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ROCHESTER Minn. — Rose geranium oil may help to ease the symptoms of nasal vestibulitis, a common and painful nasal condition linked to cancer drug treatment, according to the results of a small observational study, published online in the journal BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care.
The findings build on anecdotal evidence for the use of rose geranium oil to treat nasal vestibulitis, which affects the lining of the nostrils, causing them to become excessively tender, bleed, and form scabs. However, researchers caution that larger studies are needed to determine if the oil is a viable treatment option.
“Nasal vestibulitis is a side effect of cancer drug treatment, and is particularly common in people treated with a class of drugs called taxanes,” says lead author Elizabeth Cathcart-Rake, M.D., an Hematology Oncology resident at Mayo Clinic. These drugs stop cell division and stunt the formation of new blood vessels to prevent tumor growth.” Dr. Cathcart-Rake says there are no treatments currently available for this unpleasant side effect of cancer therapy.
Researchers set out to see if the oil might ease the symptoms of nasal vestibulitis in 40 women who were receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer between 2007 and 2017. Over half the patients being studied were being treated with taxanes while the rest were being treated with a range of broad spectrum and targeted cancer drugs.
Each of the women was given a rose geranium oil spray in a sesame oil base and asked to use it, as 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 most common nasal symptoms were bleeding (65 percent) and discomfort (63 percent). Other symptoms included dryness (30 percent), scabbing (13 percent), and sores (25 percent).
The average severity score was just under 3 (out of 4), corresponding to ‘moderately severe.’ Twenty-one women responded to the survey, one of whom didn’t use the oil as her symptoms resolved when she stopped chemotherapy.
Among the other 20 respondents, half said they used the oil daily, with 45 percent saying they used it several times a day.
All of them said it had helped ease their symptoms: 11 women (55 percent) indicated moderate benefit; six women (30 percent) indicated substantial benefit; and in two women (10 percent) said their symptoms cleared up completely.
While researchers note that “Rose geranium in sesame oil nasal spray appears to be quite useful for patients who experience nasal vestibulitis from cancer-directed therapy,” they caution that their study is observational, and as such, can’t establish cause. They also note that their findings are limited by the low response rate to the survey and emphasize that further research is needed.
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