“Find a way to incorporate lavender into your life! Particularly, your nose’s life.”
I’ve always thought that essential oils were just nice to use. Their pleasant scent is ideal for those relaxing moments: a soothing bubble bath, a meditation session, while falling asleep… Of course people use essential oils for more than just smelling, and just like with herbs and spices, I don’t doubt that they can have many beneficial effects on the body. But until recently I had never put any more thought into aromatherapy.
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My intro to essential oils
My first encounter with aromatherapy was in Poland on a nursing school trip. We went to learn about the nursing field in a foreign country, as well as experience the different types of medicinal practices they offer. So we attended a spa – not a bad way to earn college credit, am I right?? One of the treatments involved sitting in a salt room while an essential oil blend of our choice was wafting through the air. I think we choose lavender and eucalyptus or something, but it was so pleasant! The staff said that a lot people fall asleep. No wonder why!
Since then I’ve become pretty interested in how scents can help us relax. I’m an avid candle user – I currently have maple pecan and vanilla pumpkin scented candles sitting on my counter-top. I love a good scented lotion, and there’s a mango one from The Body Shop that I’ve noticed really does help me fall asleep! I also love their bubble bath scents, and my favorite is the British Rose.
So when I recently came across an article about the lavender scent having an actual, scientifically-proven effect on the body, I was extremely intrigued.
What was the study?
The study was published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience at the end of October 2018 and took place in Japan. The researchers conducted an experiment on mice, exposing the experimental group to the scent of linalool (a component of lavender), and assessing how it affected their anxiety in different situations. One such test involved seeing how long they stayed in/explored a brightly lit box that, if uncomfortable, they could leave for a darkened box. Another consisted of assessing how much they explored an unenclosed platform high off the ground, called an elevated plus maze. Both tests can help determine whether substances the mice are exposed to have anxiolytic (or anti-anxiety) effects.
What did they find?
The researchers found that when the mice were exposed to the scent of linalool, they stayed in/explored more of the brightly lit box than the control mice without this exposure. Same with the unenclosed platforms – the mice ventured out on the platforms more and for longer if they’d been exposed to the linalool. This greatly suggests that linalool can decrease anxiety. And they also found that this affect is achieved solely through inhalation, and that linalool binds to the same receptors as benzodiazepines (medications that are used mostly for treating anxiety), thus working in similar ways.
What does this mean for us?
Now although this study was only conducted on mice, the researchers suggest we can still draw some conclusions from it. They do hope to test this out on humans soon.
So their findings tell us that smelling lavender essential oil very likely provides more than just a nice aroma. If it works in the same way for humans as it does for mice (which the researchers think is very likely) lavender is calming you down through a bodily reaction, truly helping to reduce anxiety. Pretty freaking cool.
Do you have anxiety? Or just are looking for an extra dose of calm at the end of a long day? Find a way to incorporate lavender into your life! Particularly, your nose’s life – as eating lavender and lavender-flavored things won’t have the same effect.
The researchers even think that lavender could potentially be used in the future as an anxiolytic for patients prior to surgeries. Wow.
Should I try it out?
Absolutely! It certainly couldn’t hurt. Lavender has been around forever, and now there are so many brands of essential oils as well. Don’t have a diffuser? That’s really easy to find too. I’ll link to a couple below.
What about other oils/scents?
The study only focused on linalool, a component of lavender. I’m really interested to see what else will be discovered in the future about other essential oils, because I’m sure there will be more studies. In the meantime, I know I’ll be stocking up on some lavender-scented things. They’ll be perfect to use at the end of a long day to unwind. Time for a bubble bath!
Want to check out the full study? See it here: