June 2, 2012
Study Suggests Aromatherapy Could Help Menopause Symptoms
A new study, published in a recent edition of the journal Menopause, has discovered that combining massage with aromatherapy can be an effective way in reducing the symptoms of menopause.
The study, which was conducted by researchers at Tehran University of Medical Sciences and is included in the April 30 of the journal, looked at treatments received by 90 women who entered a "menopausal clinic" at a women's hospital in the Iranian capital, Reuters reporter Amy Norton wrote on Friday.
Lead researcher Fatemeh Darsareh and colleagues randomly assigned the women to three different groups, Norton said. One of them received an aromatherapy massage twice weekly for four weeks, one received massage sessions with unscented oils, and one served as the control group and received no treatments.
"The women completed a standard menopause symptom-rating scale before and after the four-week treatment period," she said. "In the end, women in the aromatherapy group reported the biggest decline in symptoms.
They fell from an average score of about 22 (on a scale of 0 to 44), to a 13 after treatment. Women who got massage with plain oil dipped from an average score of 22 to 19, and those in the control group held steady at 22."
However, some experts are questioning the study's methodology.
Dr. Hilda Y. Hutcherson, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, told Reuters that there were "a lot of limitations" to the research -- not the least of which, Norton points out, is that neither the scientists nor the subjects were "blinded" to which treatment which individuals was receiving.
"Blinding means that no one involved in the study knows who is receiving the 'real' treatment -- and it's considered important in maintaining a study's objectivity," Norton said. "But in this case, it's not possible to keep a woman from knowing if she's getting a regular massage or one with aromatherapy."
However, the biggest limitation, according to Hutcherson, "is the small number of people involved."
Should aromatherapy massage prove to be an effective treatment for menopause symptoms, it will join the likes of antidepressants such as paroxetine (Paxil), fluoxetine (Prozac), venlafaxine (Effexor) and escitalopram (Lexapro), as well as herbal remedies like black cohosh, soy, red clover and dong quai, Norton said. However, she said, the evidence supporting antidepressants as a remedy is "mixed" and there is "little" proof that non-drug treatments are effective.