Randomized Trial of Aromatherapy: Successful Treatment for Alopecia Areata

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Abstract

Objective

To investigate the efficacy of aromatherapy in the treatment of patients with alopecia areata.

Design

A randomized, double-blind, controlled trial of 7 months' duration, with follow-up at 3 and 7 months.

Setting

Dermatology outpatient department.

Participants

Eighty-six patients diagnosed as having alopecia areata.

Intervention

Eighty-six patients were randomized into 2 groups. The active group massaged essential oils (thyme, rosemary, lavender, and cedarwood) in a mixture of carrier oils (jojoba and grapeseed) into their scalp daily. The control group used only carrier oils for their massage, also daily.

Main Outcome Measures

Treatment success was evaluated on sequential photographs by 2 dermatologists (I.C.H. and A.D.O.) independently. Similarly, the degree of improvement was measured by 2 methods: a 6-point scale and computerized analysis of traced areas of alopecia.

Results

Nineteen (44%) of 43 patients in the active group showed improvement compared with 6 (15%) of 41 patients in the control group (P=.008). An alopecia scale was applied by blinded observers on sequential photographs and was shown to be reproducible with good interobserver agreement (kappa=0.84). The degree of improvement on photographic assessment was significant (P=.05). Demographic analysis showed that the 2 groups were well matched for prognostic factors.

Conclusions

The results show aromatherapy to be a safe and effective treatment for alopecia areata. Treatment with these essential oils was significantly more effective than treatment with the carrier oil alone (P=.008 for the primary outcome measure). We also successfully applied an evidence-based method to an alternative therapy.

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