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Aromatherapy and Essential Oils (PDQ®): Complementary and alternative medicine - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Human / Clinical Studies

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Another randomized controlled trial investigated the effects of massage or aromatherapy massage in 103 cancer patients who were randomly assigned to receive massage using a carrier oil (massage group) or massage using a carrier oil plus the Roman chamomile essential oil (Chamaemelum nobile [L.] All. [synonym: Anthemis nobilis L.]) (aromatherapy massage group).[5] Two weeks after the massage, the authors found a statistically significant reduction in anxiety in the aromatherapy massage group (as measured by the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory) and an improvement in symptoms (as measured by the Rotterdam Symptom Checklist [RSCL]; the subscales with improved scores were psychological, quality of life, severe physical, and severe psychological). The authors reported that the massage-only group showed improvement on four RSCL subscales; however, these improvements did not reach statistical significance.

In a placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized trial of bergamot inhalation aromatherapy compared with a pleasant smelling shampoo that did not contain essential oils, administered at the time of stem cell infusion in 37 children and adolescents undergoing stem cell transplant, aromatherapy was not found to be beneficial in reducing nausea, anxiety, or pain.[6] As administered in this study, bergamot inhalation aromatherapy may have contributed to persistent anxiety following the infusion of stem cells. Although no more effective than placebo, parents receiving aromatherapy showed a significant decrease in their transitory anxiety during the period between the completion of their child's infusion and 1 hour following infusion. Nausea and pain subsided over the course of the intervention for all children, though nausea remained significantly greater in patients receiving aromatherapy. These findings suggest that the diffusion of bergamot essential oil may not provide suitable anxiolytic and antiemetic effects among children and adolescents undergoing stem cell transplantation. The double blinding of the trial may explain the results, as single-blinded or nonblinded trials in general supported the aromatherapy intervention.

A similar study evaluated the efficacy of an aromatherapy intervention for reduction of symptom intensity of nausea, retching, and/or coughing among adult patients receiving stem cells preserved in dimethyl sulfoxide. The study found that an intervention of tasting or sniffing sliced oranges was more effective at reducing symptom intensity than an orange essential oil inhalation aromatherapy.[7]

A study whose primary objective was evaluating an aromatherapy service following changes made after an initial pilot at a U.K. cancer center also reported on the experiences of patients referred to the service.[8] Of 89 patients originally referred, 58 completed six aromatherapy sessions. The authors reported significant improvements in anxiety and depression (as measured by HADS) at the completion of the six sessions, as compared with before the six sessions. A small study examined the physical and psychological effects of aromatherapy massage in eight patients with primary malignant brain tumors attending their first follow-up appointment after radiation therapy.[9] The author reported no psychological benefit in these patients from aromatherapy massage (as measured by HADS) but reported a statistically significant reduction in blood pressure, pulse, and respiratory rate.

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WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
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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