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Cancer Health Center

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Aromatherapy and Essential Oils (PDQ®): Complementary and alternative medicine - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Summary of the Evidence for Aromatherapy and Essential Oils

Use of Aromatherapy as a Supportive Care Agent in Cancer and Palliative Care: Table of Clinical Studies

Reference CitationsType of Study/Essential Oil/Mode ofAdministrationNo. of Patients Enrolled; Treated; ControlConditionInvestigatedPrimary OutcomeSecondary OutcomeLevel of Evidence Score
No. = number; QOL = quality of life.
a Patients with cancer.
b Patients withbreast cancerundergoingbone marrow transplantation.
c Patients withmalignant brain tumors.
d Lavender (43%), rosewood (29%), rose (7%), andvalerian(4%).
[1]Randomized nonblindedtriala /lavender(Lavandula angustifoliaMiller [synonyms:Lavandula spicataL.;Lavandula veraDC.]) andchamomile blend/massage46; 11; 18Mood, QOL, physicalsymptomsNo effect on mood, QOL, or physical symptomsNone1ii
[2]Randomized nonblinded triala /lavender/ massage42; 29; 13PainNo effect on painImproved sleep in both groups; reduceddepression(in massage group); no effect on QOL1ii
[3]Randomized nonblinded triala /chamomile/massage103; 43; 44Physical andpsychologicalsymptoms, QOLReduction inanxietyand in physical and psychological symptoms; improved QOLNone1ii
[4]Randomized nonblinded triala /chamomile/massage52; 26; 25QOL, physical symptoms, anxietyImproved QOL, fewer physical symptoms, reduced anxietyNone1ii
[5]Randomized nonblinded triala /aromatherapy blendd /massage52; 34; 18Anxiety, mobilityDecreased anxiety, pain; improved mobilityNone1ii
[6]Double-blindrandomized control triala /lavender,bergamot (Citrus aurantiumL. ssp.bergamia [Risso] Wright & Arn. [Rutaceae]; [synonym:Citrus bergamia Risso]), andcedarwood(Cedrus atlantica [Endl.] Manetti ex Carriere [Pinaceae])/indirect application313AnxietyNo effect on anxietyNo effect on depression orfatigue1i
[7]Randomizedplacebo-controlleddouble-blind trial/bergamot/inhalation37; 17; 20Anxiety,nausea, pain in children undergoingstem cell transplantIncreased anxiety and nausea in children 1 hour after stem cell infusion in aromatherapy group; no effect on painParental anxiety declined in both groups1iC
[8]Randomized controlled single-blind trial/sweet orange/inhalation60; 23; 19; 18 (aromatherapy; orange tasting/sniffing; control)Symptom intensity (nausea,retching, cough)Greatest reduction in symptom intensity with orange tasting/sniffingNone1C
[9]Randomized single-blind trial/choice of 20 essential oils/massage39; 20; 19Feasibility; moodImprovements in mood in both groups (aromatherapy massage and cognitive behavioral therapy)Preference for aromatherapy overcognitive behavior therapy1C
[10]Randomized single-blind trial/choice of bitter orange, black pepper, rosemary, majoram, andpatchouli /massage45; 15; 15; 15 (aromatherapy massage; plain massage; control)Constipation; QOLImprovement with aromatherapy massageImproved QOL1C
[11]Nonrandomizedcontrolled clinical trialb /lavender,eucalyptus(Eucalyptus globulus Labill. andEucalyptus radiata Sieber ex DC. [Myrtaceae]), andtea tree /topical application16; 6; 10InfectionNo effect onincidenceof infectionNone2
[12]Nonrandomized controlledclinical trial b /geranium(Pelargoniumspecies),German chamomile (Matricaria recutitaL. [synonyms:Matricaria chamomillaL.,Chamomilla recutita(L.) Rausch.]),patchouli(Pogostemon cablin[Blanco] Benth. [Lamiaceae] [synonyms:Mentha cablinBlanco,Pogostemon patchoulyLetettier]), andturmeric phytol /oral application48; 24; 24GastrointestinalsymptomsNo effect on gastrointestinal symptomsNone2
[13]Consecutive case series c /lavender or chamomile/massage18; 8Anxiety, depressionNoreductionin anxiety or depressionReduction inblood pressure, pulse, and respiration3ii
[14]Consecutive casea /various oils/massage69General symptomsGeneral improvement in symptoms reported by patients; no statistical analysis completedNone3ii


  1. Wilcock A, Manderson C, Weller R, et al.: Does aromatherapy massage benefit patients with cancer attending a specialist palliative care day centre? Palliat Med 18 (4): 287-90, 2004.
  2. Soden K, Vincent K, Craske S, et al.: A randomized controlled trial of aromatherapy massage in a hospice setting. Palliat Med 18 (2): 87-92, 2004.
  3. Wilkinson S, Aldridge J, Salmon I, et al.: An evaluation of aromatherapy massage in palliative care. Palliat Med 13 (5): 409-17, 1999.
  4. Wilkinson S: Aromatherapy and massage in palliative care. Int J Palliat Nurs 1 (1): 21-30, 1995.
  5. Corner J, Cawler N, Hildebrand S: An evaluation of the use of massage and essential oils on the wellbeing of cancer patients. Int J Palliat Nurs 1 (2): 67-73, 1995.
  6. Graham PH, Browne L, Cox H, et al.: Inhalation aromatherapy during radiotherapy: results of a placebo-controlled double-blind randomized trial. J Clin Oncol 21 (12): 2372-6, 2003.
  7. Ndao DH, Ladas EJ, Cheng B, et al.: Inhalation aromatherapy in children and adolescents undergoing stem cell infusion: results of a placebo-controlled double-blind trial. Psychooncology 21 (3): 247-54, 2012.
  8. Potter P, Eisenberg S, Cain KC, et al.: Orange interventions for symptoms associated with dimethyl sulfoxide during stem cell reinfusions: a feasibility study. Cancer Nurs 34 (5): 361-8, 2011 Sep-Oct.
  9. Serfaty M, Wilkinson S, Freeman C, et al.: The ToT study: helping with Touch or Talk (ToT): a pilot randomised controlled trial to examine the clinical effectiveness of aromatherapy massage versus cognitive behaviour therapy for emotional distress in patients in cancer/palliative care. Psychooncology 21 (5): 563-9, 2012.
  10. Lai TK, Cheung MC, Lo CK, et al.: Effectiveness of aroma massage on advanced cancer patients with constipation: a pilot study. Complement Ther Clin Pract 17 (1): 37-43, 2011.
  11. Gravett P: Aromatherapy treatment for patients with Hickman line infection following high-dose chemotherapy. International Journal of Aromatherapy 11 (1): 18-9, 2001.
  12. Gravett P: Treatment of gastrointestinal upset following high-dose chemotherapy. International Journal of Aromatherapy 11 (2): 84-6, 2001.
  13. Hadfield N: The role of aromatherapy massage in reducing anxiety in patients with malignant brain tumours. Int J Palliat Nurs 7 (6): 279-85, 2001.
  14. Evans B: An audit into the effects of aromatherapy massage and the cancer patient in palliative and terminal care. Complement Ther Med 3 (4): 239-41, 1995.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: 8/, 015
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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