The fragrant way to a good night’s sleep

July 20, 2010 by  
Filed under featured, Health

I am not a fan of sleeping pills, except in extreme need and for short term use as their side effects can outweigh the benefits.

There are many natural ways to help sleep from herbal concoctions to specially designed light systems, but now there is an entirely fragrant way that apparently can soothe, relieve anxiety and promote sleep with the same mechanism of action and strength as the commonly prescribed barbiturates.

Just what is this miracle worker? It is the aroma of jasmine from Gardenia jasminoides and has been researched by Düsseldorf  University where they have discovered that the two fragrances Vertacetal-coeur (VC) and the chemical variation (PI24513) have the same molecular structure as barbiturates.

Who said you can’t make money out of nature? Well it appears that these researchers will as they have been granted a patent for their discovery, as they reported in the current online issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Sedatives, sleeping pills and relaxants are the most frequently prescribed psychotropic drugs and strange as it may seem the difference between calming and hypnotic effect depends solely on the dosage, not on the drug itself. Benzodiazepines, which are now among the world’s most widely prescribed drugs, are given to help relax the body so that it can drift naturally of sleep. Unfortunately, they are not only potentially addictive, but can also cause serious side effects including depression, dizziness, hypotension, muscle weakness and impaired coordination.

The researchers carried out a large screening study in which they tested hundreds of fragrances but it was just the two mentioned that proved to be effective. Of course this is something that serious aromatherapy student have known for many years but it is good to see science catching up and acknowledging that fragrances have a definite, measurable effect on the body. We absorb fragrance throughout skin and through the air breathed in, and the scent molecules go from the lungs into the blood and then transmitted from there to the brain.

The researchers concluded that their results can also be seen as evidence of a scientific basis for aromatherapy, so all you fans of aromatherapy massage have been vindicated — as if you needed it. So rather than the traditional lavender or camomile that you may have been using to ease yourself into sleep you could now try adding the rather more exotic fragrance of jasmine.