Background: Anthroposophic medicine offers a variety of treatments, among others the oil-dispersion bath, developed in the 1930s by Werner Junge. Based on the phenomenon that oil and water do not mix and on recommendations of Rudolf Steiner, Junge developed a vortex mechanism which churns water and essential oils into a fine mist. The oil-covered droplets empty into a tub, where the patient immerses for 15-30 minutes. We review the current literature on oil-dispersion baths.
Methods: The following databases were searched: Medline, Pubmed, Embase, AMED and CAMbase. The search terms were 'oil-dispersion bath' and 'oil bath', and their translations in German and French. An Internet search was also performed using Google Scholar, adding the search terms 'study' and 'case report' to the search terms above. Finally, we asked several experts for gray literature not listed in the above-mentioned databases. We included only articles which met the criterion of a clinical study or case report, and excluded theoretical contributions.
Results: Among several articles found in books, journals and other publications, we identified 1 prospective clinical study, 3 experimental studies (enrolling healthy individuals), 5 case reports, and 3 field-reports. In almost all cases, the studies described beneficial effects - although the methodological quality of most studies was weak. Main indications were internal/metabolic diseases and psychiatric/neurological disorders.
Conclusion: Beyond the obvious beneficial effects of warm bathes on the subjective well-being, it remains to be clarified what the unique contribution of the distinct essential oils dispersed in the water can be. There is a lack of clinical studies exploring the efficacy of oil-dispersion baths. Such studies are recommended for the future.