Aromasticks in cancer care: an innovation not to be sniffed at

Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2011 May;17(2):116-21. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2010.06.002.


Aim: To evaluate the effects of a new aromatherapy intervention introduced within an acute cancer care setting in the UK.

Background: Aromatherapy is a popular complementary therapy within oncology settings and is known to help relieve patients' anxiety. A new method of delivering aromatherapy to patients was adopted by a complementary therapy service at a UK hospital; aromasticks are similar in design to the Vicks® Vapour Inhaler®, with the intention of helping patients manage anxiety, nausea and sleep disturbance.

Design: A retrospective service evaluation.

Method: Patients referred to the complementary therapy service were, if appropriate, offered an aromastick. If the offer was accepted patients' details were captured on an evaluation form. One week later the patients were followed up by a different therapist. Frequency of using the aromastick and perceived benefits were documented. A total of 160 patients were included in this evaluation.

Results: 77% (n = 123) of all patients reported deriving at least one benefit from the aromastick. In anxious patients, 65% reported feeling more relaxed and 51% felt less stress. 47% of nauseous patients said that the aromastick had settled their nausea and 55% of those experiencing sleep disturbances felt that aromastick helped them sleep. The results also suggest that the effects of the aromastick may be directly proportional to the frequency of their use.

Relevance to clinical practice: Evidence demonstrating physiological changes associated with aroma inhalation plus the data presented in this paper highlight the potential for aromasticks within the clinical setting. Although the results of this evaluation of patient perspectives are not controlled, the data does underline the worth of further investigation. Future research is needed to show that aromasticks represent a tool patients can use to self-manage their own symptoms and help them retain an internal locus of control.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Aromatherapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nausea / etiology
  • Nausea / therapy*
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Palliative Care*
  • Relaxation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sleep
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / therapy*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult