Natural "Medicine"?

Updated | Published
by Allison Minor-Green Allison Minor-Green (New)

Specializes in Pediatrics, Pediatric Nurse Pracitioner. Has 14 years experience.

As healthcare changes, the mindset of the medical professional towards how care is provided must also change. With natural treatment modalities on the rise, it is the medical professional's responsibility to ensure they are abreast of those changes.

Is natural 'medicine' real medicine?

Natural "Medicine"?

More and more patients are choosing to take charge of their health by utilizing natural treatment modalities before seeking care from their medical providers. How do medical professionals equip themselves with the necessary tools to confidently treat and educate the patients they serve, all while respecting the foundation of their nursing education?

As healthcare professionals, we may be able to recall at least one experience of a patient asking for our opinion about using essential oils for a particular illness, symptom, or health condition. If you were educated in the United States, learning about using essential oils was not a part of your nursing course curriculum. Schools teach that if a medication is not FDA approved or supported by a plethora of evidence-based research studies and clinical trials, it should not be considered a treatment option. 

In contrast to the medical model of care, the nursing model has a holistic approach and focuses on treating the whole patient, not just the patient's disease or illness. Considering a patient's race, religion, socioeconomic status, and gender identity is important to ensure a favorable patient outcome. Not staying abreast of the changes happening within the medical spectrum, in addition to not being aware of the treatment mindset of the patients we serve, we limit ourselves from holistically caring for those who entrust us with their health and wellbeing.  

Essential oils have been used for centuries by various groups of people all around the world. Using essential oils for their health benefits is not a new fad that is here today and will be gone tomorrow. Over the years, more and more people have reported using essential oils and other forms of complementary medicine. Patients are now more than ever choosing to use natural forms of treatment for their medical concerns instead of relying on conventional medicine.  

Healthcare professionals must realize that the face of healthcare is changing ... and changing fast! Continuing to view complementary medicine as subpar or phony options for health treatment and management is foolish and suggests that there is only one way to achieve health. 

Changes have been made in the way certain medical conditions are treated. Alterations have been made to treatment algorithms. Paper charting is a thing of the past since the introduction of electronic medical records, and the use of social media has changed how medical facilities market and reach their patients. 

Why is there so much resistance from healthcare professionals to learning about and accepting the health benefits of complementary medicine? Whatever it may be, no time is better than the present to change a mindset and begin anew. 

Here are 5 tips I believe can help you begin your journey to learning about and being familiar with essential oils. 

TAKE YOUR TIME

Do not stress yourself about learning about every essential oil at once. Just as you have chosen a nursing specialty and have a vault of information and experience within your area of expertise, approach learning about essential oils the same way. Choose a couple of essential oils to learn about at a time and become as knowledgeable as possible about them. 

USE THEM!

Reading and research are great and highly beneficial but a personal experience is invaluable. 

PURITY MATTERS

Knowing what you are using on (and within) your body is pure and free of contaminants is important. Familiarize yourself with why purity, sourcing, and testing of essential oils are extremely important. 

KNOW THE RESEARCH

Yes, there is evidence-based research and clinical trials readily available on essential oils. As you would read research studies about a medical condition, do the same with essential oils. You'll be amazed at what you will learn. 

SHARE

Once you have become knowledgeable of essential oils, you have used them for yourself and are familiar with their health benefits. Share your knowledge with your family, coworkers, and patients. Sharing is caring. 

Essential oils are widely used, have been tested, and prove to have incredible health benefits. If you have a skeptical viewpoint towards them, I hope this article encourages you to set your skepticism aside and open up your mind to learn something new all while helping yourself and the patients you care for.  

The National Library of Medicine, PubMed section, has millions of articles and links to full-text articles about a myriad of health-related conditions and treatment modalities, medical and non-medical. PubMed is a great starting point to familiarize yourself with essential oil science and research.

Allison Minor-Green

Hi, I'm Allison Minor-Green. I am an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) with 14 years of experience as a Pediatric focused Registered Nurse (RN) and 9 years of experience as a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in Primary Care (CPNP-PC). I am also a Certified Breastfeeding Specialist (CBS) and essential oil educator.

