Randomized Trial of Aromatherapy: Successful Treatment for Alopecia Areata | Complementary and Alternative Medicine | JAMA Dermatology | JAMA Network
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November 1998

Randomized Trial of Aromatherapy: Successful Treatment for Alopecia Areata

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Dermatology, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Foresterhill, Aberdeen, Scotland.

Arch Dermatol. 1998;134(11):1349-1352. doi:10.1001/archderm.134.11.1349

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 (κ=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.