Abdominal massage using aromatherapy essential oils softens stool consistency and reduces the severity of constipation in older adults, according to study findings published in Explore: The Journal of Science & Healing.
For the analysis, researchers used a combination of the following essential oils: lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), ginger (Zingiber officinale), and the basic carrier oil, sweet almond (Prunus amygdalus). Lavender oil relieves discomfort, increases circulation, and supports immune function, according to the researchers. Ginger oil relaxes smooth muscles and improves elimination. Sweet almond oil can also promote peristalsis by stimulating intestinal nerves, increasing transit of bowel movements. Both ginger and lavender have calming and relaxing effects, the study authors noted.
Researchers from Turkey conducted a single-center randomized controlled trial between January and March 2019 to assess the effect of abdominal massage using ginger and lavender aromatherapy oils on older adults with constipation.
Of 165 patients with constipation who lived in a nursing home facility, researchers enrolled 40 into the trial. Patients were randomly assigned into intervention and control groups. Those in the intervention group (mean age, 77.5±5.8 years; women, 50%) received 15 minutes of aromatherapy massage using 5 mL of pure ginger and lavender essential oils for 5 consecutive days per week for 4 weeks. Patients in the control group (mean age, 75.7±7.7 years, women, 50%) did not receive any intervention.
Patients in the intervention group experienced decreased constipation frequency after 2 and 4 weeks of treatment. Scores were also lower overall on the Constipation Severity Scale and higher on the Bristol Stool Chart compared with the control group in weeks 2 and 4. The outcomes indicated decreased severity of constipation symptoms and improved stool consistency.
Additionally, those who received abdominal massage also improved their scores on the 3 subscales of the Constipation Severity Scale — the Obstructive Defecation Subscale (ODS) after 4 weeks, the Colonic Inertia Subscale (CIS) after 1 week, and the Pain Subscale (PS) after 1 week of treatment.
“In the fourth week after the aromatherapy massage, constipation was present in 70% of the control group and 5% of the intervention group,” the study authors wrote. “This indicates that abdominal massage with ginger and lavender oil reduces constipation.”
Study limitations include lack of blinding, the single-center design, and the lack of comparison between regular abdominal massage and abdominal massage using aromatherapy oils, since the control group did not receive any abdominal massage.
Aydinli A, Karadağ S. Effects of abdominal massage applied with ginger and lavender oil for elderly with constipation: A randomized controlled trial. Explore: The Journal of Science & Healing. Published online August 20, 2022. doi:10.1016/j.explore.2022.08.010