by Nat Frothingham
MONTPELIER — Registered Nurse Lauren Andrews is the founder and clinical aromatherapist at AroMed Aromatherapy in Montpelier.
Andrews is also an experienced psychiatric nurse who graduated from Norwich University Nursing School and her training includes 500 hours in clinical aromatherapy. She has also worked at Vermont State Hospital and at Central Vermont Medical Center.
In a recent face-to-face interview with The Bridge, Andrews said, “I truly believe we have an innate ability to heal ourselves and aromatherapy can support that.”
Well, what exactly is aromatherapy?
Andrews describes it this way. “Aromatherapy is a form of plant medicine, closely aligned to herbalism and chemistry. It is the therapeutic use of naturally extracted plant oils designed to assist the body’s natural ability to balance, regulate, heal and maintain itself.”
Then Andrews provided the following specific example of how chemical constituents in the extracted plant oils support certain body systems. “For example,” she said, “the plant chemical 1.8 cineole found in eucalyptus is very effective at supporting the respiratory system.”
Andrews went on to discuss the use of essential oils. “We are seeing aromatherapy strategies being used in a various clinical settings — in psychiatric settings, nursing homes, emergency departments and oncology units and practices.”
Patient reactions to the use of essential plant oils has been positive. Said Andrews, “Patient satisfaction rates are typically high. Lavender can effectively help those suffering from agitation, anxiety or insomnia. Citrus oils can increase appetite in nursing home settings and ginger can help those dealing with chemo-induced nausea in oncology settings with no negative side effects.”
It was during her time at the psych unit at Central Vermont Medical Center that Andrews discovered the efficacy of essential oils. At the time, she was doing psycho-social work with a range of patients. These patients were contending with problems of substance abuse and anger management. In her work with these patients, she discovered that the use of essential oils could have beneficial results when targeted to certain systems in the body such as the respiratory system, the digestive system, or nervous system. Andrews has seen beneficial impacts from using essential oils to deal with respiratory illness, skin afflications, mild depression, anxiety and insomnia.
I asked Andrews about what appears to be the increasing incidence of cancer and depression.
“Our lives can be hectic,” she replied. “And when we experience ongoing stress, we see an increase in stress hormones in the body, which makes it more challenging for our immune systems to work optimally. The best thing we can do to support our well-being is to find ways to relax.” She mentioned meditation, yoga, a walk in the woods. “Many are discovering that essential oils work beautifully in this capacity,” she said.
Then Andrews went on to talk about the chemicals we are putting into and on our bodies. With body care products, she said, “If there’s an ingredient on the bottle that I don’t recognize, I don’t use it and I don’t sell it. About 10 percent of what we apply to our skin makes it into our bloodstream and has to be metabolized. We humans co-evolved with plants. Doesn’t it make sense that we would turn to plants to address our emotional and physical concerns?”
Andrews had this warning about synthetics. “Synthetics can cause respiratory problems. Synthetics can also aggravate skin sensitization responses and hormone dysregulation in some people.” Andrews said that her customers and students are aware of the synthetic chemicals found in body care and cleaning products. She is convinced that these chemicals are at the core of some of the medical issues that we face. “At AroMed,” she said, “everything we make and sell is 100 percent natural. We have blends that address pain, sleep, skin problems and anxiety. We also have remedies that improve children’s health and women’s health.”
Andrews has over 75 organic and ethically, wild-harvested essential plant oils that she buys from suppliers and distillers across the world. “I’ve got oils from Guatamala, France, South Africa, India, Somaliland and more. I was uncomfortable buying from middlemen. I was concerned about adulteration, misleading marketing slogans and overpricing. I made the decision to buy directly from small organic growers and distillers. I want the suppliers in those communities to benefit from my company’s purchases.”
Not unsurprisingly, Andrews reports that February and March can be difficult months for many people. “At this time of year,” she said, “people are coming in because they have low energy. They’re having difficulty with motivation. Essential oils can be very effective in uplifting one’s mood, increasing energy and focus.”
Lauren has upcoming, full-day workshop on Saturday, April 9 titled “Sunrise to Sunset: Everyday Aromatherapy.”
For further information, visit AroMed’s online store at www.aromedofvt.com. The AroMed storefront is located directly behind the fire station on Main Street in Montpelier. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.