Next time you spot a lavender-scented candle, take a deep breath. A new study in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience builds upon the science of why a whiff can make you say “Ahhhh” in relief.
The researchers found that when they got mice to sniff linalool, a component in lavender, it had the same effect of an anxiety-reducing Valium on the mice: “Linalool tickled odor-sensitive neurons in the nose that send signals to just the right spots in the brain — the same ones triggered by Valium,” The New York Times wrote about on the findings.
The history of using lavender as treatment
Although this study tested lavender on mice, not humans, the researchers see the possibility of using lavender to treat anxiety in humans. “These findings give us a foundation towards clinical application of linalool odor for anxiety disorders,” the study concludes.
Lavender has a long history of being used to treat ailments. Around 1910, French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse learned of the soothing effect of lavender when he burned his hand and rinsed it using lavender. The next day, his hand started healing, kicking off research into how it could be used to heal World War I soldiers.
As Americans have become more anxious, our search for homeopathic solutions has become more extensive. About 18% of adults in America met the diagnostic criteria for at least one anxiety disorder within the past year. Under these stressful times, an aromatic essence marketed to harmonize the health of the body, mind, and spirit sounds soothing.
I personally am not at the stage of wanting to bake cakes with lavender, but I do keep a bushel of lavender in my bedroom. I cannot attest to feeling less anxious as a result, but I do find its scent to be relaxing.