Can Clinical Aromatherapy Make Dialysis Treatment More Comfortable for Patients?
Research demonstrates that clinical-grade inhalation therapy can decrease both anxiety and depression during hemodialysis treatment.
First came medi-spas, then dental spas. The next trend? Dialysis spas.
Besides amenities like custom juice blends, soothing nature sounds and even chair massage, some dialysis centers are also offering aromatherapy as a way to help comfort patients during treatment. But does it work? The science says yes.
Peer-reviewed studies have been published on the effects of aromatherapy on hemodialysis patients while undergoing treatment, mainly to study how it may change mood states including levels of depression and anxiety. For instance, 2000 study(1) published in the journal Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences demonstrated that when exposed to either an odorless control condition, hiba (Japanese cedarwood) oil or lavender oil, hiba oil aroma significantly decreased the mean scores for both depression and anxiety, and lavender aroma significantly decreased the mean scores for anxiety. However, the mean scores of HAMD and HAMA in an odorless condition were not significantly different from those of the control conditions. These results indicate that in chronic hemodialysis patients, hiba oil is an effective, non-invasive means for the treatment of depression and anxiety, and that lavender alleviates anxiety.
Clinical aromatherapy doesn’t just make dialysis patients more comfortable while undergoing treatment at an out-patient facility; it can also assist them in getting better sleep once they are home. A 2014 study(2) published in Journal of Kashan University of Medical Sciences examined the effect of inhaled lavender oil on the sleep quality of hemodialysis patients. The results demonstrated a significant difference in mean sleep quality score between their experimental (lavender) and control group. The researchers concluded that lavender oil aromatherapy may be used as a noninvasive, easy and low-cost method to treat sleep disorders in dialysis patients.
However, there are doctors who balk at the idea of utilizing aromatherapy in their dialysis treatment centers or prescribing it as an effective home treatment, primarily due to an incorrect belief that aromatherapy may post the risk of allergic reaction in some patients. While this may be true for artificial fragrances such as those found in air fresheners, which are often filled with carcinogens and pollutants, because essential oils are primarily steam distilled, they are considered non-allergic and non-sensitizing as they contain none of the proteins which are what cause allergic reactions to occur. Even the most sensitive patients should have no problem tolerating clinical-grade aromatherapy at the appropriate dosages.
Beyond patient comfort, dialysis centers universally struggle with mitigating the malodors stemming from dialysis treatment, in particular, those stemming from dialysis drains. Therefore, the use of clinical aromatherapy not only soothes anxious patients, but also assists in eliminating strong, unpleasant scents from the environment.
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1. Itai T(1), Amayasu H, Kuribayashi M, Kawamura N, Okada M, Momose A, Tateyama T, Narumi K, Uematsu W, Kaneko S. Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2000 Aug;54(4):393–7. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10997854
2. Najafi Z, Tagharrobi Z, Shahriyari-Kale-Masihi M. Effect of aromatherapy with Lavender on sleep quality among patients undergoing hemodialysis. KAUMS Journal ( FEYZ ). 2014; 18 (2) :145–1