Hospital Gifts: Natural Air Fresheners for Hospital Rooms

Being hospitalized or ill is bad enough, but the smells of sickness in hospital rooms, oy vey! Every herb garden is full of plants that can make great hospital gifts to ease the patient's mind and spirit.

| June/July 2005

For all their clean efficiency, hospitals aren’t the most cheerful places to be. When I endured a nine-month hospital stay a few years ago, I desperately missed my family and friends, my home and my garden. So far from everything I loved, it was hard to keep my spirits up as I fought to get well. Noises, light and unpleasant odors in my hospital room grated on my nerves day and night. Pumped full of antibiotics, I didn’t want to inflict sleeping pills on my poor body.

That’s when I turned to sweet-smelling herbs for solace. My mother had given me a hospital gift before I became ill: a small, lavender aromatherapy kit. In the hospital, I used the spray to scent the air and my sheets and pillow. On  sleepless nights, I rubbed lavender lotion on my wrists and temples. Then my weary mind could drift off to flowering fields and escape the institutional setting for a time.

As I recovered, my husband brought me snips of fragrant rosemary and crisp lemon geranium. A bunch of thyme from a friend went into a bag in my drawer. I happily added bits of fresh parsley and basil from my garden to hospital food.

During my long convalescent stay, the slips of scented geranium took root in their vase, and I potted them up for my windowsill. A plastic pot, coffee can of soil mix and pebbles for crocking were supplied by my devoted husband. We did the messy work on the hospital patio. For a brief time, I forgot my situation as I happily focused on soil, root and leaves.

The beautiful flowers sent by my friends were lovely to look at—but it was my herbs that brought me peace and pleasure.

If you have a friend or family member in a hospital or nursing home, think of herbs as a starting point for gifts. (DO NOT provide herbal medicines without consulting the attending physician; some interact negatively with pharmaceuticals.)

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