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  • Aryaan Duggal

A Scent of Relief: How Aromatherapy Can Help Cancer Patients Cope with Stress and Anxiety



Aromatherapy, the practice of using essential oils as treatment for illnesses, has been used for centuries to promote relaxation, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve overall well-being. In recent years, it has gained attention as a complementary therapy for cancer patients. Cancer patients often experience anxiety and stress related to the diagnosis, treatment, and uncertainty about the future. Aromatherapy may offer a natural, non-invasive way to alleviate these symptoms. This article will explore the research on the effects of aromatherapy on anxiety and stress levels in cancer patients. With a newfound level of understanding, scientists can pair aromatherapy treatments with traditional ones to increase efficacy for patients around the world.


Several studies have investigated the effects of aromatherapy on anxiety and stress levels in cancer patients. A systematic review published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews examined the effects of aromatherapy on psychological symptoms in cancer patients. The review included 10 studies involving 567 participants. The review found that aromatherapy may have a beneficial effect on anxiety, depression, and overall quality of life in cancer patients. However, the review noted that more research is needed to determine the optimal aromatherapy interventions and how they can be integrated into cancer care. One study published in the European Journal of Oncology Nursing found that lavender aromatherapy significantly reduced anxiety levels in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. The study involved 60 patients, and those who received lavender aromatherapy reported a greater reduction in anxiety compared to those who received a placebo. The researchers concluded that lavender aromatherapy may be an effective way to reduce anxiety in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Another study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine investigated the effects of aromatherapy massage on anxiety and depression levels in breast cancer patients. The study involved 90 patients, and those who received aromatherapy massage reported significant reductions in anxiety and depression levels compared to those who received a placebo massage. From a 2018 study, researchers concluded that aromatherapy massage may be a beneficial complementary therapy for breast cancer patients experiencing anxiety and depression. This was later verified by the Red Cross foundation and was a revolutionary publication for its time.



The mechanism behind the effectiveness of aromatherapy is not fully understood, but there are several theories. One theory is that the scents stimulate the olfactory system, which sends signals to the brain, triggering emotional and physiological responses. Another theory is that the scents have a direct effect on the limbic system, which is involved in emotional processing and regulation.


While aromatherapy is not a replacement for actual medical care from a trained medical professional, aromatherapy is a promising complementary therapy for cancer patients experiencing anxiety and stress. Research suggests that aromatherapy may be effective in reducing anxiety and depression levels and improving the overall quality of life in cancer patients. However, more research is needed to determine the optimal aromatherapy interventions and how they can be integrated into cancer care. Aromatherapy is a natural, non-invasive therapy that can offer cancer patients a sense of comfort and relaxation during a difficult time.


In conclusion, the use of aromatherapy as a complementary therapy for cancer patients is a promising approach to help alleviate stress and anxiety. With the recent attention and positive results from various studies, it is important for healthcare professionals and policymakers to recognize the potential benefits of aromatherapy in cancer care. As legislation and policies continue to evolve in the United States to prioritize patient-centered care and alternative therapies, aromatherapy may become more widely available and integrated into cancer treatment plans. The integration of aromatherapy with traditional medical care has the potential to provide a holistic approach to cancer treatment and improve the overall well-being of cancer patients.


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