Previous research has shown that essential oils can be used to treat nausea and vomiting. These essential oils include peppermint, spearmint, ginger, lavender, cardamom, citrus peel oils, and carminatives (that is, aniseed, caraway, fennel and clove).
Nausea refers to the unsettled feeling that you may experience in your stomach. It may or may not lead to an urge to vomit. Vomiting also known as emesis, refers to the forceful expulsion of stomach contents, typically via the mouth or nose.
Nausea and vomiting may be caused by either of the following: stomach irritation, abdominal surgery, injuries to the head, extreme headaches, anxiety, alcohol, diabetes, pain, pregnancy, among other causes.
This calls for ways to help alleviate the problem by scientifically proven methods.
Vomiting has been conventionally treated using antiemetic agents including antihistamines, cannabinoids, dopamine antagonists, serotonin antagonists, benzodiazepines, anticholinergics, and corticosteroids. These drugs work by inhibiting the stimulation of the vomiting center of the brain.
However, long term use of conventional drugs to treat nausea and vomiting has its own side effects including: blurred vision, poor digestion of food, constipation, irritation of the gut, insomnia, dizziness, among others.
This calls for alternative methods of treatment to tackle nausea and vomiting especially for patients recuperating after a surgery session or radiotherapy/chemotherapy treatment. This is where essential oils come in (Buckle, 2007)
Essential oils used for treating nausea and vomiting can be introduced directly into the patient’s body through inhalation. This is accomplished using aromasticks, aromapatches, aroma nasal clips, or aromapackets.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) essential oil has been used from ancient times to treat nausea. It has the ability to alleviate convulsions that occur in the colon (Leicester & Hunt, 1982). According to Valnet (1990), peppermint has the ability to suppress vomiting. Grigoleit and Grigoleit (2005) found that peppermint has the ability to sooth gastrointestinal disorders.
Lynn and Jeffrey (2004) did a study on the effect of a mixture of peppermint essential oil and isopropyl alcohol. Some patients who had undergone surgery were made to inhale the peppermint-isopropyl mixture from scented gauze pads. The results showed a remarkable decrease in nausea for patients who had received treatment.
Stringer and Donald (2011) conducted a study on the effect of peppermint and lemon essential oils on surgical patients at Christie Hospital in Manchester, United Kingdom. Patients who took part in the study were given aromasticks laced with peppermint and lemon essential oils. They were then directed to use the sticks as the need arose. The findings showed that the aromasticks had been effective in alleviating nausea among 47% of the respondents.
Amadi et al. (2020) did a study to compare the effect of inhalation of aromatherapy with 10% and 30% peppermint essential oils on abdominal surgery patients. The results indicated that the two treatments were equally effective in reducing nausea in the subjects.
Maghami et al. (2020) studied the effect of peppermint essential oil on nausea and vomiting on patients who had undergone cardiac surgery. The results showed that inhalation of peppermint essential oil reduced nausea and vomiting on patients who had gone through open-heart surgery.
According to Lawrence (2001), spearmint (Mentha spicata) essential oil has the ability to alleviate nausea for a much longer duration compared to peppermint. This is because spearmint essential oil works on diverse areas of the brain.
Spearmint essential oil can be more effective in reducing nausea when mixed with other essential oils and inhaled by patients who have undergone surgery or chemotherapy treatment (Hunt et al. (2012).
Tayarani-Najaram, et al. (2013) carried out a study on antiemetic activity of Mentha spicata in chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. The study established that spearmint essential oil has the ability to reduce nausea in patients who have undergone chemotherapy treatment.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) essential oil can be effective in treating nausea especially for expectant mothers. According to a study conducted by Vutyavanich et al. (1997), ginger essential oil significantly reduced baseline nausea and vomiting in pregnant mothers who participated in the study. The study also established that ginger essential oil had no negative effects on the pregnant mothers who took part in the study.
Chaiyakunapruk et al (2006) studied the efficacy of ginger essential oil for the prevention of postoperative nausea and vomiting: a meta-analysis. The results demonstrated that ginger essential oil was effective in preventing postoperative nausea and vomiting in patients recuperating from an operation.
Hunt et al (2012) used ginger essential oil to treat patients who had undergone surgery and were experiencing postoperative nausea. The findings indicated that subjects who had received treatment experienced less nausea.
Mazzer (2013) established similar findings in his study on effect of ginger essential oil on patients who have undergone orthopedic surgery. The ginger oil was offered on aromasticks for patients to inhale within 24 hours after undergoing surgery. The patients reported a remarkable reduction in nausea and vomiting.
Giacosa et al. (2015) sought to establish whether ginger extract can treat pregnancy-induced or chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. The findings revealed that ginger essential oil has a potential of minimizing nausea and vomiting in pregnant mothers. Further, the results indicated that ginger extract can be used to reduce nausea and vomiting in patients who were recuperating from chemotherapy treatment.
Lee and Shin (2016) studied the effectiveness of ginger essential oil on postoperative nausea and vomiting in patients who had undergone abdominal surgery. The findings indicated that inhalation of ginger essential oil by respondents significantly reduced postoperative nausea and vomiting.
Chang and Peng (2019) examined the effect of oral administration of ginger on patients who had undergone chemotherapy treatment. The results showed that ginger was effective in controlling chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting among subjects that participated in the study.
Cardamom essential oil (Elettaria cardamomum) contains a chemical compound known as borneol that has antagonistic effect on acetylcholine. This effect decreases the urge to vomit thus bringing relief to the patient (Cabo et al., 1986).
A mixture of cardamom, ginger and tarragon essential oils have been found to be effective against nausea. de Pradier (2006) did a study in which the mixture was applied on the necks of patients who had undergone a surgical operation. The result was a significant reduction in nausea among the patients.
Studies have shown that using a mixture of selected essential oils to treat nausea and vomiting is more effective compared to when the oils are used singly. According to Reagan et al (2009), a mixture of ginger, peppermint, lavender, and spearmint is more effective in treating nausea and vomiting. The researchers administered the mixture to patients who had received anesthesia in a Carolina hospital. The findings showed that the mixture reduced nausea in 39% of patients.
In another study, Hunt et al. (2012) administered a mixture of ginger, cardamom, peppermint, and spearmint to 303 postoperative nausea patients. After the treatment, the subjects reported a remarkable reduction in nausea. In addition, it was noted that the number of antiemetic drugs requested by patients who had received the treatment had significantly declined.
Ahmadi, Y., Rezaei, J., Rezaei, M. and Khatony, A. (2020). Comparison of the effect of inhalation aromatherapy with 10% and 30% peppermint essential oils on the severity of nausea in abdominal surgery patients. Evidence Based Complement Alternative Medicine.
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