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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

A randomised controlled trial of the use of aromatherapy and hand massage to reduce disruptive behaviour in people with dementia

Chieh-Yu Fu12, Wendy Moyle123* and Marie Cooke123

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Health Practice Innovation, Brisbane, QLD 4111, Australia

2 Griffith Health Institute, Brisbane, QLD 4111, Australia

3 School of Nursing and Midwifery, Griffith University, 170 Kessels Road, Brisbane, QLD 4111, Australia

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013, 13:165  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-13-165

Published: 10 July 2013



Aromatherapy and hand massage therapies have been reported to have some benefit for people with dementia who display behavioural symptoms; however there are a number of limitations of reported studies. The aim is to investigate the effect of aromatherapy (3% lavender oil spray) with and without hand massage on disruptive behaviour in people with dementia living in long-term care.


In a single blinded randomised controlled trial 67 people with a diagnosis of dementia and a history of disruptive behaviour, from three long-term care facilities were recruited and randomised using a random number table into three groups: (1) Combination (aromatherapy and hand massage) (n = 22), (2) Aromatherapy (n = 23), (3) Placebo control (water spray) (n = 22). The intervention was given twice daily for six weeks. Data on residents’ behaviour (CMAI) and cognition (MMSE) were collected before, during and after the intervention.


Despite a downward trend in behaviours displayed not one of the interventions significantly reduced disruptive behaviour.


Further large-scale placebo controlled studies are required where antipsychotic medication is controlled and a comparison of the methods of application of aromatherapy are investigated.

Trial registration


Aggression; Agitation; Aromatherapy; Behaviour; Dementia; Massage