Friday, 9 July 2010

The science behind the virtues of Jasmine

Oils extracted from jasmine have long been used in aromatherapy. A new study has found that certain chemicals extracted from the plant can act as powerful sedatives with effects as strong as sleeping pills and barbiturates.

Sedatives, sleeping pills can also cause serious side effects such as depression, dizziness, hypotension, muscle weakness and impaired coordination.

So German scientists have been investigating the calming effects of various fragrancies that could be used in place of these drugs. They have now found that a chemical called Vertacetal-coeur (VC) and another variation of it derived from the jasmine plant act in the same way as these sedatives and that even just breathing in the scents can be enough to activate their effects.

How sedatives work
Sedatives such as valium act on particular sites in the brain, increasing the effects of the brain's own neurotransmitter called GABA. In fact the sedatives can even act in the same way as GABA in high enough doses. This GABA is an inhibitor - it serves to reduce brain function, thus leading to calmness, drowsiness and sleep.

Testing the fragrance
The jasmine extracts were administered to mice, both as injections and by inhalation. In both cases the mice responded by becoming calm, ceasing activity and sitting quietly in the corner. Mice that had been genetically modified such that their brain receptors no longer respond to sedatives were not affected by the chemicals, showing that the action of the jasmine extract is the same as other sedatives.

Commenting on the results, study leader Hanns Hatt said: "We have discovered a new class of GABA receptor modulator which can be administered through the air - applications in sedation, anxiety, excitement and aggression relieving treatment and sleep induction therapy are all imaginable."

The Journal of Biological Chemistry publishes papers based on original research that are judged to make a novel and important contribution to understanding the molecular and cellular basis of biological processes.

Find out more of the science behind aromatherapy

Tips for sleep besides aromatherapy

Bedrooms should be used only for sleeping and intimacy – not working,using a computor, eating, or watching television. Your brain needs to associate your bedroom with sleep.

You should aim to make your bedroom a dark, quiet and peaceful environment in which to rest after a hard day’s work. To do this:

Make sure you have a bed which is comfortable. Mattresses are supposed to be changed every 10 years. Fresh sheets and pillow cases may also help
If the morning sun is causing you problems, wear an eye mask
If your partner snores dont get mad, just buy some soft ear plugs


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