Why one Iowa hospital uses essential oils in its ER

To help patients fight symptoms of nausea and vomiting in the emergency room, nurses at CHI Health Mercy Council Bluffs in Iowa are testing an alternative to traditional medicine: inhaled essential oils.

CHI Health Mercy nurses conducted a study earlier this year examining the effects of traditional medicine and inhaled essential oils in reducing nausea, according to Live Well Nebraska.

Nurses began by reviewing patient charts and discovered it took roughly 45 minutes for patients to receive anti-nausea medication. During the trial, nurses offered 52 patients a blend of peppermint, lavender, ginger and spearmint oils — and were able to get the concoction into their hands in about 17 minutes, from the time patients arrived in the ER to when they received the remedy.

The results of the trial showed half the patients that received the essential oil blend reported an improvement in their symptoms. Sixty-three percent of ER nurses also reported seeing the value of having the blend available for patients as an alternative to traditional medication.

"[Patients] can just sniff it, and it can go to work immediately," one CHI Health Mercy nurse told Live Well Nebraska.

Other health systems nationwide have reportedly begun introducing essential oils as part of a multimodal pain management approach, and have seen success with them as an early intervention for laboring mothers and those who have had cesarean sections, according to the report.

CHI Health Mercy nurses said the essential oils, which are distributed in a plastic pack with a foil cover and a perforated barrier to keep oils from contacting skin, can also be sent home with patients after outpatient surgeries and last about 72 hours.

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