Q.: Are there any natural treatments that can help with bedsores? My mother is bedridden and gets them, surely there is some alternative to drug treatment and painful dressing changes? Margaret
DR SANDI NYE REPLIES:
Let me describe a case that illustrates how natural treatments can help.
An 82-year-old woman in a state-run old-age home developed a very large pressure sore on her hip, about the size of a woman’s fist. The wound smelled putrid, indicating a probable anaerobic infection, and was partially filled with yellow, necrotic, sloughing tissue.
The nursing staff had been treating the wound for months with Ascerbine dressings (hexachlorophene and salicylic acid), with minimal change. The patient was finding the dressing changes increasingly distressing and needed morphine for the pain.
A full aroma-therapeutic treatment wasn’t an option due to the lack of staffing and funds, but would have been as follows:
- an antimicrobial essential oil formulation to be injected into the bag of saline irrigation fluid for wound dressings
- aromatic perfusions of an essential oil formulation to combat bacterial infection, reduce inflammation and provide pain relief
- essential oil-infused Manuka honey applications
- compresses with a green clay and essential oil formulation
- compresses with aloe ferox gel and essential oil formulation
- a hydrosol-based spray with solubilised essential oils.
Only the last of these was possible under the circumstances. An aroma-therapeutic spray was formulated using organic and chemotyped essential oils (see table), solubilised in a base of organic lavender hydrolat/hydrosol (Lavandula angustifolia) for its antiseptic, soothing properties, and supplied free of charge.
THE OVERALL TREATMENT GOALS WERE TO:
- attempt to halt the progression of the erosion
- control the infection and inflammation
- bring pain relief
- support immune function
- reduce the unpleasant smell (all essential oils are natural deodorants) and thereby improve the patient’s emotional state, including mood and pain perception.
The Ascerbine dressings were stopped and replaced by the aroma-therapeutic spray. No additional medical or other treatment was used. The spray was applied daily after wound cleansing with saline, and the wound was then covered with a dry gauze dressing. The patient appeared to feel no pain on application of the spray.
The unpleasant smell improved significantly within the first three days, and the staff also benefited from the pleasant fragrance.
The wound improved dramatically over the next 24 days. The yellow necrotic tissue rapidly cleared, revealing pink, healthy tissue. The depth and diameter of the wound also started to decrease. Unfortunately the patient died of a heart attack after 24 days of treatment.
The nursing staff were amazed by the healing and said they would consider aromatherapeutic treatment as a first-line treatment for bedsores in future. For my part, it was encouraging to have my faith in the power of these incredible aromatic molecules from nature confirmed yet again. It was a humbling experience to be able to participate in a therapeutic process via such a gentle yet powerful intervention. Even though the patient had limited awareness, I am convinced that the fragrance penetrated her consciousness, bringing some emotional relief alongside pain alleviation and wound healing.
Essential oils for wound spray
- Achillea millefolium (yarrow)
- Cistus ladaniferus (cistus, rockrose)
- Commiphora molmol (myrrh)
- Helichrysum italicum (helichrysum, immortelle)
- Laurus nobilis (bay laurel)
- Lavandula latifolia (spike lavender)
- Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree)
- Thymus vulgaris CT thujanol (thyme thujanol chemotype)
- Lavandula angustifolia (lavender)