Aroma oil therapy in palliative care: a pilot study with physiological parameters in conscious as well as unconscious patients

J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2017 Oct;143(10):2123-2129. doi: 10.1007/s00432-017-2460-0. Epub 2017 Jun 20.


Objective: The aim of this pilot study is to analyze the reactions of healthy test persons and conscious as well as unconscious palliative patients to aroma stimuli.

Patients and methods: In a randomized controlled study, healthy probands, conscious and unconscious palliative patients were exposed to two essential oils (lemon, lavender). Water was used as the control stimulus. Physiological parameters (breathing rate and heart rate, oxygen saturation, systolic, diastolic and mean arterial pressure) were measured.

Results: 10 test persons (control group), 15 conscious patients and 5 unconscious palliative patients were exposed to the stimuli. Healthy test persons reacted to lemon oil with a significant increase in respiration rate, heart rate and diastolic blood pressure, whereas to lavender oil with a significant decrease in respiration rate was measured. There were no significant reactions concerning the other parameters. Conscious and unconscious patients reacted with a significant increase in all measured parameters to lemon oil and with a significant decrease in all parameters except for oxygen saturation to lavender oil. No significant differences in the reactions were measured between the conscious and unconscious patients and no significant reactions to control stimuli were detected. All physiological reactions were very short and only detectable during stimulus presentation.

Conclusion: Significant physiological reactions were measured after simulation with aroma oils in all three groups in this study. Healthy probands showed different reactions than palliative patients irrespective to their conscious state.

Keywords: Aroma oil; Cancer; Palliative care; Physiologic parameters.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aromatherapy / methods*
  • Consciousness
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Unconscious, Psychology
  • Young Adult