Aromatherapy and Essential Oils – In Clinical Settings

The Growing Popularity of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)


Essential oils are becoming more and more popular in the western world. Many people and even organizations are discovering and utilizing them to influence moods and promote overall health. Schools and businesses are incorporating them into their daily routines to increase focus, creativity and productivity. I think this is great!

Aromatherapy and Essential Oils - In Clinical Settings

Essential Oils are considered a Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). Other CAM therapies/medicines include massage, reiki, music therapy and emotional support pet visits in clinics. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), people in the United States spend over $30.2 billion annually on complementary health approaches. Wow!

If Complementary and Alternative Medicine is so popular, why don’t we see it offered more often in clinical settings? I am not suggesting that complementary medicine is rare to see in hospitals, in fact, I work in a hospital setting and I know that every Tuesday is Pet Day. I see all kinds of cats and dogs roaming the hospital with their owners…this is awesome. I am also aware of Music Therapy that is happening. These are truly awesome things!

For the purpose of this article, I am going to be discussing aromatherapy and essential oils specifically, and why don’t hospitals and clinics offer this medicine on a regular basis? It is clear more and more people have learned about the benefits of this practice, and have even used it in their homes. So I have studied this topic and have found some answers. 🙂

Patient Satisfaction Surveys

It is my understanding that patient satisfaction surveys play a part in obtaining hospital funding (in many locations), and it is through these surveys that we are seeing the emergence and gradual use of complementary services as supportive therapy for patients. The goal of complementary medicine is to decrease patient anxiety, manage stress and to increase patient satisfaction scores on the satisfaction survey. I’d say it’s a win-win situation.

Aromatherapy and Essential Oils - In Clinical Settings

So, yes, CAM is gradually becoming more accessible to the public in clinical settings, such as hospitals. But why is it taking so long to get established into the mainstream medical system?

Hospital-Based Aromatherapy Programs

While essential oils are “natural” this does not always mean they are safe to use, especially in the presence of a variety of people with a variety of ailments and medical conditions.

Establishing a hospital-based aromatherapy program is very in-depth and complicated. There are policies and procedures that must be followed to keep everyone safe.

The first step in creating a hospital-based aromatherapy program is to generate a formal policy and procedure manual. This will then be submitted for approval by the hospital’s Institutional Review Board. The job of the review board is to ensure that any proposed project follows ethical, moral and regulatory guidelines. As you can imagine, this process takes time and money, something that most hospitals don’t have an abundance of.

Here is a list of issues that are usually addressed when creating a formalized policy:

  • Patient education with regard to aromatherapy treatment
  • Informed consent
  • Staff training and/or certification
  • List of oils deemed safe
  • Method(s) of application
  • Infection control issues
  • Safe storage and disposal of essential oils
  • Safety data sheets (SDS)
  • Physician order vs. nursing intervention
  • Record keeping protocols
  • Cost considerations

The above list is not comprehensive; there are likely other issues to be addressed as well.

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It’s a Process with Challenges and Considerations

As mentioned above, it is a long and complicated process to have CAM integrated into the medical system. I think one of the biggest obstacles facing the integration of complementary medicine is money. Who will pay for these services? Will they be covered by insurance? Will it be paid for privately? There are many questions that need to be answered.

Additional training for doctors and healthcare professionals is another issue. Also, who will pay for necessary research? I don’t think modern medical research in America spends enough time studying aromatherapy and essential oils or other complementary therapies yet, so this is a challenge to be addressed.

Another increasingly common challenge at the moment is the unauthorized use of aromatherapy in hospitals. Patients who are used to practicing aromatherapy at home often bring their own oils into the hospital. While in some places this may be allowed, this can cause problems for other patients, staff and visitors. Especially if the hospital does not have formal guidelines or a policies and procedures manual to deal with emergency situations involving essential oils.


