To determine whether aromatherapy can reduce postoperative nausea, the investigators studied 33 ambulatory surgery patients who complained of nausea in the PACU. After indicating the severity of nausea on a 100-mm visual analogue scale (VAS), subjects received randomized aromatherapy with isopropyl alcohol, oil of peppermint, or saline (placebo). The vapors were inhaled deeply through the nose from scented gauze pads held directly beneath the patients' nostrils and exhaled slowly through the mouth. Two and 5 minutes later, the subjects rated their nausea on the VAS. Overall nausea scores decreased from 60.6 +/- 4.3 mm (mean +/- SE) before aromatherapy to 43.1 +/- 4.9 mm 2 minutes after aromatherapy (P <.005), and to 28.0 +/- 4.6 mm 5 minutes after aromatherapy (P < 10(-6)). Nausea scores did not differ between the treatments at any time. Only 52% of the patients required conventional intravenous (IV) antiemetic therapy during their PACU stay. Overall satisfaction with postoperative nausea management was 86.9 +/- 4.1 mm and was independent of the treatment group. Aromatherapy effectively reduced the perceived severity of postoperative nausea. The fact that a saline "placebo" was as effective as alcohol or peppermint suggests that the beneficial effect may be related more to controlled breathing patterns than to the actual aroma inhaled.