JAPAN: Aromatherapy really works

Cosmetics and natural oils producers will be able to commercially exploit new Japanese research suggesting that aromatherapy, the use of fragrant oils to promote health and well- being, does have scientific credibility in that certain scents really do decrease stress levels.

Research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry is the first to find certain fragrances have the power to alter gene activity and blood chemistry in ways that can reduce stress levels in rats.

Akio Nakamura and his colleagues at the department of applied biological chemistry at the graduate school of agricultural and life science, University of Tokyo, along with researchers at Japanese food manufacturing company T. Hasegawa Co saw major changes in the blood and gene levels of stressed rodents that inhaled scents such as citrus, mango and lavender.

Linalool, a chemical compound with a floral scent found in teas and foods such as oranges, tomatoes and basil, returned stress-elevated levels of neutrophils and lymphocytes, key parts of the immune system, to near-normal levels.

Inhaling linalool also reduced the activity of more than 100 genes that go into overdrive in stressful situations.

The research study's abstract said: "Significant changes on the stress-induced variations were induced by inhalation in 115 gene expression levels. Of those, 109 genes were down-regulated whereas the remaining six were up-regulated."

It said the researchers had wanted to investigate anecdotal wisdom that such scents really did cause positive psychological effects: "It has been empirically known from ancient times that some odorants bring about psycho-physiological effects, such as sedative, stimulative, antistress, anti-inflammatory, and anticonvulsant effects; for example, an antidepressant effect is provided by lemon odour and a sleep-enhancing effect by valerian."


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Jain K Paul