This clinical trial, conducted in 2017, evaluated the effects of essential oils for fatigue among women who have a diagnosis of hypothyroidism. Fatigue is one of the most prevalent symptoms of hypothyroidism among women, reducing overall quality of life. Even with hypothyroid treatments which successfully replace thyroid hormones and reduce the risks of adverse outcomes from hypothyroidism, many women continue to report reduced quality of life with fatigue being a common complaint.
While essential oils have been found to increase stamina and boost energy levels among male athletes, aromatherapy has not been studied for its potential to reduce fatigue among women with hypothyroidism. To address this gap in knowledge, the Franklin Institute of Wellness’ Research Team conducted a randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial to evaluate essential oils for fatigue.
“Aromatherapy for Fatigue Among Women with Hypothyroidism: A Randomized, Blinded, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.“
Our research team conducted a randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial on the use of essential oils for fatigue. In this study, women aged 18-55 inhaled a peppermint-based essential oil blend every afternoon for two weeks between the hours of 1pm and 3pm. The study was designed to identify the impact of this oil blend on overall fatigue levels and to answer questions about the specific types of fatigue that can be addressed through aromatherapy.
The oils for this study were purchased from Florihana Distilleries based in France. Peppermint essential oil was the dominant oil in the blend. The blend also included black pepper, clove, and two citrus essential oils. This blend was provided to the study participants in 5ml bottles, along with disposable tester strips. Participants in the placebo group received a 5ml vial of avocado oil. Each participant applied 3 drops of the assigned substance to a tester strip at the designated time and inhaled the aroma for 15 minutes. After the exposure, the aromatherapy intervention was discarded.
The data for this study were collected at baseline, on day 7, and again on day 14 using the Multidimensional Fatigue Symptom Inventory (MFSI), a scientifically validated measurement instrument which measures ten different types of fatigue ranging from emotional and mental fatigue to physical and general fatigue. The instrument contains 83 total questions, and open-ended qualitative research was also collected. Data on the various types of fatigue enabled our research team to not only evaluate the total effect on fatigue, but also to educate others on what types of fatigue in women respond to aromatherapy.
This study included participants who were female, aged 18-55 during the intervention, have an official diagnosis of hypothyroidism (including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis), and do not have a history of thyroid cancer. These participants were recruited directly by the research team at the Franklin Institute of Wellness. Participants were randomized using adaptive randomization, and controlled for age and history of thyroid surgery. Randomization assigned participants into one of two groups: aromatherapy and placebo.
Findings: Essential Oils for Fatigue
Inhalation of a mint-based blend every day significantly reduces fatigue among women with hypothyroidism. At the end of the first week, both the placebo group and the aromatherapy group had improvements in their fatigue scores. However, at the end of the second week, the placebo scores began returning to baseline levels, while the aromatherapy scores continued to improve.
Data were analyzed using ANCOVA, with baseline scores as the covariate. Significant differences were found on the global, general, and affective scales. There was not a clear statistical difference on the behavioral and physical fatigue scales. The most noteworthy finding is that statistically significant results were not immediately apparent; it took two weeks for the aromatherapy group and the placebo group to experience clear differences in fatigue scores.
Many essential oil users stop after a day or two if they do not see immediate results. Efficacy requires consistency. Continual application of the aromatherapy exposure was necessary to actually produce changes in fatigue scores. These effects were most noticeable in general, global, and affective fatigue scores, but not physical or behavioral. While peppermint-based aromatherapy applications have been found to increase stamina in male athletes, the effect on women is related to overall experiences of fatigue.
One feature of this study not found in previous work is the natural setting and self-administration of the aromatherapy inhalation. This increases generalizability for women with fatigue. Aromatherapy was self administered by each participant in their home, office, vehicle, or other location. The study design accounted for variations in compliance with the intervention to reproduce the effect that takes place in a natural setting. Practically, this means that the findings represent what actually occurs in the real world, not just a research setting.
For More Information
The study is being published late 2018. Because all research conducted by the Franklin Institute of Wellness research department is self funded, open access was not purchased for this publication. To learn more about the study, readers can also purchase a 2-part video lecture series given by Dr. Hawkins, the lead researcher, in our College Bookstore.
Disclosures: This study was funded by the Franklin Institute of Wellness and was conducted by the FIW Research Department. Essential oils were purchased from Florihana Distilleries in France and there are no financial ties between the distillery and FIW. The researchers who conducted this study are fully trained and certified in human participant research and do not have any conflicts of interest to declare. This study was approved by an independent Institutional Review Board for ethical compliance prior to patient recruitment and was registered at ClinicalTrials.gov, ID #NCT03465176.