Subjects: R and D
Who says Aromatherapy is simply a New Age fad?
Japanese scientists have recently shown that inhaling fragrant scents like lemon, mango, and lavender alters gene activity and blood chemistry, with the net effects being reduced stress levels, resistance to inflammation and depression, and improved sleep… in lab rats.
The beneficial effects seem to be caused by linalool, a chemical previously thought to contribute nothing more than a pleasing odor associated with foods and flowers such as basil, grapes, oranges, tomatoes and tea.
In their experiments, Akio Nakamura and colleagues from the Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Science at the University of Tokyo showed linalool does far more than that.
The scientists divided rats into 3 groups. The control group was exposed to neither stress nor odor. The second was exposed to stress only, in the form of mildly restraining their free movements for a period of 2 hours. The third group was exposed to both stress and inhaled linalool.
In all 3 groups, the researchers assessed stress hormone levels, blood cell counts and gene expression.
The simply stressed-out rats were found to have elevated levels of circulating white blood cells as expected, but those exposed to both stress and linalool had normal WBC counts.
In other words, the linalool attenuated stress-related bumps in white blood cell counts.
Similarly, stress-related elevations in heart rate were blunted by linalool, and the stuff was also shown to down-regulate the activity of 109 genes that normally get turned on during stressful situations, and up-regulate the expression of 6 genes that are normally turned off during such situations.
Investigators attributed much of the physiological impact to sedative effects of the compound. The write-up appears in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.