Aromatherapy with Damask Rose Essential Oil Improves Sleep Quality of Patients with Cancer

Cancer patients often complain of sleep disorders that affect their quality of life and social functioning. Complementary and alternative medicine treatments such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, herbal medicine, and yoga can improve the quality of life for cancer patients. Clinical studies have reported sedative effects of damask rose (Rosa × Damascena, Rosaceae), particularly improved sleep quality with aromatherapy. These authors conducted a randomized, single-blind, controlled clinical trial to examine the efficacy of damask rose aromatherapy in improving sleep quality in patients with cancer.


The study, which was conducted from October 2016 to June 2017, included patients referred to the oncology clinic of Shohadaye Tajrish Hospital in Tehran, Iran, who complained of sleep disturbances. Included patients were aged 18 to 65 years, had a normal olfactory function and were expected to live for more than six months.

Fifty-four patients were randomly assigned to receive nightly aromatherapy with 5% damask rose essential oil (n=18) or with 10% damask rose essential oil (n=18) or to receive no intervention in the control group (n=18). Patients in the aromatherapy groups were instructed to inhale the oil (five drops on a cotton ball held close to the nose) for 20 minutes before bedtime for two weeks. The outcome measures, which included changes in scores on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), sleep latency and duration, and adverse effects, were assessed at baseline and after two weeks of treatment. The damask rose essential oil, combined with rapeseed (Brassica napus, Brassicaceae) oil and paraffin, was purchased from an herbal market in Ghamsar, Kashan, Iran. No significant differences in baseline characteristics were observed among the three groups.

In both aromatherapy groups, total PSQI scores and sleep latency decreased significantly (P<0.001); whereas, the control group experienced no changes in PSQI scores and only a slight decrease in sleep latency (P=0.593). Sleep quality significantly improved in both aromatherapy groups compared with the control group (P<0.05). Night sleep duration increased after aromatherapy compared with the control group, but not significantly (P=0.224); however, the mean difference in night sleep duration from baseline to the end of the study was significant in both aromatherapy groups compared with the control group (P=0.007).

The effects on sleep quality, latency, and duration were slightly greater in the 10% aromatherapy group compared with the 5% aromatherapy group. The aromatherapy was well-tolerated. Two patients in the 10% aromatherapy group discontinued the intervention, one because of headache and one because of frequent sneezing. In the 5% aromatherapy group, two patients were lost to follow-up and one discontinued the intervention. In the control group, three patients were dropped from the study because they did not follow the study protocol.

Possible limitations of this study include the lack of objective outcome measures to evaluate sleep quality, the small sample size, and the short duration.

In this study, sleep quality in cancer patients significantly improved with aromatherapy using two different concentrations of rose damask essential oil compared with the control group. “It seems that aromatherapy with R. Damascena essential oil could be considered as a suitable complementary therapy for improvement of sleep quality of the cancer patients,” write the authors.


Heydarirad G, Keyhanmehr AS, Mofid B, Nikfarjad H, Mosavat SH. Efficacy of aromatherapy with Rosa damascena in the improvement of sleep quality of cancer patients: a randomized controlled clinical trial. Complement Ther Clin Pract. May 2019;35:57-61. DOI: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2019.01.017.