Lavender Oil Has Proven it’s Worth in Anxiety Trials
Lavender has long been used as a product in alternative medicine and home remedies.
Many of us use lavender on a daily basis, be that in soap to help soothe our skin and muscles, or be that in oil form to help us sleep at night. For years, lavender has been associated with a fresh and calming effect and thus has always been popular within uses of alternative medicines. Lavender essential oil is the most common medium for lavender in alternative medicine and can be found in burn treatments, sleep aids, antibacterial products and even products designed to help treat nausea and motion sickness, though, the plant can also be consumed in other forms too.
If I ask you to imagine the smell of lavender, you can probably do this quite easily. The herbal, floral and very distinctive smell of lavender is precisely what makes the plant perfect for use in alternative medicine. The smell comes from a chemical called linalool which is overly present in the lavender plant. Linalool is one of the chemicals within lavender that is also associated with providing a relaxing reaction within those who are using lavender to treat symptoms of anxiety or restlessness.
Since lavender is associated with calm and relaxation by many industries, lots of attention is being paid into researching whether or not the use of lavender can help ease symptoms of anxiety. Now, according to the NHS website a new study has revealed that in mice specifically, lavender has been successful in reducing some symptoms of anxiety, as a matter of fact, one report even suggests that the use of lavender to ease symptoms of anxiety is just as successful as the prescription drug, Valium.
The study has been designed to see how different concentrations of linalool impact the performance of mice in specific behavioural tests. According to the NHS:
“Lavender’s smell is due to the chemical linalool. This study used mice to examine whether smelling linalool at different concentrations affected their performance in behavioural tests. It also looked at whether mice that had no sense of smell were affected by linalool, and whether blocking certain chemical pathways also blocked the effect of the chemical.”
What did the research find?
“The researchers found mice who inhaled linalool were less anxious in behavioural tests and having a sense of smell was vital for the effect to take place. They also found blocking 1 nerve pathway prevented the anxiety-reducing effect, suggesting this is the pathway through which linalool works. The researchers suggested that linalool could be used instead of anti-anxiety drugs and to help patients relax before surgery.”
The essence of this research is that the research team found mice are more confident and less anxious while completing behavioural measurement tasks after being exposed to the scene of linalool.
Furthermore, according to the NHS:
“Mice that had been exposed to linalool spent more time in the brightly lit chamber and the open-ended maze arms, suggesting they were less anxious than the mice in the control group.
The higher the concentration of linalool, the less anxious they seemed. The effects were similar to those seen in mice given diazepam. Linalool didn’t seem to affect mice’s coordination or balance. Blocking 1 nerve pathway in the brain seemed to block the effects of linalool, which suggests the researchers pinpointed the way the chemical works.”
As stated earlier, this claims to be more effective than Valium for the treatment of anxiety, indeed, from the details of this research it does seem as if the linalool from lavender has had a very positive impact on the mice, without the need for intervention from prescription drugs.
Please, if you do suffer from anxiety this is not confirmation that you should stop taking medication and revert to inhaling lavender instead. If you do suffer from anxiety then please consult your GP or therapist for further advice. Never stop taking your medication without asking for advice from a medical professional and note that lavender should not be used as a replacement for your medication.
Why is all of this important? So, linalool has proven in trials using mice that is has the ability to reduce symptoms of anxiety. This does not mean the same goes for linalool exposure in humans, however, it does reinforce some of the theories that state lavender can be used to help put one’s mind at ease. It’s clear that linalool does have some intrinsic calming capabilities. According to the NHS, the research team have commented on their findings:
“We confirmed that the olfactory system [sense of smell] was essential for the linalool odour-induced anxiolytic [anti-anxiety] effects, using anosmic mice [without a sense of smell]. These findings give us a foundation towards clinical application of linalool odour for anxiety disorders. Moreover, linalool odour-induced anxiolytic effects may be applicable for preoperative patients.”
So, the further implications here are simple – these findings will be used to help influence further research in this area into how linalool can be used to treat symptoms of anxiety in humans. It’s not conclusive, but this is a sign that research into more natural mental health treatments is moving forward and is starting to be taken seriously.
As the NHS post concludes:
“It’s interesting that actually smelling linalool, rather than simply inhaling the compound, seems to be essential for the calming effect to take place. This could mean that people who have lost their sense of smell wouldn’t find lavender calming. The study can only tell us about how mice react to linalool, however. The findings of animal studies don’t always translate for humans.”
“Anxiety is a problem for many people today, with around 5% of adults in the UK thought to suffer from generalised anxiety disorder. Treatments include psychological therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, and medication, such as a type of antidepressant called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). There are also many things you can do yourself to help reduce your anxiety, such as exercising regularly, cutting down on alcohol and caffeine, and learning to relax. If the scent of lavender helps you relax, that may be worth trying.”
If you do suffer from anxiety, please remember to consult your GP for further advice and know that you’re not alone in any of this!