In functional medicine we utilized a multitude of therapies with proven benefits but without always having clearly defined mechanisms of action. Even conventional medicine has scratched its head about how Tylenol and metformin work while prescribing literal tons of these medicines. For essential oils such as lavender, mystery has shrouded their mechanisms of actions until possibly now, at least in terms of lavender.
While many had long assumed lavender had to be inhaled, absorbed in the lungs and passed into the brain, researchers Dr. Hideki Haski-wadani et al of Kagoshima University in Japan, discovered that lavender works through the olfactory nerve. We have to smell it first. With further study they pinpointed the next step in the chain of action as effects on GABA receptors in the brain. These are inhibitory receptors which are also the targets of benzodiazepines like valium.
The lavender oil identified as linalool produced an anti-anxiety effect in the mice but when their olfactory (smell) nerves were cut, no such effects occurred. With this insight, maybe linalool research can proceed towards clinical use as we attempt to curb the use of addictive medications with safer alternatives.
Like any other tool in medicine, there is no one size fits all multi-tool. While we gladly incorporate essential oils into our functional medicine toolbox, we never forget all the other tools that our wonderful Creator has given us in both nature and through science. By incorporating a wide variety of therapies into our programs we offer greater chances of success and some flexibility for patients who express various preferences in regards to natural versus synthetic options. Over time and with the combined effects of these various tools, we can help our patients live healthier more abundant lives again.
Hiroki Harada, Hideki Kashiwadani, Yuichi Kanmura, Tomoyuki Kuwaki. Linalool Odor-Induced Anxiolytic Effects in Mice. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 2018; 12 DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2018.00241
Thanks to Science Daily:
Frontiers. “The smell of lavender is relaxing, science confirms.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 October 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181023085648.htm>.