Herb and Spice Fragrance Linalool Protects Immune System From Stress

Linalool is a fragrant compound found in several plants including the spices, sweet basil, thyme, cinnamon, bay leaf and fruits such as citrus and mangoes. For many years it has been used extensively in aromatherapy essential oils and as a fragrance for soaps, shampoos and other toiletries.

Linalool

Linalool is well known as one of the most important calming fragrances and, until this research was published, was thought to act only on the nervous system. However, writing in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry Akio Nakamura and his colleagues demonstrate that its action extends beyond the brain to the immune system itself.

Research

In a controlled study the researchers exposed a treatment group of stressed rats to linalool fragrance. At the end of the two hour stress period they measured the white blood cell count, hormone levels and gene activation levels of both the treated and control groups.

The blood tests following the experiment showed that stress hormone levels in both the control and treatment groups were significantly raised at the end of the two hour stress period.

Under ordinary circumstances corticoid stress hormones would be expected to suppress the immune response. However, while the rats that were not exposed to linalool showed the expected stress-related drop in their white blood cell counts, those that were exposed to linalool fragrance maintained normal leukocyte and lymphocyte white blood cell levels. Moreover the rats in the linalool group had far fewer “stress genes” activated than those in the control group.

Effects Physical and Psychological

This study indicates that inhaling an aromatic compound such as linalool has both psychological AND a physiological effects; and reflects our increasing understanding of the extensive links and interactions between the nervous and immune systems.

For some time now we have been well aware that spices contain many important antioxidants and other bioactive compounds that have an exceptionally positive impact on our health. Now we know that when we bite into that Caprese salad the delicious basil fragrance is not only going to enhance our dining experience, but will also help to protect us from the latest viruses doing the rounds.

Spicy meals for stress control

So, next time you are feeling a little stressed-out, make sure that you add some sweet basil, thyme, cinnamon and bay leaf to your meal. These tasty spices will start defending your immune system even before they reach your stomach!

Reference:

Stress Repression in Restrained Rats by Linalool Inhalation and Gene Expression Profiling of Their Whole Blood Cells. J. Agric. Food Chem., 2009, 57 (12), pp 5480’5485 Akio Nakamura, Satoshi Fujiwara, Ichiro Matsumoto’ Keiko Abe

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