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Rose geranium oil helps tackle unpleasant nasal side effect of chemo

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Rose geranium oil may help tackle a painful nasal condition that is an unpleasant side effect of chemotherapy, suggest a new small-scale study from the US.

The study, published in the journal BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care, found some evidence the oil helped ease the symptoms of nasal vestibulitis.

“Rose geranium in sesame oil nasal spray appears to be quite useful for patients”

Study authors

This nasty side effect of cancer drug treatment, experienced by many patients, affects the lining of the nostrils, causing them to become excessively tender, bleed and form scabs.

It is particularly common in people treated with a class of drugs called taxanes. However, there is currently no recognised treatment and little guidance for clinicians.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, looked at whether rose geranium oil might help with nasal vestibulitis by assessing the impact on 40 women who had chemotherapy for breast cancer between 2007 and 2017.

More than half – 58% – were being treated with taxanes, with the rest on a range of broad spectrum and targeted cancer drugs.

The most common nasal symptoms experienced by the group were bleeding reported by nearly two thirds – 65% – and discomfort at 63%. Other symptoms included dryness – affecting 30% – followed by scabbing and sores.

Each participant was given a rose geranium oil spray in a sesame oil base and asked to use it when needed.

They were asked to score the severity of symptoms before and after use and to fill in a survey on their experience of using the oil.

The average severity score recorded was just under three out of four – corresponding to “moderately severe” symptoms.

Of the 20 women who used the oil and completed the survey, half said they used the product daily with 45% reporting they used it several times a day.

All of them said it had helped ease their symptom with scores from more than half – 11 out of 20 – indicating it had helped a bit.

Scores from six out of the 20 women show using the oil was of substantial benefit, while in two cases the symptoms cleared up altogether.

The fact only around half of the women in the study completed the survey meant it was hard to draw any firm conclusions said the authors, who stressed more research was needed. However, they said the findings were reasonably hopeful.

“Rose geranium in sesame oil nasal spray appears to be quite useful for patients who experience nasal vestibulitis from cancer-directed therapy,” they concluded.

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