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Aromatherapy and Herbs for Post-op Delirium

I never thought I’d be writing a blog about aromatherapy and herbs for post-op delirium. As an aromatherapist, I always know who and what I am going to help next, because God presents it before me. When several people with the same issue keep coming to me, then I know I am meant to learn how to help them. Figuring out which remedies and custom essential oil blends that will bring them the greatest benefit is my gift.

I consider myself a “health investigator”. I love figuring out mysteries and putting all the pieces to the puzzle together. It takes an open mind, to see all angles of the situation, in a non-judgmental way to identify potential culprits. Using this knowledge and findings help me formulate a creative solution, that gets results, even in the toughest of health challenges.

God certainly blessed me with many talents and gifts that allow me to help others and pay forward those blessings. I didn’t always know this. I had to endure my own health challenges in order to learn how to be present and aware of these gifts. Now that I know I have them, I feel honored to be able to put them to good use.

I feel everything I have experienced first-hand coupled with my education and curiosity has led me to the place in my life where I can not only help myself, but my family, friends, and clients.

Those gifts were put to the test when I had a couple family members experience post op delirium. I didn’t even know this existed. When it was first occurring, I wasn’t aware that it was happening. Only after a few days, researching and interviewing nurses and doctors, did I realize the situation we were in.  If you don’t get the delirium under control rather quickly, it can manifest into more severe and significant psychological deficits and mental health issues. It can also have long term effects on memory and cognitive functions. It is not only a sad thing to know, but to watch someone you love go through this is heartbreaking.

So, I want to share what I learned, to help you recognize this if it happens to you. Also, to tell you what I did to help my family members get through it. There were certain aromatherapy and herbs for post-op delirium that I figured out along the way.

First, what is postop delirium? It is defined as the sudden change in mental faculties after receiving anesthesia (usually for surgery). The person is more confused, has significant and recognizable changes in behavior, becomes highly agitated and/or lethargic.

Signs of postop delirium that I noticed

  • Agitated, hostile and angered easily
  • Memory lapse, confusion and brain fog
  • Exhibiting hypersensitive emotions out of the ordinary
  • Saying the same thing over and over
  • Fidgeting with their hands
  • Express that they are not being taken care of or being neglected
  • No sense of time
  • Restless
  • Combative and trying to pull out their IV
  • Highly anxiety and heightened worry
  • Fearful
  • Dehydrated

There are other signs too, these were the most profound ones I remember. Typically, post-op delirium is said to last around 48 hours. If you start exceeding that time frame, you might want to consult with a neurologist or medical professional trained in postop delirium. Time is of the essence and will require a collaborative effort between you and the doctors.

Because this was new to me (with the first family member), I trusted the doctor in charge. However, she was not trained in recognizing the signs and dismissed my concerns. By day 4, I had to take charge and bring in other medical professionals to help.

When I saw this happening to a second family member in a separate incident, I was quicker to recognize it and bring in remedies to combat it quickly. Luckily, the nurse called me to ask for my help, as this was during COVID and no family was allowed to accompany patients. I guided her how to use the aromatherapy and it worked within hours. Mind you, we were in the first 24-hour period. So, my lesson, the quicker you address the issue, the quicker the results.

Aromatherapy and herbs for post-op delirium that helped my family member

Within the 1st 48 hours

  • Peppermint essential oil: I applied 2 drops in the center of a cotton round and wafted under their nose often within a 1-hour period. I also let them hold the cotton round (the edges were free of essential oil residue for safety), and they would bring to their nose to smell to smell. It seemed that even though they were “out of it”, they had instincts of when to smell it.
  • Lavender essential oil: I applied 1-2 drops in the center of a cotton round and wafted under their nose every 2-4 minutes for 15-20 minutes. Smelling this scent calmed their agitation, hypersensitive emotions, and anxiety. It Did not make it go away completely, but it did take it down a couple notches.
  • Eucalyptus: Several research studies show that smelling eucalyptus essential oils, helped to reduce post-op delirium effects.
  • Clarify essential oil blend: I diffused 2-3 drops of this essential oil blend in the room twice daily for 5 minutes. The scent lingered for at least 1-2 hours after using it and helped not only the family member going through this, but me, as the caretaker. This blend contains lemongrass, rosemary, basil, spearmint, black pepper and fennel which helped us both stay more focused, alert, aware and combated a nervous stomach, nausea and anxiousness.

After 48 hours

  • Medicinal mushrooms such as lion’s mane, reishi, maitake, shiitake, chaga, turkey tail, tremella, cordyceps, agaricus blazei and meshima
  • Passionflower to help the nervous system recover
  • Berberine to help with anxiety and blood sugar balance
  • Distress remedy flower essence to calm nerves, frustration, anxiety
  • Probiotics to nourish the gut
  • Digestive enzymes support the gut and breakdown toxic debris
  • Milk Thistle to support liver function and help the body metabolize and eliminate the toxins
  • Minerals, such as Solle Vital, to help absorption of nutrients, elimination of wastes and electrolyte balance for hydration
  • Plant-based protein shake, like SolleComplete to help strengthen the body and mind

Other helpful tips

  • Have the nurse write on their board 2 specified times –
    1. What time they came in last
    2. What time they will come in next
  • Have family present either in person or by Facetime or Zoom
  • Have the doctor ask the patient different, varying questions when assessing them, instead of repeating the same questions every time they see them like – name & birthday. They seem to memorize those specific answers and can recall it because it is stored in a different part of the brain than is being affected by the delirium.
  • Give the person a blanket or fidget sleeve or pillow


Science Direct article

JennScents Holistic Aromatherapy Comprehensive Guide

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I do not treat, diagnose, or prescribe anything. The information I am sharing with you is my own personal experience and not formal medical advice.

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