Tim Brunson DCH

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The influence of essential oils on human vigilance.

Olfactory stimuli are used in aromatherapy to enhance mood, well-being and work efficiency. Nevertheless, the impact of fragrances on cognitive performance in humans is not well understood. The present investigation aimed to evaluate the effects of 1,8-cineol, jasmine absolute ether, linalyl acetate and peppermint essential oil on human vigilance performance. The odorants were administered by means of inhalation and, except for peppermint essential oil, were tested at 2 different dosages. Performance in a standard visual vigilance task was measured in terms of speed and accuracy and subjective ratings of the odorants were assessed in terms of pleasantness, intensity, arousal and stress. We hypothesized that 1,8-cineol, jasmine absolute ether and peppermint essential oil would improve vigilance performance, whereas linalyl acetate would impair such performance. Comparison of the performances of the seven independent experimental groups with that of a control group did not show any of the expected effects. In contrast, inhalation of linalyl acetate decreased reaction times. Within-group analyses, however, revealed significant interactions between subjective ratings of the odorants and task performance. The results of the present investigation emphasize the high impact of subjective factors on the modulation of attentional functions by olfactory stimuli in humans.

Nat Prod Commun. 2010 Sep;5(9):1441-6. Heuberger E, Ilmberger J. Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Diagnostics, University of Vienna, Althanstrasse 14, 1090 Vienna, Austria. eva.heuberger@univie.ac.at

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