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Designing Robust Inhalation Aromatherapy Studies

Case
By: Published: 2020 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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Abstract

The case is about a seminal study on aromatherapy research, specifically focusing on inhalation aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is the controlled use of essential oils to restore or enhance mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. This therapeutic modality works through a combination of the healing properties of the oils and their smell. Inhalation aromatherapy entails inhaling the essential oil, whereas massage aromatherapy consists of cutaneous penetration of the oils. The original study’s aim was to test the effect of a passively infused essential oil on the patient outcomes of anxiety and sleep quality in coronary care unit patients The non-significant findings of the original research were analyzed and were attributed to several factors: (1) theoretical to operational misalignment, (2) power issues, (3) recruitment difficulties, (4) changes in effect size due to a change of intervention (i.e., from active diffusion to passive diffusion), and (5) an inherent limitation of counterbalanced studies which is the possibility of the effects of the essential oil being “carried over” to the next treatment condition. Strengths of the study included the counterbalanced design, optimized use of a pilot study, attention to structural and environmental factors through evaluation of the ventilation system, and airflow direction that affect non-participants and thus affect the results of the study, the performance of a smell test as part of inclusion/exclusion criteria, and the use of statistical control through analysis of covariance to account for the effect of pharmacological interventions.

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