Aromatherapy massage for breast cancer patients

Researchers at the Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, in Japan measured immunological and psychological effects.

First, the details.

  • 12 breast cancer patients received a 30-minute aromatherapy massage twice a week for 4 weeks (8 times in total).
  • Their response was compared to an earlier 1-month before and after with no massage.

And, the results.

  • Anxiety was reduced after 1, 30-minute aromatherapy massage based on the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) test and after 8 sequential aromatherapy massage sessions in the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) test.
    • HADS measures the severity of anxiety and depression separately)
  • Immunologic, CD16-positive lymphocytes (natural killer cells) were reduced significantly after aromatherapy massage.
  • CD4-CXCR3-positive lymphocytes (type 1 helper T cells) increased significantly after the 8th aromatherapy massage vs before the 8th massage.
  • CD4-CCR4-positive lymphocytes (type 2 helper T cells) also increased significantly after aromatherapy sessions.
    • More than you ever needed to know about T helper cells is here.
  • There were no changes during the month before or after massage.

The bottom line?

The authors tell us “Although it is hard to interpret these [immunological] results, theoretically, it is possible that aromatherapy massage affects the immune system.” states, “Research in cancer patients has shown that aromatherapy may help relieve:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • nausea
  • high blood pressure

The effects of aromatherapy massage on the immune system require further research.

3/30/10 19:14 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.