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Will a Whiff of Lavender Ease Your Anxiety?

Mice given a whiff of lavender rich in the compound linalool act less anxious without becoming uncoordinated.
Will a Whiff of Lavender Ease Your Anxiety?
Lavender herb flower leaf sprigs with an aromatherapy essential oil dropper bottle over white background.

Many people think of lavender as a calming herb. Research in mice now shows that this reputation goes beyond folklore. A whiff of lavender has anti-anxiety effects.

How Do Mice React to a Whiff of Lavender?

When scientists exposed mice to the fragrant component linalool from lavender, they found that the mice acted less anxious (Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, Oct. 23, 2018). Unlike a benzodiazepine such as alprazolam that also reduces anxiety, linalool does not affect the animals’ ability to move around.

Sniffing a Whiff of Lavender:

Linalool works through the sense of smell, since animals with an impaired sense of smell did not respond to linalool. The investigators hope their linalool research will lead to better anxiety treatment for humans. People facing surgery or other frightening situations could certainly benefit from an anxiety treatment with fewer side effects than current medications.

Other Uses for Lavender:

Visitors to this website have been using lavender as a home remedy for a range of problems. Some people are enthusiastic about lavender oil for restless legs syndrome. Others report that applying lavender oil eases foot and toe cramps. Readers and researchers both report that a whiff of lavender can help people fall asleep more easily. One person found that applying lavender oil resolved a persistent itch.

Downsides of Lavender Oil:

Those who plan to apply lavender oil rather than simply taking a whiff of it should be forewarned that some components of this essential oil have hormonal effects. Blocking the action of male hormones may have undesirable side effects for boys and men. In addition, up to 20 percent of Americans may develop an itchy rash (contact dermatitis) when they apply lavender oil (Dermatitis, Sep/Oct. 2017).

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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