Background: An effective and well tolerated topical treatment of Raynaud’s phenomenon is needed. The aim of this pilot study was to determine change in skin temperature and self-reported warmth perception from topical rosemary essential oil in patients with systemic sclerosis and secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon.

Patients and methods: Twelve patients with progressive systemic sclerosis and Raynaud’s phenomenon were consecutively enrolled in an open-label pilot study at a university outpatient rheumatology clinic. Each patient received an application of olive oil to both hands as a control and 3 hours later an application of a 10% essential oil of Rosmarinus officinalis L. Clinical severity and subjective warmth perception were assessed; skin temperature was measured by infrared thermography.

Results: Skin temperature increased significantly after both olive oil and rosemary oil but differences between oils did not reach significance. Self-reported warmth perception increased after rosemary oil but not after olive oil. No adverse effects were observed.

Conclusion: Topical rosemary essential oil increased warmth perception in patients with systemic sclerosis-related Raynaud’s phenomenon but did not increase finger skin temperature more than the olive oil control.