after surgery. They are better able to control nausea, sleep more soundly and feel more rested. Cancer patients find that aromatherapy helps manage many of their symptoms. During and after labor, aromatherapy helps calm new moms.

"In many cases, we have been able to decrease the amount of medicines needed for patients experiencing pain, nausea, anxiety and insomnia," Newman added.

Health care workers at NUMC agree that aromatherapy is another helpful tool in their toolkit of items to make recovery swift and comfortable.