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Review: aromatherapy massage is associated with small, transient reductions in anxiety

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QUESTION: Does aromatherapy (treatment with aromatic plant extracts known as essential oils) have an effect on clinical outcomes in patients with various conditions?

Data sources

Clinical trials that were published in any language up to June 1999 were identified by searching Medline, EMBASE/Excerpta Medica, British Nursing Index, CISCOM, and AMED using the terms alternative medicine, massage, essential oils, and aromatherapy; and by contacting experts.

Study selection

Randomised controlled trials of the use of aromatherapy in human patients were included. Studies of the local effects of aromatherapy (eg, antiseptic effects of tea tree oil) and pre-clinical studies of healthy volunteers were excluded.

Data extraction

Data were extracted on the condition under investigation, sample characteristics, type of intervention and placebo, outcomes, and results. Methodological quality of studies was assessed using the Jadad scale (randomisation, blinding, and accounting for dropouts).

Main results

12 studies were identified. 6 trials evaluated the effects …

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  • Source of funding: no external funding.

  • For correspondence: Professor E Ernst, Department of Complementary Medicine, School of Postgraduate Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, 25 Victoria Park Road, Exeter EX2 4NT, UK. Fax +44 (0)1392 424989.