Essential Oils are all the rage these days, and for good reason! Many have a long history of traditional use for improving stress, anxiety, depression, sleep, and memory. Plus, they smell good!
Sounds almost too good to be true.
But more and more research studies are coming out to support their effectiveness for treating specific symptoms and enhancing general wellness. And most importantly for YOU, there’s even research being done on essential oils for nursing students!
Here are 3 inexpensive essential oils, backed by research, that are perfect for tackling stress, test anxiety, and improving memory and focus. You’ll find several quick and simple ideas that can make a BIG impact on your nursing school life, even if you’ve never used essential oils before.
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3 Essential Oils for Nursing Students (these should be required supplies!)
For Memory: Rosemary Essential Oil
Rosemary is traditionally known as a memory enhancer, which makes it one of the PERFECT essential oils for nursing students! The easiest way to use it is to add a few drops of Rosemary essential oil to the water in an essential oil diffuser (this is the diffuser I use at home) during your study sessions.
Did you know that essential oils don’t only come in a bottle? Another simple way to get a dose of Rosemary essential oil is to grow Rosemary! All essential oils are harvested from plant material, and rosemary is no different. So if you’ve ever smelled fresh rosemary, then you’ve smelled rosemary essential oil.
So if you’d rather not get an essential oil diffuser, you can still get the benefits of rosemary aromatherapy by keeping a potted rosemary plant on your study desk. In fact, you might even want to start cooking with it every chance you get once you hear about a research study that tested herbal rosemary supplement on college students…
They discovered that students who ate the Rosemary herbal supplement (NOT the essential oil) at medicinal doses for one month demonstrated improved memory, less anxiety, and less depression. So it’s helpful for even more than memory!
Contraindications for Rosemary essential oil
Although Rosemary is Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS), it is not recommended during pregnancy because some research with rats suggested that it has the potential to cause problems. However, this caution is primarily limited to eating Rosemary essential oil…diffusing Rosemary essential oil for aromatherapy, or cooking with the dried Rosemary herb while pregnant should be perfectly fine.
For Fatigue: Peppermint Essential Oil
Did you know that Peppermint Essential Oil is one of the oils that has been shown to help reduce fatigue and burnout? That’s two BIG issues that nursing students (and nurses!) definitely struggle with. Simply breathe it in as needed, or at least 3x per day as they did in the research study.
The participants in that research study carried around their essential oils using a Personal Aromatherapy Inhaler. Personal Aromatherapy Inhalers are convenient and easy to use, especially as a nursing student. Place a few drops of peppermint essential oil on the cotton wick inside the inhaler, close it up, and carry it in your pocket. Whenever you need a quick pick-me-up, simply pull it out and breath deeply.
Peppermint essential oil is also excellent for reducing headaches and muscle aches, largely because of the menthol it contains. If you like to DIY, you can dilute your own peppermint essential oil and put it in a roller bottle to apply to your aching muscles at the end of a long clinical day.
If nothing else, peppermint essential oil is GREAT for when there are disgusting smells diffusing around during clinicals! There’s nothing like peppermint to clear the air…and your nostrils 😉
Contraindications for Peppermint essential oil
Peppermint essential oil is considered to be an anti-galactogogue. “Anti” means opposite, and “galactogogue” refers to the ability to increase the production of breastmilk, so that means that peppermint essential oil has the potential risk of reducing lactation in postpartum mommies. For this reason, it is recommended to avoid consuming peppermint essential oil while breastfeeding.
It’s a little less clear whether peppermint essential oil can be safely applied topically while breastfeeding, such as for headache or muscle ache treatments. One study tested a peppermint gel for breastfeeding moms to prevent cracked nipples, and it worked pretty well, without any reduction in breast milk noted.
In any case, I don’t know of any contraindications for simply smelling peppermint, so even if you’re breastfeeding while in nursing school (you go, mama!!), then it can be a great pick-me-up when you’re feeling tired!
For Stress & Anxiety: Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender Essential Oil is probably the most well-known and useful essential oil available. Plus, it’s very easy to find and relatively inexpensive…perfect for a nursing school budget!
Lavender has a long history of improving stress, anxiety, and sleep. But if you want more proof, here’s a study that demonstrated that including lavender essential oil in an aromatherapy can help improve pain during menstruation for nursing students. Plus, another study showing that lavender essential oil can improve the sleep quality of college students…you know, so that you can make the most of whatever little sleep you can get!
In yet another study that used only nursing students, lavender and rosemary (see, it’s multi-purpose!) essential oils were used to lower levels of test anxiety, general anxiety, and pulse rates.
Since lavender smells so flowery and feminine, it makes a great body spray for women! You can also dilute it in a roller bottle, and apply as needed to your neck or wrists.
If you don’t have time to DIY with essential oils, then I suggest using a cute aromatherapy locket, or even an aromatherapy badge reel! Hey, if you’ve got to wear your ID badge anyway, it might as well be fashionable AND functional 😉
Can I Use All 3 Essential Oils At The Same Time?
In yet another study examining the stress levels of nursing students, all 3 of these recommended essential oils (lavender, peppermint, AND rosemary) were combined with Clary-Sage essential oil in a diffuser. The nursing students who used this aromatherapy had lower stress and anxiety scores, as well as improved physical symptoms of stress.
Whichever method you choose, you can feel confident that you’re starting out your nursing career on the right foot by making self-care a priority.