HemOnc Today's PharmAnalysis
HemOnc Today's PharmAnalysis
February 12, 2019
2 min read

Rose geranium oil may improve nasal symptoms associated with cancer-directed therapy

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Photo of Elizabeth Cathcart-Rake
Elizabeth Cathcart-Rake

Rose geranium oil appeared to ease the symptoms of nasal vestibulitis — a common condition associated with cancer treatment — among a small cohort of women receiving breast cancer therapy, according to study results.

“Nasal vestibulitis is a side effect of cancer drug treatment, and [it] is particularly common in people treated with taxane therapy,” Elizabeth Cathcart-Rake, MD, hematology-oncology fellow at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said in a press release. “These drugs stop cell division to prevent tumor growth.”

The study included 40 women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer between 2007 and 2017. More than half of the women underwent taxane therapy.

Each woman received rose geranium oil nasal spray in a sesame oil base to use for nasal vestibulitis as needed, as part of regular clinical practice.

Cathcart-Rake and colleagues surveyed the women regarding their experiences using the nasal spray, including the severity of symptoms before use, whether the spray improved symptoms and, if so, the degree of benefit. Researchers also conducted a chart review of nasal symptoms.

The most commonly reported nasal symptoms by survey before nasal spray use included bleeding (90%), dryness (86%), discomfort (81%), scabbing (67%) and sores (52%).

Of the 20 survey respondents who reported nasal spray use, 45% indicated they used the spray several times per day. Moreover, all of these women stated that the spray helped ease their symptoms. Specifically, 55% reported a moderate benefit, 30% reported a substantial benefit and 10% reported their symptoms completely cleared.

HemOnc Today spoke with Cathcart-Rake about the study and the potential implications of the results.

Question: How common are painful nasal symptoms among patients who receive treatment for cancer?

Answer: In our prior study of nasal symptoms, we found that 41% of patients undergoing cancer-directed therapy have nasal symptoms, including discomfort, bleeding, scabbing and dryness. The percentage is much higher — 71% — among patients undergoing treatment with taxane therapy. We have a study open now that allows us to prospectively describe the incidence of this phenomenon with different chemotherapy agents.

Q: What prompted this research?

A: Our breast care providers — most notably, Dee Smith, nurse practitioner at Mayo Clinic — noted that many patients reported distressing nasal symptoms while undergoing cancer-directed therapy. We also noted that this symptom is a frequent topic on cancer-related blogs. Rose geranium in sesame oil nasal spray has been utilized by ear, nose and throat providers for nasal symptoms, and so our breast cancer care team began prescribing this preparation for nasal vestibulitis. Clinically, it appears to significantly relieve symptoms, and this is supported by our current study.


Q: How did you conduct the study?

A: We searched medical records for patients with breast cancer who had been prescribed rose geranium in sesame oil nasal spray and sent these patients surveys about their experiences. We also conducted chart reviews for demographic and medical history information.

Q: What did you find?

A: All of the women we were able to contact who utilized the nasal spray reported improvements in their symptoms. Specifically, 40% of these patients reported a dramatic or complete benefit, and only 10% reported little benefit. This therapy is also well-tolerated. Rose geranium in sesame oil nasal spray is a hydrating compound that moistens and softens the nasal membranes.

Q: Based on these data, should patients begin using this nasal spray in practice tomorrow?

A: Although a larger, prospective study is needed, it is reasonable to consider using this nasal spray based on the current evidence, especially as there are no other treatments that have been clearly shown to be helpful for patients experiencing nasal vestibulitis. by Jennifer Southall


Cathcart-Rake E, et al. Support Care Cancer. 2018;doi:10.1007/s00520-018-4261-7.

Cathcart-Rake EJ, et al. BMJ Support Palliat Care. 2018;doi:10.1136/bmjspcare-2018-001569.

For more information:

Elizabeth Cathcart-Rake, MD, can be reached at Mayo Clinic, 200 First St. SW, Rochester, MN 55905; email: cathcart-rake.elizabeth@mayo.edu.

Disclosure: Cathcart-Rake reports no relevant financial disclosures.