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Keep Calm and Smell Linalool: Study Confirms Anti-anxiety Link

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Lavender in a field

Long believed to have calming properties, lavender, or more precisely the scent of linalool, was the focus of a recent study that examined if it can in-fact provide relief to anxiety.

The Presence of Linalool  

In a study published in the Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, a team of researchers from Kagoshima University used a light/dark box and elevated plus maze (EPM) to test on mice. In the EPM, levels of anxiety are measured by time spent in open vs. an enclosed space, while the light/dark box tests anxiety through a lit and unlit area. Previous research showed that mice prefer dark and enclosed spaces, while open and lit spaces produce anxiety.

Related: Too Stressed to Sense: Modern Life and Our Sense of Taste and Smell

Linalool was administered to the mice through a custom-made odor chamber, where mice were placed for thirty minutes before a test. The mice were then exposed to either 0, 20, 200, or 2,000 μL of linalool, in an effort to see if dosage played a role. Following the time in the odor chamber, mice then performed either the light/dark box or EPM test, while researchers studied behaviors and how long the mice spent in anxiety-inducing circumstances.

What Does this Mean for Mental Health?  

The researchers concluded that the scent of linalool increased the amount of time that mice spent in open and lit areas. For both tests, mice spent nearly twice as much time in open and lighted space with the presence of the scent, opposed to the control tests with no the scent. Additionally, the study found that the dosage of linalool, also impacted time spent in open and lit areas. 

In a World Health Organization report referenced in the study, 5.3% of Japanese citizens and 18.2% of American adults fit the diagnostic criteria for at least one anxiety disorder. With the results from this study, the researchers are hoping to build a foundation towards clinical application of linalool odors in treating anxiety disorders.