Clinical Lead for Complementary
The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust
Our normal practice at this hospital, outside the study, is to offer aromatherapy massage for any patient who wishes to have it for whatever reason they feel it will be helpful to them. We do see patients while they are undergoing chemotherapy if that is what they want, and they are able to choose the essential oils which they like – or choose to have just base oil if they prefer not to have an odour. We use sweet almond oil, grapeseed oil, and calendula infused oil (in sunflower oil), as the bases. We have a range of essential oils. We have recently performed an audit of our aromastick use for nausea in which we used three different combinations of oils to inhale to help patients combat nausea caused by a variety of things, including chemotherapy, and found all three blends were helpful. This article will be published shortly in the International Journal of Clinical Aromatherapy. The oils used in the reflexology / massage study are whatever oils are chosen by / offered by / considered suitable by the four therapists on the study.
The most recent article we wrote about the use of aromasticks for nausea will be in the International Journal of Clinical Aromatherapy vol 7 issue 2, 2010 which has got held up and has not got published yet as far as I know. An earlier article on the use of aromasticks was published in vol 5 issue 2 2008 same journal. Information about this journal can be accessed online if you google IJCA. An aromastick is like a Vicks inhaler device but you put 10-20 drops of essential oils on the blank wick, place the wick inside the plastic tube, put the stopper in the end and then it is sealed in, you screw it shut or open to smell it or not smell it – so very effective for quick whiffs rather than a constant stream like from a diffuser, and can be carried around, and is not expensive.
We consider any of the oils we use safe for chemotherapy patients as long as they like the smell. The only oils we would consider not safe would probably be considered not safe for other people also, not to do with the cancer.
The oils we used for nausea were ginger / peppermint / lavender; eucalyptus / lemon; cardamom / spearmint / orange. And some others chosen individually. We try not to use single oils for nausea so that a smell association is not built up to a familiar oil like peppermint or spearmint which the patient may then encounter in some other situation, which might then trigger nausea. We use a blend which will not smell like anything else.