Effectiveness of Aromatherapy Massage and Inhalation on Symptoms of Depression in Chinese Community-Dwelling Older Adults

J Altern Complement Med. 2018 Jul;24(7):717-724. doi: 10.1089/acm.2017.0320. Epub 2018 Mar 22.


Objectives: Geriatric depression is a major public health problem in China. The study compared the intervention and follow-up effects of aromatherapy massage and inhalation on symptoms of depression in community-dwelling older adults after an 8-week intervention.

Design: A prospective, randomized controlled trial was conducted on community-dwelling adults ≥60 years old, with symptoms of depression. Participants were randomly assigned, by Latin Square, to aromatherapy massage, inhalation, or control groups (each n = 20).

Interventions: The aromatherapy massage group received 30 min of aromatherapy massage with 5 mL oil, twice weekly for 8 weeks. The oil contained 50 μL (one drop) of compound essential oils (lavender [Lavandula angustifolia], sweet orange [Citrus sinensis], and bergamot (Citrus bergamia in a 2:1:1 ratio)], diluted in sweet almond oil to a concentration of 1%. The aromatherapy inhalation group received 30 min of nasal inhalation of 50 μL of the compound essential oils blended in 10 mL of purified water, twice weekly for 8 weeks. The control group received no intervention.

Outcome measures: The Geriatric Depression Scale Short Form (GDS-SF) and Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) were used for assessment at pretest, posttest, and 6- and 10-week follow-ups in all groups. 5-Hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) concentration was assessed pretest and posttest.

Results: Postintervention, the aromatherapy massage and inhalation groups demonstrated significantly lower GDS-SF and PHQ-9 scores than control participants. Compared with the pretest, the GDS-SF and PHQ-9 scores for depressive symptoms in both experimental groups remained lower at posttest (8 weeks), 6-week (14 weeks), and 10-week (18 weeks) follow-ups. However, the GDS-SF and PHQ-9 scores did not differ among the four time points in the control group. The posttest 5-HT concentrations in the aromatherapy massage and inhalation groups were increased over pretest values.

Conclusions: Both aromatherapy massage and aromatherapy inhalation may have important implications for intervening depression in older adults.

Keywords: aromatherapy; community-dwelling older adults; complementary and alternative medicine; depression; inhalation; massage.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aromatherapy*
  • China
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Independent Living
  • Male
  • Massage*
  • Middle Aged
  • Serotonin / blood


  • Serotonin