Depression: breathing lavender is as good as Valium

Depression, and if a simple inhalation of lavender was as good as an antidepressant? This is the surprising discovery made by researchers from the University of Kagoshima, Japan.

They showed that certain components of the smell of lavender have effects similar to those associated with taking Valium. For the moment, this study is based on an animal model, but aromatherapy and olfactotherapy (breathing Essential Oils) have not yet revealed everything they can do.

Everyone loves the smell of lavender. We have been using this purple-headed plant since at least the ancient period. Traditionally, it is indicated in aromatherapy to calm, soothe and bring serenity. It would have a positive impact on the reduction of stress and anxiety. Neuroscientists from the University of Kagoshima, Japan have just demonstrated that all these claims were perfectly true, at least for the moment, in mice.

Depression: the same areas of the brain stimulated by lavender as by Valium

In a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, Japanese researchers found that inhaling linalool, a terpene alcohol with a floral, fresh smell found in lavender essential oil, produced on the brain as much effect as a Valium.

The main active ingredient worked on the same parts of the mouse brain affected by Valium, but without all the disastrous side effects of the antidepressant. Anxiety relief in small rodents was triggered by simple inhalation through the nose.

Their findings add to a growing body of research demonstrating the anxiety-reducing qualities of lavender scents and suggest a new mechanism for how they work in the body.

Dr. Kashiwadani, the study leader, believes this new insight is a key step in the development of lavender-derived compounds, such as linalool, for clinical use in humans.

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Breathing lavender relaxes

Dr. Kashiwadani and his colleagues were interested in the action of linalool on anxiety in mice. They noticed that the presence of linalool seemed to calm the mice. In this study, they exposed mice to linalool vapor extracted from filter paper inside a specially designed chamber to test whether the smell caused relaxation.

Breathing in the lavender linol, the mice were more relaxed and open to exploring, indicating that they were less anxious than normal mice. Moreover, they did not behave as if they were drunk, like mice on benzodiazepines, an active ingredient found in anxiolytics.

To verify their hypothesis, they are given to a group of mice a drug that blocks olfaction and put them in the presence of lavender vapors. Results, the mice that could no longer smell the lavender showed signs of stress and anxiety in their box.

This suggests to the researchers that linalool acts by sending signals, through olfactory receptors, to the right places in the brain, the same ones stimulated by Valium.

On human brains too

Although he has not tested it in humans, Dr. Kashiwadani suspects that linalool may also act in the brains of humans and other mammals, which exhibit emotional circuitry similar to that of mice.

This is important because anxiety disorders affect almost one in five adults and many anti-anxiety medications have side effects, sometimes less tolerable than the anxiety itself.

Who wouldn’t rather just take a whiff of lavender and feel at peace, without any side effects?


Hiroki Harada, Hideki Kashiwadani: Linalool Odor-Induced Anxiolytic Effects in Mice. Forehead. Behav. Neurosci., 23 October 2018

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Shogo Tashiro, Ran Yamaguchi: Odor-induced analgesia mediated by hypothalamic orexin neurons in mice. Nature. Scientific Reports volume 6,


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