A randomised controlled trial of Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia) and Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis) essential oils for the treatment of agitated behaviour in older people with and without dementia

Complement Ther Med. 2019 Feb:42:366-373. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2018.12.016. Epub 2018 Dec 21.


Objective: Lavender and Lemon Balm essential oils are popular in the management of older person agitation due to their ease of application, minimal side effects and low interaction with concurrent medications. This study addressed limitations in the literature to evaluate and compare effectiveness of Lavender and Lemon Balm essential oils on the agitated behaviour of older people with and without dementia living in residential aged care facilities [RACFs].

Methods: Forty-nine nursing home residents with dementia (n=39) and without dementia (n=10) exhibiting agitation participated in this study. Participants were randomised to a counterbalanced, repeated measures design experiment that tests the treatments Lavender, Lemon Balm, and Placebo (Sunflower oil). Treatments were administered once daily for two-weeks followed by a two-week washout period before commencing the subsequent treatment. All participants trialed all three treatments over a 10-week period. Data were collected on the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI) and Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory (CMAI).

Results: A significant difference was shown when essential oils effect were compared between the cognitive groups. Post hoc analysis reports Lemon Balm more effective in reducing NPI agitation (p = .04) and CMAI physical non-aggressive behaviour (PNAB) (p = .02) in residents without dementia. Lemon Balm less effective in reducing NPI irritability (p = 0.01) and Lavender more effective in reducing CMAI PNAB (p = 0.04) in dementia.

Conclusion: The findings support an opposing effect of Lemon Balm and Lavender in reducing agitated behaviour between the participant cognitive groups. There was no reduction in agitation with treatments when compared to placebo independent of cognitive groups.

Keywords: Agitation; Dementia; Lavanduala angustifolia; Lavender; Lemon Balm; Melissa officinalis.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anxiety / complications
  • Aromatherapy*
  • Dementia* / complications
  • Depression / complications
  • Female
  • Homes for the Aged
  • Humans
  • Lavandula / chemistry*
  • Male
  • Melissa / chemistry*
  • Nursing Homes
  • Oils, Volatile / therapeutic use*
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Plant Oils / therapeutic use
  • Psychomotor Agitation / drug therapy*
  • Psychomotor Agitation / etiology


  • Oils, Volatile
  • Plant Extracts
  • Plant Oils
  • lavender oil