Randomized Trial of Aromatherapy-Successful Treatment for Alopecia Areata

From the Department of Dermatology, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Foresterhill, Aberdeen, Scotland November 1998

Isabelle C. Hay, MRCP; Margaret Jamieson, SRN; Anthony D. Ormerod, FRCP

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the efficacy of aromatherapyin the treatment of patients with alopecia areata.

DESIGN: A randomized, double-blind, controlled trial of7 months’ duration, with follow-up at 3 and 7 months.

SETTING: Dermatology outpatient department.

PARTICIPANTS: Eighty-six patients diagnosed as having alopeciaareata.

INTERVENTION: Eighty-six patients were randomized into2 groups. The active group massaged essential oils (thyme, rosemary,lavender, and cedarwood) in a mixture of carrier oils (jojobaand grapeseed) into their scalp daily. The control group usedonly carrier oils for their massage, also daily.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Treatment success was evaluatedon sequential photographs by 2 dermatologists (I.C.H. and A.D.O.)independently. Similarly, the degree of improvement was measuredby 2 methods: a 6-point scale and computerized analysis of tracedareas of alopecia.

RESULTS: Nineteen (44%) of 43 patients in the active groupshowed improvement compared with 6 (15%) of 41 patients in thecontrol group (P=.008). An alopecia scale was applied by blindedobservers on sequential photographs and was shown to be reproduciblewith good interobserver agreement (=0.84). The degree of improvementon photographic assessment was significant (P=.05). Demographicanalysis showed that the 2 groups were well matched for prognosticfactors.

CONCLUSIONS: The results show aromatherapy to be a safeand effective treatment for alopecia areata. Treatment withthese essential oils was significantly more effective than treatmentwith the carrier oil alone (P=.008 for the primary outcome measure).We also successfully applied an evidence-based method to analternative therapy.


What follows is an excerpt from an essay originally published in Natural Health Magazine – Sept. 1997 (one year before the research above was published)

~A hair stylist I met mentioned that she heard of people successfully restoring hair with aromatherapy. At last I felt hopeful. I bought every book I could find. Soon I was mixing formulas with essential oils that are known to encourage hair growth. Each oil had it’s own function. Some cleansed the scalp, others nourished it, some brought circulation to the scalp, some encouraged new growth, while other prevented future hair loss.

As I continued my research and experimentation I learned which oils complemented each other and began mixing my formulas accordingly.

Every evening I massaged the oils into my scalp. Their soothing aroma seemed to lure me into a deep, relaxing sleep. In the morning I washed the oils out with a natural shampoo.

From the first time I applied the oils, I instinctively knew they would work for me. I was so absorbed in learning everything I could about the healing powers of aromatherapy that I stopped focusing on my hair loss. Taking control of my health was giving me a new-found confidence.

I learned that aromatherapy works on many different levels. It is non-intrusive and works in harmony with the human body as a whole. It actually encourages the body’s own natural healing system. The oils were helping my mind and body to relax as the extreme stress I previously felt began to fade.

Within three months my entire scalp was filled with soft new hair. Soon my hair thickened and darkened. Then the day came when I could finally discard my wig!

That was a happy day for me!~

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