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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 Citations Type of Study/Essential Oil/Mode ofAdministration No. of Patients Enrolled; Treated; Control ConditionInvestigated Primary Outcome Secondary Outcome Level 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/massage 46; 11; 18 Mood, QOL, physicalsymptoms No effect on mood, QOL, or physical symptoms None 1ii
    [2] Randomized nonblinded triala /lavender/ massage 42; 29; 13 Pain No effect on pain Improved sleep in both groups; reduceddepression(in massage group); no effect on QOL 1ii
    [3] Randomized nonblinded triala /chamomile/massage 103; 43; 44 Physical andpsychologicalsymptoms, QOL Reduction inanxietyand in physical and psychological symptoms; improved QOL None 1ii
    [4] Randomized nonblinded triala /chamomile/massage 52; 26; 25 QOL, physical symptoms, anxiety Improved QOL, fewer physical symptoms, reduced anxiety None 1ii
    [5] Randomized nonblinded triala /aromatherapy blendd /massage 52; 34; 18 Anxiety, mobility Decreased anxiety, pain; improved mobility None 1ii
    [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 application 313 Anxiety No effect on anxiety No effect on depression orfatigue 1i
    [7] Randomizedplacebo-controlleddouble-blind trial/bergamot/inhalation 37; 17; 20 Anxiety,nausea, pain in children undergoingstem cell transplant Increased anxiety and nausea in children 1 hour after stem cell infusion in aromatherapy group; no effect on pain Parental anxiety declined in both groups 1iC
    [8] Randomized controlled single-blind trial/sweet orange/inhalation 60; 23; 19; 18 (aromatherapy; orange tasting/sniffing; control) Symptom intensity (nausea,retching, cough) Greatest reduction in symptom intensity with orange tasting/sniffing None 1C
    [9] Randomized single-blind trial/choice of 20 essential oils/massage 39; 20; 19 Feasibility; mood Improvements in mood in both groups (aromatherapy massage and cognitive behavioral therapy) Preference for aromatherapy overcognitive behavior therapy 1C
    [10] Randomized single-blind trial/choice of bitter orange, black pepper, rosemary, majoram, andpatchouli /massage 45; 15; 15; 15 (aromatherapy massage; plain massage; control) Constipation; QOL Improvement with aromatherapy massage Improved QOL 1C
    [11] Nonrandomizedcontrolled clinical trialb /lavender,eucalyptus(Eucalyptus globulus Labill. andEucalyptus radiata Sieber ex DC. [Myrtaceae]), andtea tree /topical application 16; 6; 10 Infection No effect onincidenceof infection None 2
    [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 application 48; 24; 24 Gastrointestinalsymptoms No effect on gastrointestinal symptoms None 2
    [13] Consecutive case series c /lavender or chamomile/massage 18; 8 Anxiety, depression Noreductionin anxiety or depression Reduction inblood pressure, pulse, and respiration 3ii
    [14] Consecutive casea /various oils/massage 69 General symptoms General improvement in symptoms reported by patients; no statistical analysis completed None 3ii


    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
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