Inhalation aromatherapy in children and adolescents undergoing stem cell infusion: results of a placebo-controlled double-blind trial


Columbia University Medical Center, Pediatric Oncology, 161 Fort Washington Avenue, 7th floor, New York, NY 10032, USA. E-mail:


Objective: Though often lifesaving, stem cell transplantation (SCT) is a period of great distress for both child and parent.

Methods: We conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized study evaluating the effect of the respiratory administration of bergamot essential oil on the anxiety, nausea, and pain of 37 pediatric patients with malignant and non-malignant disorders undergoing stem cell infusion and their parents. Patients were assessed at the time of recruitment, prior to infusion, upon infusion completion, and one hour post-infusion using the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) for parents and the STAIC, Children's Behavioral Style Scale (CBSS), visual analogue scale (VAS) for pain and nausea, and the Emotionality Activity Sociability and Impulsivity instrument (EASI) for children.

Results: Children and adolescents in the treatment group experienced greater anxiety (p = 0.05) and nausea (p = 0.03) one hour post-infusion. Reported pain in both groups was no longer significant one hour post-infusion. Parental anxiety declined in both groups but did not reach statistical significance. Child's monitoring coping style was significantly predictive of transitory anxiety post-infusion (p = 0.01).

Conclusions: Although this trial did not report a benefit of inhalation aromatherapy for reducing anxiety, nausea, or pain when added to standard supportive care, it provides the first experimental rather than descriptive report on testing a single therapeutic essential oil among children and adolescents undergoing stem cell infusion. Future research may consider exploring the cutaneous application of essential oil through massage or other psychoeducational counseling interventions among parents with elevated anxiety and patients with greater information seeking coping styles during SCT. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.