New study finds that the fragrant flower lavender is relaxing and could even be a safer option instead of anti-anxiety drugs. The findings of the study are published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.
The study, over mice, showed that the vaporized lavender compound linalool must be smelt not absorbed in the lungs to feel its calming effects, which could be used to relieve preoperative stress and anxiety disorders.
‘Can lavender really help you relax? The fragrance of the purple plant has a calming effect and could even be used medically to treat anxiety.’
Mice show fewer signs of anxiety when they smell the fragrant flower.
"In folk medicine, it has long been believed that odorous compounds derived from plant extracts can relieve anxiety," said co-author Hideki Kashiwadani of Kagoshima University in Japan.
The fragrant flower can also act as an alternative to current anxiolytic (anxiety-relieving) drugs like benzodiazepines, which is known to cause memory problems, male breast growth, and birth defects.
In the researchers tested mice to see whether it is the smell of linalool, i.e., stimulation of olfactory (odor-sensitive) neurons in the nose that triggers relaxation.
They found that linalool odor has an anxiolytic effect in normal mice. However, this did not impair their movement.
This contrasts with benzodiazepines, and linalool injections, whose effects on movement are similar to those of alcohol.
"The results suggest that linalool does not act directly on GABAA receptors like benzodiazepines do but must activate them via olfactory neurons in the nose to produce its relaxing effects," Kashiwadani explained.
"Our study also opens the possibility that relaxation seen in mice fed or injected with linalool could be due to the smell of the compound emitted in their exhaled breath."
Lavender could also be used pre-surgery, or by those who struggle to take drugs, the team said.