Research published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience shows for the first time that the vaporized lavender compound linalool must be smelt—not absorbed in the lungs - to exert its calming effects, which could be used to relieve preoperative stress and anxiety disorders.
"In folk medicine, it has long been believed that odorous compounds derived from plant extracts can relieve anxiety," says co-author Dr. Hideki Kashiwadani of Kagoshima University, Japan.
Modern medicine has overlooked these scented settlers, despite a need for safer alternatives to current anxiolytic (anxiety-relieving) drugs like benzodiazepines.
Numerous studies now confirm the potent relaxing effects of linalool, a fragrant alcohol found in lavender extracts.
"However, the sites of action of linalool were usually not addressed in these studies," Kashiwadani points out.
Many assumed that absorption into bloodstream via the airway led to direct effects on brain cell receptors such as GABAARs—also the target of benzodiazepines. But establishing the true mechanism of linalool's relaxing effects is a key step in moving towards clinical use in humans.