adverse reaction to aromatherapy?: The cancer... - CLL Support

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adverse reaction to aromatherapy?


The cancer nurse at my GP practise suggested I might like to take advantage of various treatments our local hospice provides for cancer sufferers.

I went today for a chat with the therapist to discuss the options. She had a diffuser, puffing out essential oils, mixed with water. My lungs started to hurt after a while, then my throat and ears and my head started throbbing.

That was several hours ago and it has only calmed down a bit. I feel nauseous too.

I know the essential oils are plant based, but after all tobacco is a plant ....

Anyone been affected like this?

I have had 5 sessions of FCR so far and wonder if it has left my lungs super sensitive?

19 Replies


Get massage instead... ;-)

Hi Mandy,

Was she aware of your condition and treatment ? There are numerous essential oils and some should be avoided. I am no expert ( I know basil is a no if pregnant ) but in theory the correct oil should help. I am on Ibrutinib and my Osteopath uses Lavender or Rose on me. Perhaps find out what she was burning. I know some healthy people who don’t like Ylang Ylang, and say it gives them a headache!


Mandy56 in reply to mrsjsmith

Yes, she knew about the CLL and we were going through a medical questionnaire too. I’ll find out what is was and avoid.

I would have a reaction like that any time any essential oil is diffused into a room - and long before I knew I had CLL. I can't even put drops of essential lavendar in a bathtub or anything like that. Some people much more sensitive to fragrances than others.

If you can persevere Mandy, obviously not at the risk of your health, but I find it beneficial and relaxing.

Colette x

Another thought Mandy! If they are offering any other treatments like reflexology? I find that very relaxing.



Mandy56 in reply to mrsjsmith

Thanks Colette, they do offer reflexology and I’ve booked in for some sessions.

Mandy56 in reply to mrsjsmith

The oil used was frankensence mixed with orange. Both scents I’ve enjoyed in the past.

mrsjsmith in reply to Mandy56

Hi Mandy,

As I said I am no expert and have just looked them both up and no obvious contra’s and both used for boosting immune system. Perhaps as they have other treatments on offer try one not involving essential oils. And enjoy the benefits.


Colette x

You will enjoy it ! Lie back and relax, and you are so lucky to be offered it!

C x

I'm surprised that a therapist would have a diffuser going wIthout getting patient information first. I am terribly allergic to most scents. Sitting near someone wearing perfume or smoking used to leave me with a full blown upper respiratory infection. Getting IVIG infusions to boost my immune system has made a big difference, but I still experience some reaction. I would talk to the center about your reaction. It might save someone else from having a similar bad experience. I hope that you are feeling better!

Thanks and I completely agree. I’m going to phone her today and suggest, nicely, that perhaps she should check before putting the diffuser on.

I am doing FCR now. I still use my lavender roll scent on my wrist at nite if I can't get to sleep. But I do notice it does not smell the same as before. Also my taste buds have slightly changed.

I am surprised she had it pumping out since future clients like you who are inquiring, may have a problem with it.

Hopefully your symptoms go away!

Mandy56 in reply to GMa27

Thanks for your input. I agree that everything changes with FCR or any treatment. Feeling much better today, but very wary now of any plant oils. I’ll phone her today and see what it was.

I think people, including the therapist, think “it’s just herbs or plants, so natural and safe”, but of course that isn’t necessarily the case and people react differently. I,too, am surprised she had it diffusing into the room without checking. Anyway, hopefully my reaction will alert her to being more cautious.

It just scared me because we are more susceptible to lung cancer now. 🙁

Beginning when a child, long before being diagnosed with CLL, I get a sore throat and headache (sometimes throbbing) when exposed to certain aromas, including perfumes. Toxic cleaning products produce the same reaction. And when I was in a class where everyone opened Sharpie pens at the same time to fill out name cards, my blood pressure started pounding in my head and I felt as if I would pass out. I now make sure that no permanent markers are used when I am in the room. My house is a perfume-free environment, and my friends know not to wear it at gatherings.

Recently, someone gave me some clove oil, which I used on my hands before getting in the car with my granddaughter. From the back seat, she told me that she was getting a headache, and I realized that I could taste it on my tongue. Maybe she has inherited my gene for this reaction. We opened the car windows, and the strong clove oil has been spilled down the drain.

I'm not sure if these would be considered allergic reactions, or if there is some other preferred term. Even if you have not had reactions to strong smelling oils or agents before, I hope you can figure out what you need to avoid, and to be vocal to others to protect yourself. Sounds like a brave new world. Hope all will be well.

A therapist in a cancer center should have had sufficient training than to know better. My infusion center asks that people avoid scents, because treatment can make some people hypersensative to them. They also watch for patients who don't cope with food smells, as we are able to bring in food or order take out delivered.

My funny experience in a cancer center was with a Reiki. The woman recommended for me had a personal issue that day, so I ended up with a very well intentioned gentleman. The first thing he did was to put on a CD of Indian music. I was a music major, and while I find music from other cultures fascinating, I don't find them relaxing at all. I have to be in the right mind set to explore them. The main reason is that the tuning is different. I found myself getting tenser and tenser throughout the session. It was not a good experience! If I try it again I will bring my own favorite CD for relaxing.

I agree. I have spoken to her today and suggested that she should be aware that maybe people with CLL are more sensitive because of our treatment, but really, that must apply to any cancer sufferer.

It is rather worrying that a hospice therapist is not aware of potential problems with aromatherapy.

I think that "sensitivities" apply to all beings (and many animals). I learned this first hand when a co-worker began eating fresh oranges at the desk behid me. every time he did this my chest would close up and my breathing would suffer (just like when I would try to run as a child). I discovered that I had "Asthma" (and was allergic to the orange oil, but NOT allergic to chocolate). I can still drink orange juice, but can't peel one. Now I have COPD, and CLL, and am highly sensitive to what sometimes feels like the whole world. Nail polish, most perfumes, etc. This CLL (or the treatments of it) have only made these sensitivities worse. On the bright side, the Imbruvica has been a wonder drug for me, and my counts are normalizing.

I have a severe reaction to certain scents and aromas. I know within about 3 seconds if something is going to affect me. I steer clear of candle and scent shops. Had to stop singing in my church choir due to others aftershaves and perfumes. I love flower arranging, and tried to help out a florist friend one Valentine’s Day and ended up with a sinus infection. Have had this issue since early 20’s. Definitely not CLL related for me.

BeckyL USA