The economy getting you down? Did you tow your old clunker to the car dealer only to find the federal money pot empty? Did you just learn that your scale is off by 10 pounds in the wrong direction?
Well, Japanese scientists say to control the stress that seems to permeate our every breath, just take a whiff of lemon, mango, lavender or other fragrant plants.
Akio Nakamura and his colleagues from the Technical Research Center in Kawasaki, Japan, have reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry the first scientific evidence that inhaling certain fragrances alter gene activity and blood chemistry in ways that can reduce stress levels.
People have inhaled the scent of certain plants since ancient times to help reduce stress, fight inflammation and depression, and induce sleep, the scientists wrote.
Aromatherapy, the use of fragrant plant oils to improve mood and health, has become a popular form of alternative medicine today. And linalool, a colorless fragrant liquid found in many essential oils, is one of the most widely used substances to soothe away emotional stress. Until now, however, linalool’s exact effects on the body have been a deep mystery.
They exposed lab rats to stressful conditions while inhaling and not inhaling linalool. Linalool returned stress-elevated levels of neutrophils and lymphocytes — key parts of the immune system — to near-normal levels.
The research also showed that inhaling linalool reduced the activity of more than 100 genes that go into overdrive in stressful situations.
Here’s a link to the study.
But as long as we’re talking about aroma, let’s go to the other end of the scent spectrum – garlic.
A study by Dipak Das and colleagues from the Cardiovascular Research Center at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine shows the first scientific evidence that freshly crushed garlic has more potent heart-healthy effects than dried garlic.
The research, also published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, challenges the widespread belief that most of garlic’s benefits are due to its rich array of antioxidants.
But Das illustrated that garlic’s heart-healthy effects seem to result mainly from hydrogen sulfide, a chemical signaling substance that forms after garlic is cut or crushed and relaxes blood vessels when eaten.
The scientists gave freshly crushed garlic and processed garlic to two groups of lab rats, and then studied how well the animals’ hearts recovered from simulated heart attacks.
Das said that both crushed and processed garlic reduced damage from lack of oxygen, but the fresh garlic group had a significantly greater effect on restoring good blood flow in the aorta and increased pressure in the left ventricle of the heart.
Here is a link to Das’ study.