Perhaps we should all stop and smell the roses a little more often. At least that is what new findings published late June in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggest. Japanese scientists have found that inhaling certain plant fragrances helps reduce stress by altering gene activity and blood chemistry.
Humans have been smelling plants and using aromatherapy to improve mood and health for thousands of years, from warding off depression to fighting inflammation. But until now researchers had no clue as to why these fragrances were so beneficial. Linalool, an organic compound found in a wide variety of plants, is one of the most commonly used extracts in aromatherapy and perfumes. It has a floral scent and is found naturally in tea, oranges, grapes, mangos, lemon, tomato, basil and lavender, to name a few.
Lead scientist Akio Nakamura and his team found that elevated neutrophil and lymphocyte levels (two key components of the immune system) in stressed-out lab rats returned to near-normal after they inhaled linalool. They also discovered that the organic compound reduced the activity of more than 100 genes that typically race into overdrive during stressful situations.
I always knew flowers put me in a better mood, but I just thought it was because they were beautiful. Perhaps I should carry fresh lavender with me on the subway during rush hour for a stress-free ride home?