1 Article   3 Posts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

30 Comment(s)

BostonFNP, APRN

Specializes in Adult Internal Medicine. Has 11 years experience. 3 Articles; 5,570 Posts

On 9/22/2022 at 6:30 AM, Allison Minor-Green said:
Yes, there is evidence-based research and clinical trials readily available on essential oils. As you would read research studies about a medical condition, do the same with essential oils. You'll be amazed at what you will learn. 

Perhaps you'd like to share some of the landmark studies you find most compelling as a place to start? 

Emergent, RN

Specializes in ER. Has 29 years experience. 2 Articles; 4,014 Posts

I thought essential oils were part of a pyramid scheme, where ladies recruit their friends under them to sell, everyone has parties, and the people on the top rake in lots of money.

Allison Minor-Green

Allison Minor-Green

Specializes in Pediatrics, Pediatric Nurse Pracitioner. Has 14 years experience. 1 Article; 3 Posts

Hi Emergent RN! No, essential oils are extracted volatile, aromatic compounds found in plants, trees, fruits and those alike. Yes, those who do sell essential oils build teams, have classes to teach others about the benefits of essential oils and some of those people do make a lot of money. If we allow our minds to only be focused on a particular business model, then we run the risk of missing out on learning about the actual product itself. I urge you to move pass what you currently know about essential oils and expand your knowledge to learn about the actual products and their wonderful health benefits.

mmc51264, ADN, BSN, MSN, RN

Specializes in orthopedic; Informatics, diabetes. Has 10 years experience. 3,104 Posts

Unfortunately, the essential oil practice has gotten a very bad rap recently. One needs to REALLY understand how to use them properly to avoid harm. 

Allison Minor-Green

Allison Minor-Green

Specializes in Pediatrics, Pediatric Nurse Pracitioner. Has 14 years experience. 1 Article; 3 Posts

I totally agree with you mmc51264. As well as, know that the purity of an essential oil is very important. Education is a must! 

BostonFNP, APRN

Specializes in Adult Internal Medicine. Has 11 years experience. 3 Articles; 5,570 Posts

16 minutes ago, mmc51264 said:

Unfortunately, the essential oil practice has gotten a very bad rap recently. One needs to REALLY understand how to use them properly to avoid harm. 

Harm as in making skin rashes or as in improperly treating diseases?

NRSKarenRN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Vents, Telemetry, Home Care, Home infusion. Has 45 years experience. 11 Articles; 17,417 Posts

I'm sorry, but this "nursing article"  lacks any links to clinical or scientific info about essential oils, and sounds more like a marketing piece.  Not impressed. 

Outside of lavender, walking down candle, soap and cleaning product isle makes my throat tighten and difficulty breathing--definite harm from exposure to scented products.

macawake

macawake, MSN

Has 14 years experience. 2,141 Posts

On 9/22/2022 at 6:30 AM, Allison Minor-Green said:
KNOW THE RESEARCH

Yes, there is evidence-based research and clinical trials readily available on essential oils. As you would read research studies about a medical condition, do the same with essential oils. You'll be amazed at what you will learn. 

Essential oils are widely used, have been tested, and prove to have incredible health benefits. 

That’s quite a claim you are making. I agree with BostonFNP. I think you need to link the studies that have made you believe this so that we can read them and discuss them. You can’t just claim that essential oils have ”incredible health benefits” and tell us to go looking for the evidence that supports your claim. Well I guess you can, but my reaction is to be rather underwhelmed. 

I do have a sceptical viewpoint. I have looked at many studies about essential oils and all the ones I’ve seen have had serious methodological flaws and haven’t proven anything beyond a possible placebo effect. Of course I’m not going to be recommending treatments to my patients or family and friends that aren’t evidence-based. 

What is the proposed mechanism of action of essential oils treatments? What’s the bioavailability?

You mention that purity is important and I’m guessing that you leave that for the consumer to figure out? Essential oils are as far as I know not regulated. You’ll have to correct me if I’m wrong. Who vouches for the safety and efficacy of the products sold? 


https://www.CDC.gov/media/releases/2021/p1022-aromatherapy-bacteria.html

Natural is not a synonym for good or safe. Arsenic, snake venom, mercury and formaldehyde are all natural but not that great… Essential oils (even when they aren’t contaminated with bacteria like in the example above) contain many different chemicals and some of them can be a health concern. 

