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With anxiety and depression having increased by 70% in young people in the last 25 years, and the numerous studies and surveys showing the negative impact of anxiety – such as making bad decisions and skipping work – what can organisations do about it?
Apart from getting managers to listen to staff and show empathy, it turns out that changing the scent of your office air freshener to lavender may help.
In a new study published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, researchers found evidence that the scent of lavender – or more specifically, linalool, an alcohol that can be found naturally in the plant and its extracts – can actually help relieve anxiety.
“In folk medicine, it has long been believed that odorous compounds derived from plant extracts can have anxiolytic (anxiety-relieving) effects,” co-author Dr Hideki Kashiwadani of Kagoshima University, Japan, noted in the press release.
They noted that the high rates of anxiety disorders today makes the development of effective therapy and therapeutic tools for treating anxiety disorders is the one of the more pressing issues in the field of mental science.
In addition to the typical anxiolytic pharmaceuticals, aromatic plant extracts have long been used in traditional medicine as a treatment for anxiety – among them was lavender extract.
However, there was a lack of research as to why the scent of lavender may have contributed to the effect. Hence, the researchers examined the anxiolytic effects of linalool odor in mice.
Through classical anxiety-related behavioral tests, they found that exposure to linalool odor induced significant anxiolytic effects without motor impairment which, researchers noted, happens with many anti-anxiety medications.
The effects, however, was not observed in mice which have lost their sense of smell or whose GABAA receptors (neurotransmitters which respond to anxiety-reducing drugs)
“When combined, these results suggest that linalool does not act directly on GABAA receptors like benzodiazepines do – but must activate them via olfactory neurons in the nose in order to produce its relaxing effects,” explained Kashiwadani.
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