Linalool is a phytochemical belonging to the terpene group. Linalool is a component of the essential oils of a number of aromatic plants and it may have particular medicinal effects. Essential oils are concentrated volatile phytochemicals that produce a strong odour. They often contain high amounts of hydrocarbons, mainly terpenes and terpene derivatives as well as non-hydrocarbons such as alcohols, ketones, aldehydes, phenols, oxides and esters. Such essential oils are used nutritionally in traditional medicine and are also used as treatments in aromatherapy. Essential oils have been shown to possess a number of therapeutic effects, and in some cases can be useful in the treatment of mood disorders. Essential oils containing linalool have traditionally been used for their relaxing and calming properties. Linalool is found in a number of medicinal plants including Lavandula angustifolia (lavender), Melissa officinalis (lemon balm), Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) and Cymbopogon citratus (lemon grass).
Inhaled linalool has been shown to possess sedative effects in mice. At 1 % and 3 % saturation of air with linalool, mice experienced increase sleeping time when exposed for 60 minutes. In addition, the inhalation of linalool decrease body temperature in the mice. At the higher 3 % dose, the mice also experienced reductions in locomotion. All of these effects taken together suggest that linalool possesses sedative effects in mammals. In another study on mice, the behavioural effects of inhaled linalool were investigated. Again mice were exposed to air saturated with 1 % and 3 % linalool and their behavior was observed. The addition of linalool to the air decreased the anxious behaviour exhibited by the mice. In addition, the linalool increased social interaction and decreased aggressive behaviour. The authors concluded that inhaled linalool may be an effective way of inducing relaxation and decreasing anxiety. This sort of administration of linalool is inline with the use of certain essential oils in aromatherapy.
In another study, researcher investigated the effects of linalool on the behaviour of rats. The researchers reported that the linalool, administered as an injection, reduced the movement exhibited by the rats, suggesting that it had a sedative effect. However the researchers injected the linalool into the rats, rather than by using inhalation, which may explain the lack of effects. Linalool can be oxidised to another chemical called linalool oxide. Linalool oxide is also found in certain plants essential oils, albeit at a lower concentration that linalool. The behavioural and mood elevating effects of linalool oxide have also been investigated. In one study, researchers administered linalool oxide to mice by inhalation in a chamber, through mixture with air. Mice receiving the linalool oxide exhibited a reduction in anxious behaviour, suggesting that the linalool oxide had conferred anxiolytic effects on the mice. At some concentrations of linalool oxide, the effects were close to those of the benzodiazepine drug diazepam.
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