MONTPELIER — When Lauren Andrews worked as a registered nurse in Central Vermont Medical Center’s psychiatric unit, she gave lavender essential oils to an agitated patient with schizoaffective disorder, a mental health condition involving schizophrenia and mood disorder symptoms.
“We would end up giving her Ativan all the time, which is a highly addictive benzodiazepine,” Andrews said. “We were able to ween her off of that by having her use lavender essential oils on her skin.”
A benzodiazepine is a class of psychoactive drugs, commonly called “benzos.” They are usually prescribed short-term to combat anxiety.
She said the patient called the lotion her “calm-down cream.”
“It really decreased her agitation levels ... and it was more empowering for her too because she was able to not rely upon the pills,” said Andrews.
Sue Millar is a nurse who used to work with Andrews in the psychiatric unit at the local hospital.
“She was enthusiastic and really compassionate,” Millar said of Andrews. “She really incorporated the therapeutic use of aromatherapy into a difficult setting.”
She said Andrews’ aromatherapy teachings are now a permanent part of the unit’s program.
“It’s well accepted from a diverse group of patients,” said Millar, adding she and another nurse have been leading aromatherapy groups on the psychiatric unit.
Recently, Andrews retired from nursing so she could concentrate solely on aromatherapy. She opened up AroMed Aromatherapy in Montpelier on Oct. 24, in a storefront located behind the fire station on Pitkin Court.
Her shop is organized by different body systems. There are sections for respiratory issues, immune support, digestive health and women’s health.
“If you can’t find something on the shelves specific to your needs, we have a menu that has different blends I can make for you on the spot that are maybe more relevant to your needs,” said Andrews.
She said her background in psychiatry taught her how helpful essential oils can be, and their ability to be a more natural alternative to medications.
“I was so impressed by how helpful they were to the patients for anxiety, stress reduction and for insomnia,” she said.
That led her to seek out clinical aromatherapy training. She is now a certified aromatherapist who has studied with Andrea Butje, a clinical aromatherapist, author and educator.
Andrews said AroMed has its own line of oils.
“I source oils directly from small growers and distillers worldwide and I sell only organic and ethically wild harvested plant oils,” she said. “My company is very committed to supporting the local economy.”
She said larger companies often exploit growers and distillers.
“But, I buy directly from them and they reap the financial benefits of those direct sales,” said Andrews.
She also sells natural perfumes and essential oil accessories, and a children’s line of essential oils.
For the holidays, she has prepared gift packages, essential oil starter kits that include recipes. She said the perfumes make the perfect gift for people who have developed allergies to synthetic chemicals.
“There are no synthetic chemicals in anything that I do,” said Andrews.