I certainly learned a lot this week as I read various articles on this topic. There were many things that I hadn’t even considered before that make the inclusion of complementary medicine into clinical environments a great task. I believe it will take many years to fully incorporate all these awesome alternative medicines into our mainstream medical system. It will be worth the wait though!

The history of essential oils and aromatics is quite interesting. This practice is not new, in fact, it has been around for thousands of years! I am very happy to see the gradual acceptance and acknowledgment of this traditional medicine.

I sure appreciate that you took the time to read through this article. I would love to hear any comments you have on this topic. Please use the comment box below. I love hearing from people and would like to hear what you have to say.

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Stay happy and healthy!

Angela (Founder of Your Aromatherapy Store)

Essential oils are very potent. If you are currently taking any prescribed medication speak to your doctor before using essential oils. Some oils are not recommended for children. Some oils are not recommended if you are pregnant or nursing. Essential oils are considered “complementary and alternative medicines” and are not a substitute for professional medical intervention and advice. If you are experiencing severe physical or mental illness contact a medical professional. This information is meant for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease.

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8 Replies to “Aromatherapy and Essential Oils – In Clinical Settings”

  1. I really enjoyed reading your well researched article on essential oils. I can imagine the benefits of using some of these wonderful oils in a clinical setting. It’s sad though that so much protocol has to be followed. I had a stroke 5 years ago, and would have found certain oils very calming during my 2 week stay.

    1. Hi Kathy,
      I agree, I wish the process was a little quicker. There are so many natural benefits that could really help people. I do understand that the process has everyone’s safety in mind. I’m happy that it is at least being considered in some places. It will be slow going but at least it is happening!
      I am sorry you suffered a stroke five years ago. I am curious, what are your favourite oils and are there any that have helped you on recovery?
      I sure appreciate that you took the time to stop in. Please come back and visit again.
      Take good care Kathy!

  2. I like the great information. I’ve always said that there are probably natural treatments for almost anything. I can see how using aroma therapy would have a calming effect in helping you relax.

    1. Hi Justin,
      So true, essential oils (and other CAM therapies) provide a wide array of benefits. The use of aromatherapy has been around for thousands of years. It’s great to see the gradual emergence of these traditional medicines into the the modern system.
      Thanks for stopping in and have a fantastic day!

  3. Hi Angela….I’m a health nut but I’ve not heard of using essential oils to treat recovering patients. What a excellent idea! I use to have a line of aromatherapy candles as a wholesaler and they sold like hotcakes! I think it’s a great idea and I hope you continue to promote it. Thanks.

    1. Hi Terry,
      Essential oils are great for a number of ailments. I love using them for immunity boosting, uplifting my mood, or settling down after a stressful day at work. It doesn’t surprise me that your aromatherapy candles sold like hotcakes! LOL There are a ton of benefits related to this Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
      I plan to continue promoting essential oils and all the great things they have to offer us. Thanks for your comments.
      Have a wonderful day!

  4. Interesting article.
    Recently in the ast month I been in hospital 3 times for vomiting. Unfortunately they were unable to determine what was causing it. Basically just told me it was not likely anything I need surgury with and doesn’t seem like it caused by anything organic.

    One suggestion it may of been stress of some sort. I not sure myself. Can Imagine though Essential oils probably could of made my stay at hospital more comfortable especially the first few days each time I was admitted.

    1. WOW, I am so sorry to hear that you ended up in the hospital three times during this last month. It’s too bad that the doctors were not able to identify the problem. I am glad to hear that you don’t need surgery though.
      Stress can really take a toll on your body. Have you considered using essential oils to ease some of the stress? I am not a doctor and would recommend speaking to a doctor before starting with essential oils but they may help with the stress you are feeling. There are many different oils that can help in this area. Lavender is a great one. I also use ginger essential oils to settle an upset stomach.
      I truly hope you start to feel better soon. Thanks so much for stopping in and commenting. Take very good care of yourself.

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