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Aromatherapy hazards warning
12.49 11-03-99 lavender ac
The use of lavender oil dates back to Roman times
Nurses have warned that essential oils used in aromatherapy can cause skin burning, rashes, sickness and sometimes miscarriages in pregnant women.

Nursing 99
They said the potential health hazards of complementary therapy could be avoided if the industry were better regulated.

Nurses trained in aromatherapy addressed the Royal College of Nursing annual conference in Harrogate.

Delegates voted for the college to raise awareness of such risks.

Booming business

Aromatherapy has proven a success in recent years, with sales increasing by 70%.

But there is no regulation of the industry and the public is largely unaware of potential side effects.

Under current legislation, anyone can call himself or herself an aromatherapist and establish a practice.

There are, however, training courses and associations to which qualified aromatherapists belong.

Kath Ryan is a nurse who also practices aromatherapy.

She said: "People really should go to a qualified aromatherapist before they use any essential oils.

"They can be enormously beneficial but there are potential hazards as well.

"Different oils can have different effects on people, and can interfere with other medication."

Research trial

Miss Ryan is performing a three-year trial at Birmingham Women's Hospital to establish the effect of using essential oils on patients to reduce high blood pressure before operations.

12.49 11-03-99 bath ac
Some people pour too much oil in their baths
She said: "So far we have had a 100% success rate. If patients are particularly anxious before an operation the consultant can call me and I will give them an aromatherapy massage that reduces their blood pressure.

"It stops operations having to be cancelled because a patient's blood pressure is too high, and means a patient does not have to be administered with drugs like Temazepam which they may not want."

She added: "It also appears that the patients who have had the massage feel much less pain after the operation and are more relaxed."

Carole Cunningham, also a nurse, said: "There are so many different makes on the market, and often there is very little information.

"We would like to see companies who sell these oils put directions on the bottles with clear labelling about how much to use, storage instructions and shelf life.

"We would also like to see the companies who sell these oils having specific knowledge about what they are selling, and there needs to be better regulation of the training and education of aromatherapists."

Overdoing the oils

She added: "Often the problem is that people use too much of the oils.

"They are very concentrated, powerful, potent substances and you only need a few drops, but people pour half a bottle into their bath or on to their skin and then come out in a rash.

"There has been great popularity for the use of massage on babies, often very young newly-born babies but people have to remember that a drop of oil is like a gallon to a young baby.

"People do need to be careful. We don't want to put people off but we do want to say be sensible."

See also:

20 Dec 98 | Europe
02 Nov 98 | Health
27 Jan 99 | UK Education
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