MD, PhD, MAE, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

Two million people in UK are estimated to be currently suffering from long COVID, says the Office for National Statistics. Fatigue continues to be the most common symptom – experienced by 55% of those with self-reported long COVID – followed by 32% with shortness of breath, 23% with a cough, and 23% with muscle ache. The problem is only going to increase in the near future. Thus, many people are frantically looking for an effective therapy. Practitioners of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) are no exception.

This study aimed to evaluate the potential for inhalation of essential oils to improve energy levels among otherwise healthy female survivors of acute COVID-19 who experience a lack of energy more than five months after recovery.

This was a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to evaluate the potential for inhalation of Longevity™, a proprietary essential oil blend manufactured by Young Living Essential Oils (Lehi, Utah, USA), on energy levels among female survivors of COVID-19 who continue to experience fatigue more than 5 months recovery from the acute infection. Forty women were randomized to two groups: intervention and placebo. The placebo product contained an inert, odorless fractionated coconut oil. Both groups inhaled the assigned product twice daily for fourteen consecutive days. Fatigue scores were measured using the Multidimensional Fatigue Symptom Inventory (MFSI). Secondary outcomes included scores on each of the MFSI’s ten subscales.

Individuals who inhaled the essential oil blend for 2 weeks had significantly lower fatigue scores after controlling for baseline scores, employment status, BMI, olfactory function, and time since diagnosis, with a large effect size (F (1,39) = 6.15, p = .020, partial eta squared = 0.198). Subscale analysis identified subscales of vigor, as well as global, behavioral, general, and mental fatigue as benefiting from the intervention. This study provides evidence that a proprietary aromatherapy blend can significantly improve energy levels among women who are experiencing fatigue after recovering from COVID-19.

The authors concluded that the use of aromatherapy with Longevity™ essential oil blend to boost energy levels in women who have recovered from COVID-19 provides a novel, non-invasive approach to improving quality of life in this population. This intervention is particularly beneficial for global and mental fatigue, as well as vigor. Other subdomains may experience improvements to energy levels with a smaller effect size; future studies should be conducted to explore this potential.

This trial was funded by Young Living Essential Oils. Perhaps, this explains why there is no mention of the elephant in the room: the trial was not blind! Participants in the verum group knew that they received aromatherapy. Likewise, participants in the placebo group knew that they received the placebo.

Could this fact have influenced the outcome? Certainly!

Could the trial have been designed better? Certainly!

All the investigators needed to do is to use a nice-smelling oil that, according to aromatherapists, does not boost energy, as the placebo.

As it stands, we have no idea whether the authors’ assumption that the verum oil caused the effect is true.

Pity!

Or maybe not?

Perhaps Young Living Essential Oils, the sponsor of the study and producer of the oil never wanted to know the truth. Maybe they are happy to abuse science as a marketing tool?

5 Responses to Is aromatherapy the answer to long-COVID? I fear not!

  • In common with many well known pharmaceutical companies who distort their results perhaps but that’s ok isn’t it Edzy because they are backed by you and others and not treated as SCAM?

    Still think it is a very interesting study, blinded or not.

    • 1) when did I back pharma companies?
      2) when did they distort their results?
      3) even if they do, does that justify SCAM to do the same
      4) but thanks for the lovely nick name

  • Young Living is a Utah-based multilevel marketing company which manufactures and hawks essential oils and related nonsense.

    Young Living was founded and led by Donald Gary Young (1949–2018), a self-described “naturopathic doctor” and one-time devotée of Stanley Burroughs, inventor of the so-called Lemonade diet. After at least one conviction for practicing medicine without a license, Young … moved his “clinic” to Rosarito, Mexico, where he offered quack “detoxifixation” treatments for cancer and lupus, among other diseases. When a Los Angeles Times reporter submitted cat and chicken blood to Young’s clinic, he failed to recognized the samples were bogus and diagnosed the “patients” with aggressive cancer and liver disease.
    https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Young_Living

    In 2014, two MLM companies selling essential oils, Young Living and doTerra, were issued warnings by the FDA for falsely claiming their products could protect against Ebola, autism, Parkinson’s Disease and other illnesses and conditions.
    https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Multilevel_marketing#Two-for-one_scam

  • Aromatherapy is not an answer to anything apart from, “would you like things to smell nicer?”

  • Smells a bit fishy to me.

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