A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial Evaluating Essential Oils for Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy

Published:January 22, 2023DOI:



      Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is a painful, debilitating consequence of cancer treatment affecting up to 60% of patients. Pharmacological approaches to CIPN are often ineffective and cause adverse effects. Essential oils are an underutilized non-pharmacological approach to pain reduction.


      To ascertain the efficacy of an essential oil intervention to reduce CIPN.


      A single-blind, pilot randomized controlled trial.


      Participants (n = 27) were stratified by baseline pain scores and randomized to intervention (n = 13) and placebo groups (n = 14). Participants topically-applied the essential oil intervention or placebo every eight hours for six weeks. Pain was assessed using the Short-Form-McGill Pain Questionnaire-2 weekly and the Visual Analogue Scale daily. Quality-of-life was assessed using the Quality-of-Life: CIPN-20 and Quality-of-Life Adult Cancer Survivor questionnaires. Data were analyzed in SPSS using generalized estimating equations.


      No significant difference was observed between groups in pain or quality-of-life scores over seven weeks, but improvement was observed in both groups. Participants using the intervention with pain medications showed a significant reduction in pain compared to placebo (p = .001). Educational level (p = .041) and annual income (p = .005) were significant covariates mirroring these social determinates of pain. Older participants felt less negatively about their CIPN (p = .002). Positive placebo effect and spatiotemporal interactions were observed.


      This pilot study demonstrated that participants adhered to the intervention for six weeks. Essential oils have potential direct and adjuvant pain-reducing effects and should be studied further.
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