Another thing that scares me about pseudoscience (and until they are proven to work that’s what I consider essential oils to be when it comes to treating disease), is that a person might try these ”treatments” and delay getting real help from a medical professional until their disease has progressed. 

The fact that nursing is holistic isn’t a valid reason to promote treatments that aren’t proven to be safe or to work. At least in my opinion, holistic doesn’t mean that we don’t have to be evidence-based. 

I suspect this wasn’t the reaction you were hoping for. But a healthcare professional making claims that something has ”incredible health benefits” and failing to provide a single source in support of the claim, just rubs me the wrong way. That’s the reason for my slightly abrasive tone.

If you can link several high-quality studies showing efficacy in the treatment of something or anything, I’ll be happy to take a look at them.

BostonFNP, APRN

Specializes in Adult Internal Medicine. Has 11 years experience. 3 Articles; 5,570 Posts

Quote

Schools teach that if a medication is not FDA approved or supported by a plethora of evidence-based research studies and clinical trials, it should not be considered a treatment option. 

Are you suggesting this is a negative thing? These are the very things that ensure treatments are safe and effective when compared to either placebo or standard of care. This is how we as health care providers keep patients safe. 

Quote

Why is there so much resistance from healthcare professionals to learning about and accepting the health benefits of complementary medicine? 

I suspect why there is resistance from healthcare professionals to accepting the health benefits of complementary medicine (en masse) is that the vast majority of CAM is ineffective or unproven and is opinion based not scientific based. 

adventure_rn, BSN

Specializes in NICU, PICU. 1 Article; 1,541 Posts

3 hours ago, BostonFNP said:

Harm as in making skin rashes or as in improperly treating diseases?

THIS!

Complementary and alternative medicine may have a place in health and wellness, but a lot of essential oil sellers wildly overstate the benefits of their product in treating and managing specific diseases. It's fine to tell your patient that they can use a pleasant-smelling essential oil to help them relax, but not to be using it in place of their antidepressants or antihypertensives.

In the peds world, it's astonishing how many parents want to withhold medical treatment for their kids because they want to treat them with essential oils. I think about Steve Jobs, who died from a highly-treatable cancer because he chose to use only alternative medicine and refused medical treatment until it was too late.

As others have said, we shouldn't be recommending essential oils to patients (or god forbid selling them) without peer-reviewed evidence, which is supposed to be true of literally every treatment we recommend.

NRSKarenRN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Vents, Telemetry, Home Care, Home infusion. Has 45 years experience. 11 Articles; 17,417 Posts

I quickly read this story awaiting my physical therapy session and quickly commented.  Just re read.

12 hours ago, Allison Minor-Green said:
 

USE THEM!

Reading and research are great and highly beneficial but a personal experience is invaluable. 

Personal experiences or anecdotes (stories) are an unreliable basis for assessing the effects of most treatments -- as physicians learned with Ivermectin tx for COVID-19.  So US stockpile stuck with 63 million doses of hydroxychloroquine - CNN

image.thumb.png.cc24d5d420fd3c05fdfd9c9a5687b81e.png

Quote

For example, a Cochrane Review (updated in May 2022), which included evidence from 42 studies and 52,608 participants, examined signs and symptoms to determine if a patient presenting in primary care or hospital outpatient settings has COVID‐19 disease8. Despite online claims that being unable to hold one’s breath for ten seconds, without coughing, is a way of diagnosing COVID-19, a claim supported by personal experiences, this review found that a single symptom or sign, including a cough or respiratory symptom, cannot accurately diagnose COVID‐19.

Cochrane Reviews are systematic reviews. In systematic reviews we search for and summarize studies that answer a specific research question (e.g. is paracetamol effective and safe for treating back pain?). The studies are identified, assessed, and summarized by using a systematic and predefined approach. They inform recommendations for healthcare and research.

https://www.evidentlycochrane.net/personal-experiences-unreliable-evidence/

FDA:  Why You Should Not Use Ivermectin to Treat or Prevent COVID-19

These are resources to support my position that personal experience helpful but not basis to make public recommendations; evidenced based practice is.