Aromatherapy: Using Essential Oils as a Supportive Therapy


Aromatherapy: Using Essential Oils as a Supportive Therapy


Lavender, peppermint, and orange are well-known essential oils that have been included in many study methodologies. These and more can be a great adjunct to cancer care, aiding in the management of side effects, such as insomnia and nausea. An overview in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing states that healthcare professionals should be knowledgeable about the quality and safety of essential oils when using them for clinical purposes. Using lesser quality or chemically adulterated essential oils and not understanding safety guidelines can negatively affect clinical outcomes. While this research paper provides an overview of how nurses and other health professionals can help patients with cancer safely use essential oils as a supportive therapy, here at The Complementary Medical Association, we would always advise training in aromatherapy in order to have sufficient knowledge of this valuable and important discipline.


Implications for Practice

Essential oils can be a great supportive therapy for health and wellness. Oncology nurses should be aware that patients may use essential oils as supplemental care, which may be contraindicated with specific medications or conditions. They also should be knowledgeable about essential oil quality and safety to help guide patients in their plans of care.

Nurses should understand essential oils when reviewing the literature, because not all studies provide the botanical/Latin name of oils, making it unclear which specific oils are used. In addition, some researchers use synthetic or altered essential oils as part of their methodology. The results of these studies could be questioned because of the additives in the essential oils, and many clinical aromatherapists would be concerned about patients with compromised immune systems inhaling or applying synthetic products. Because of clinical implications, researchers should clearly indicate which essential oils are used and ensure that oils are of therapeutic, organic quality and are from reputable sources.



  • Bottles of essential oil should be closed tightly after each use.
  • Bottles of essential oil should always be kept out of reach of children and pets.
  • Essential oils that contain high concentrations of menthol (e.g., peppermint) should not be applied to the throat or neck of children younger than 30 months.
  • Essential oils should not be taken internally without appropriate aromatherapy safety education.
  • Some essential oils are phototoxic (e.g., orange); therefore, skin exposure to ultraviolet light, both the sun and a tanning booth, should be avoided after application.
  • Essential oils are flammable; they should be kept away from direct contact with flames, such as candles, fire, matches, cigarettes, and gas cookers.
  • Essential oils should not be diluted with water. If dilution is needed, use a carrier oil such as jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, or olive oil.
  • Essential oils should not be added directly to bathwater. Oil is not water-soluble and will float on top of the water, potentially causing burning or skin irritation. An emulsifier, such as a bath gel or bath salt, should be used as a carrier.
  • Essential oils should not come in contact with mucous membranes or sensitive skin. Some essential oils may cause skin irritation and should be diluted in a carrier oil. If an essential oil causes skin irritation, apply a small amount of vegetable oil or cream to the affected area and discontinue use of the essential oil or product.
  • When using essentials oils, keep a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, available.
  • Use caution with people with allergies. Consider using a skin patch test and allow for good room ventilation.
  • Use caution when using essential oil near the eye area. If essential oil gets into the eyes, apply a cotton ball or cloth imbued with a fatty oil, such as olive or sesame, carefully over a closed eyelid.



Reis D, Jones T. Aromatherapy: Using Essential Oils as a Supportive Therapy. Clin J Oncol Nurs. 2017 Feb 1;21(1):16-19. doi: 10.1188/17.CJON.16-19. PMID: 28107335.


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