Effects of aromatherapy on dysmenorrhea: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Int J Nurs Stud. 2018 Aug:84:1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2018.01.016. Epub 2018 Feb 2.


Objective: Menstrual pain is not a disease, but it is a problem that periodically makes women uncomfortable during menstrual cycles. There has been a continuing effort to alleviate menstrual cramps in the medical field. Aromatherapy, one of the alternative complementary therapies, has been used as a way to alleviate menstrual cramps, but there is still little evidence of how to use it. Therefore, in this study, we tried to find and provide the evidence of relieving effects of menstrual cramps.

Design: This study involved a systematic review and meta-analysis. The study was to identify the effects of aromatherapy on menstrual pain through a systematic review of the relevant literature from Korea and abroad and a meta-analysis of the data from studies meeting our inclusion criteria.

Data sources: We obtained articles published in English from PubMed, the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), and we also obtained articles by searching the Korean databases Research Information Service System (RISS), DBPIA, and Korean Studies Information Service System (KISS).

Review methods: A systematic review was performed on all searchable articles published form inception to October 17, 2016, using the international and Korean databases noted above. The search terms used was ((aromatherapy OR aroma* OR essential oil) AND (dysmenorrhea OR menstrual pain)). Articles were selected for analysis from among the retrieved articles based on the key questions and the inclusion and exclusion criteria using a PRISMA flow diagram. The 21 articles entire texts were reviewed and qualitatively analyzed while seven articles were quantitatively analyzed using RevMan software ver. 5.3.

Results: In a comparison between the experimental groups, which received an aromatherapy intervention, and the control groups, which received no treatment of any kind, the dysmenorrhea score in the experimental group decreased by 2.67 points (mean difference -2.67), showing a statistically significant difference(Z = 7.79, p < .001, Higgins I2 = 0%). Compared to the placebo group, which received a placebo oil treatment, the dysmenorrhea score in the experimental group decreased by 1.71 points (mean difference, -1.71), showing a statistically significant difference (Z = 4.51, p < .001), but high heterogeneity (Higgins I2 = 81%).

Conclusions: Aromatherapy was an effective intervention for reducing dysmenorrhea. However, because the analysis showed that the aroma intervention methods were diverse and that the basis for the intervention methods was weak, the possibility of randomization bias was high.

Keywords: Aromatherapy; Dysmenorrhea; Oils; Physiological; Stress; Systematic review; Volatile.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aromatherapy*
  • Dysmenorrhea / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Nursing Process
  • Publication Bias