Aromatherapy, the use of essential oils for medicinal purposes, exists in several guises. One of them is inhalation aromatherapy which is a complementary therapy used in different clinical settings. But is there any sound evidence about its effectiveness?
The aim of this review was to assess the effectiveness of inhalational aromatherapy in the care of hospitalized pediatric patients.
A systematic review of clinical trials and quasi-experimental studies was conducted, based on PRISMA recommendations, searching Medline, Web of Science, Scopus, SciELO, LILACS, CINAHL, Science Direct, EBSCO, and updated databases. The Down and Black 2020, RoB 2020 CLARITY, and ROBINS-I 2020 scales were used through the Distiller SR software to verify the studies’ internal validity and risk of bias.
From 446 articles identified, 9 fulfilled the inclusion criteria. Seven were randomized controlled trials (RCTs), one pilot RCT, and one non-randomized quasi-experimental trial.
Different outcomes were analyzed, with pain being the most frequently measured variable. None of the 6 studies that evaluated pain showed significant effects with inhalation aromatherapy. Additionally, non-significant effects were found regarding nausea, vomiting, and behavioral/emotional variables.
The authors concluded that the findings are still inconclusive, and more evidence is required from future studies with high methodological quality, blinding, and adequate sample sizes.
Call me a skeptic, but I think the findings show quite clearly that there is no sound evidence to suggest that inhalation aromatherapy might be effective for kids.
Aromatherapy is simply breathing air that is heavily polluted with so-called volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), among which hazardous compounds such as acetone and toluene, see
Combined with the outcome that aroma’therapy’ most likely has no therapeutic effects, I’d say that the overall conclusion is that it is not advisable to expose anyone to these substances, least of all children. Children with asthma are particularly at risk, as these pollutants may elicit an asthma attack.