Benefits of Essential Oils for Wound Care
Mary Schoen- Student Article
All articles written by students are the opinions, research and voice of the student and not Heart of Herbs Herbal School. We encourage our students to explore and grow in their profession.
The use of essential oils in wound care is an emerging field with great promise. I personally have had multiple opportunities to participate in and observe healing of multiple wounds in hospice residents. One specific example has remained with me and inspires me to learn more about this field of medicine. While serving as a hospice nurse at a facility with both long term care and hospice licenses, I had the opportunity to work with a certified clinical aromatherapist and nurse practitioner (NP) who had worked with essential oils for several years. As a team, they routinely created and prescribed treatments and wound care utilizing essential oil blends. Each blend was unique to the situation at hand, and time after time I observed the wounds gradually improve and heal. One day we had a fairly young woman admit to hospice from the hospital. She had been found unresponsive collapsed over a plastic wastebasket in her bathroom. As a result, she suffered severe open wounds on her right side, and she was treated with wound vacs at the hospital. Due to several complicating factors and a long history of substance abuse, the hospital ultimately removed the wound vacs and she came to our hospice for end of life care.
The NP formulated an essential oil blend that utilized a lotion base. I was very skeptical that this could work, because as a registered nurse I was taught to keep lotion away from open wounds. The wound treatments were scheduled for twice daily, and a generous amount of the essential oil blend was lathered in the wound and covered with non-stick pads (ABDs), then secured with fabric tape. After several days of treatment, the wounds showed signs of wound edge healing. As the treatments continued, the wounds improved, with the wound bed developing into pink intact tissue. Eventually the wounds healed completely; it was amazing! The end of the story is even better; our patient went home with counseling and family support, and was clean and sober. This was a miracle that none of the nurses expected to see happen, especially given the horrible shape she was in when she came to us.
Western medicine does not yet embrace essential oils for wound and infection treatment, but with the continued research being done and reported, this will likely change in the future. The Journal of Wound Care has multiple articles discussing wound care with essential oils, and is based out of Great Britain. In one article, Coetzee and Hartman discuss the effect of essential oils on methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), citing that tea tree had significant bacteriocidal and bacteriostatic effects on the drug-resistant organisms. Another in vitro study confirmed tea tree’s effects, and demonstrated that lavender, peppermint and thyme had nearly identical effects on MRSA, although the concentrations of essential oil in the carrier were higher (1).
Essential oil blends have been found to be very effective in slow healing wounds, as well. The elderly and diabetic population are particularly at risk due to thin skin, poor circulation and a compromised immune system. Wound care using essential oils can be tailored to the individual situations, and can include topical ointments/oils/salves, irrigating with floral waters (the hydrosol from distillation) and compresses (2). One of the most difficult wounds to heal in this population is a heel wound. They often go from spongy to stage IV very quickly, and are notoriously difficult to resolve. As a nurse, I have had a few patients throughout my career who have presented with these wounds. They see a wound specialist frequently, and are debrided multiple times. Wound care goes on for months, and involves wearing specialized boots and dressings. Jane Buckle cites a case of such a non-healing heel wound that resolved using a blend of tea tree and frankincense in a calendula-infused oil. The blend was applied directly to the wound bed, was packed with gauze that had been soaked in the blend, and then covered with a bandage. The wound depth went from 2.2 cm to 0.8 cm in 14 days, and went on to heal completely (2). This case alone demonstrates the power of essential oils!
My name is Mary Schoen, and I am an RN, BSN with a certification in Assisted Living nursing. I also have BS degrees in Biology (Human Biology emphasis) and Chemistry (Biochemistry emphasis). My background is in hospice nursing and nursing management in assisted living and memory care settings. I currently serve as the Wellness Manager at Windcrest Living in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, where I oversee the clinical nursing staff for the assisted living and memory care areas of our continuing care building. We provide services to approximately 115 residents with needs ranging from minimal assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) to maximum assistance with severe memory impairment. I have a passion for learning so that I am able to provide the best care possible for my patients. I believe that it takes more than a pill to be healthy.
1. Coetzee, J.C., and Hartman, D., Two US practitioners’ experience of using essential oils for wound care, Journal of Wound Care, 2002:11(8), 317
2. Buckle, J, Clinical Aromatherapy. St. Louis, MO.; Elsevier; 2015.
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Articles written by students are the opinions, research and voice of the student and not Heart of Herbs Herbal School. We encourage our students to explore and grow in their profession.
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