Peppermint oil aromatherapy may ease the pain after heart surgery, suggests a new study.
And it can also improve patients’ sleep quality, according to the findings.
The Iranian study, published online in the journal BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care, showed that essential peppermint oil aromatherapy may ease pain severity after open heart surgery.
Study author Professor Ismail Azizi-Fini explained that heart surgery is a major procedure, requiring the separation of the breastbone as well as mechanical breathing support, both of which are associated with a high risk of severe pain, stress, and sleeplessness.
Azizi-Fini, of Kashan University of Medical Sciences, said: “Effective pain relief allows patients to recover more quickly and may reduce the risk of postoperative complications.
“But both the pain itself and the drugs used to treat it can prolong the time needed for mechanical ventilation and increase postoperative complications, death, length of hospital stay, and healthcare costs.”
He explained that alternatives to drugs may provide a “safer” option or may simply boost the effectiveness of existing painkillers.
Azizi-Fini said that until the study the effectiveness of aromatherapy was unclear.
Standard scales were used to assess changes in pain severity and sleep quality.
The findings showed that, after two days, the average pain severity score was 3.22 in the aromatherapy group and 4.56 in the comparison group, a statistically “significant” difference.
Average sleep scores on day one were 20.10 and 25.76 in the aromatherapy and comparison groups, respectively, falling to 18.63 and 22.62, respectively, on day two, also a statistically significant difference between the two groups, according to the research team. The higher the score, the poorer the sleep quality.
Azizi-Fini said: “Those given peppermint oil aromatherapy needed less pharmacological pain relief than patients in the comparison group.”
The research team suggests that the main components of peppermint oil – carvone, limonene, and menthol – may be key to its pain-relieving qualities, particularly menthol.
They also point to previously published studies confirming the relaxing and sedative effects of peppermint essential oil.
Azizi-Fini said: “As patients experience a high level of postoperative stress and pain after waking up in intensive care following their heart surgery, reducing these factors should improve sleep quality.”
“Considering the effect of peppermint essential oil inhalation on pain and sleep quality…it can be concluded that this herbal product can be safely used as a complementary treatment in relieving pain and making patients comfortable after heart surgery.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker