Aromatherapy for the Treatment of Patients with Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia: A Descriptive Analysis of RCTs Academic Article uri icon


  • Background: Behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) are a common problem among patients with dementia. This problem is usually treated by drugs, but they have limited efficacy and often cause adverse effects. Aromatherapy is a nonpharmacologic treatment that is simple to use and devoid of significant adverse effects. Objectives: To review the literature on the effectiveness of aromatherapy treatment in patients with BPSD. Design: A descriptive analysis of randomized clinical trials (RCTs) published in the English-language literature and cited in PubMed. Results: Eleven articles on RCTs were found, of which 1 had fewer than 10 participants, 2 were mistakenly presented as RCTs, and another did not report treatment for BPSD. In all, 7 articles with 417 participants total (range, 15-114) were reviewed. The mean age in all studies was greater than 69 years (range, 69-85 years), and the percentage of women was 55% (range, 50%-57%). The intervention period ranged from 10 days to 12 weeks. Two studies used Melissa oil and 5 others used lavender oil. The studies described different methods of administration for the oils, including spraying and rubbing over various body organs. The duration of treatment differed among the studies. In 3 studies the investigators concluded that the treatment was not effective and in 3 that it was effective; in 1 study no clear conclusion could be drawn. Conclusions: The difference between positive and negative studies was not explained by differences in the study population, the type of oil, or the duration of treatment. The significant difference apparently stems from the method of administration. When the oil was applied close to the olfactory system the outcome was positive. A study should be designed to assess the effect of the site of application of aromatherapy.

publication date

  • January 1, 2016