As a natural alternative to a sleeping pill or other relaxant drug, when you inhale the heady fragrance of a plant with the scientific name of Gardenia jasminoides you get a similar effect.
A study done in 2010 by two researchers, Dr. Olga Sergeeva and Prof. Helmut Hass from the Heinrich Heine University, discovered that the ‘two fragrances Vertacetal-coeur (VC) and the chemical variation (PI24513) have the same molecular mechanism of action and are as strong as the commonly prescribed barbiturates or propofol’.
Gardenia jasminoides is a subtropical and popular garden plant that grows well in the warm temperate climate of, for example, Sydney, Australia, where I live. I pick the fragrant flowers when the plant is in bloom, and place them in a bowl of water on my bedside table at night. In the absence of fresh flowers, you can use gardenia oil instead. Traditional herbal medicine uses Gardenia oil for soothing pain, stress and anxiety.
Be aware that real Gardenia absolute oil is rare and costly. The synthetic versions commonly available might not offer any therapeutic benefits, other than a lovely fragrance. Consider Jasmine oil instead. It has similar therapeutic qualities and you can get a good quality absolute oil much easier and cheaper.
Researchers performed a large screening study where they tested hundreds of fragrances to determine their effect on GABA receptors in both humans and mice. Two fragrances were the strongest: vertacetal-coeur (VC) and the chemical variation (PI24513). These fragrances increased the GABA effect more than five times and acted as strongly as the well-known drugs.
Behavioral tests with mice confirmed the results of using fragrance as a sedative. When either injected or inhaled, the fragrances had a calming effect (my personal preference is to inhale them :))
In the study, researchers put the mice in a Plexiglas cage. When the air contained a high concentration of the fragrance, the mice downed tools and sat quietly in the corner. Depending on the job, this type of aromatherapy isn’t suitable in a work environment 🙂
When the mice inhale the scented air, millions of molecules travel from the lungs into the blood, then directly to a region of the brain that regulates emotions, which is why they have such a strong effect on mood. Researchers measured the neurons in the brain areas responsible for the sleep-wake cycle and showed that the GABA effect on nerve cells that are active in sleep was amplified by the fragrances.
‘We have discovered a new class of GABA receptor modulator which can be administered parentally and through the respiratory air’ says Prof. Hatt. ‘Applications in sedation, anxiety, excitement and aggression relieving treatment and sleep induction therapy are all imaginable. The results can also be seen as evidence of a scientific basis for aromatherapy.’
Gardenia oil and jasmine oil are the most suitable oils to lift mood as they are among only a few oils that have strong antidepressant and mood lifting effects.
There are a few different ways to use these oils, and you can take your pick based on personal preference.
If the scent of gardenia or jasmine isn’t among your favorites, there are good alternatives for relaxation and restful sleep. Try Lavender oil, Frankincense, Lemon verbena, Ylang Ylang, Neroli (orange blossom) or Bergamot.
For more better sleeping tips check out my post on 5 Steps to the best night’s sleep ever