Background: Complementary and alternative medicine have become an increasingly topical theme in respiratory medicine. Aromatics are a commonly used ingredient in a number of proprietary medicines. It is well established that lung mucus clearance is impaired in patients with chronic airways obstruction. This study investigated whether aromatics delivered by inunction could be objectively shown to enhance lung clearance.
Methods: We studied 12 patients with chronic bronchitic with a mean standard error (SE) age of 67 (2) years (mean [SE] tobacco consumption history of 64  pack-years). We used a randomized, single-blinded, placebo-controlled crossover trial within patient design assessing the effect of 7.5 g of aromatics inunction (compared to a "no-treatment baseline" and to a petrolatum "placebo") on lung mucus clearance measured by a standard radioaerosol technique.
Results: Aromatic treatment significantly enhanced clearance at two time points 30 (p < 0.05) and 60 (p < 0.02) minutes postradioaerosol inhalation but had no demonstrable further effect over the following 5 hours despite further application of the inunction. The clearance improvement (relative to a baseline) observed during the first hour of testing was significantly correlated (p < 0.01) with the concentration level of aromatics.
Conclusion: Our data, thus, provide objective evidence of a positive effect of aromatics inunction on mucus clearance in chronic airways obstruction.