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Lavender, cedarwood, vetiver balm work as anti-stress treatment by reducing plasma cortisol level

Authors:

Abstract

Prolonged stress has a negative impact on health. Stress stimulates hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis leading to increased cortisol hormone level. Excessive cortisol causes immunity suppression, sleep disturbance, and metabolic imbalance. Essential oils have been often used to stimulate relaxation. Lavender, cedarwood, and vetiver have a relaxation effect and they are useful for anxiety and depression. Common applications are aromatherapy inhalation and topical/massage. The aim of this study was to find the effect of lavender, cedarwood, and vetiver balms of reducing plasma cortisol levels. The study design was experimental with post-test-only control group that used 4 control (negative, positive, diazepam 2 mg/kg BW, balm vehicle) and 9 treatment (lavender 10%, 20%, 30%; cedarwood 10%, 20%, 30%; vetiver 10%, 20%, 30%) groups with 9 male Wistar rats in each group. Swim test was applied daily as a stress stimulus and the balms were applied daily on the shaved back for 30 days. Data were shown as mean ± SD and analyzed using Kruskal Wallis and Spearman correlation test with a significant value of p<0.05. We found a significant difference in plasma cortisol levels between control and treatment groups (p = 0.001). The concentration of each essential oil has a significant moderate negative correlation with plasma cortisol level. The three essential oil balms reduced plasma cortisol level of prolonged swim-induced stress rats. The greater essential oils concentration has a greater effect to reduce cortisol level. The 30% concentration of each essential oil has a similar effect to diazepam. The three essential oil balms have a similar effect of reducing cortisol levels. Lavender, cedarwood, and vetiver balms have a beneficial effect as an anti-stress treatment by reducing cortisol hormone level. Keywords: Cedarwood, cortisol, lavender, stress, vetiver
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American Journal of Essential Oils and Natural Products 2020; 8(1): 10-12
ISSN: 2321-9114
AJEONP 2020; 8(1): 10-12
© 2020 AkiNik Publications
Received: 05-11-2019
Accepted: 06-12-2019
Handi Suyono
Faculty of medicine, Widya
mandala catholic university
Surabaya, Campus Pakuwon
City, 6th floor, west tower, Jalan
Kalisari Selatan no. 1, Pakuwon
City, Surabaya, East Java,
Indonesia
FX Himawan Jong
Faculty of medicine, Widya
mandala catholic university
Surabaya, Campus Pakuwon
City, 6th floor, west tower, Jalan
Kalisari Selatan no. 1, Pakuwon
City, Surabaya, East Java,
Indonesia.
Sumi Wijaya
Faculty of Pharmacy, Widya
mandala catholic university
Surabaya, Campus Pakuwon
City, 6th floor, east tower, Jalan
Kalisari Selatan no. 1, Pakuwon
City, Surabaya, East Java,
Indonesia.
Corresponding Author:
Handi Suyono
Faculty of medicine, Widya
mandala catholic university
Surabaya, Campus Pakuwon
City, 6th floor, west tower, Jalan
Kalisari Selatan no. 1, Pakuwon
City, Surabaya, East Java,
Indonesia
Lavender, cedarwood, and vetiver balms work as an
anti-stress treatment by reducing plasma cortisol levels
Handi Suyono, FX Himawan Jong and Sumi Wijaya
Abstract
Prolonged stress has a negative impact on health. Stress stimulates hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis
leading to increased cortisol hormone level. Excessive cortisol causes immunity suppression, sleep
disturbance, and metabolic imbalance. Essential oils have been often used to stimulate relaxation.
Lavender, cedarwood, and vetiver have a relaxation effect and they are useful for anxiety and depression.
Common applications are aromatherapy inhalation and topical/massage. The aim of this study was to find
the effect of lavender, cedarwood, and vetiver balms of reducing plasma cortisol levels. The study design
was experimental with post-test-only control group that used 4 control (negative, positive, diazepam 2
mg/kg BW, balm vehicle) and 9 treatment (lavender 10%, 20%, 30%; cedarwood 10%, 20%, 30%;
vetiver 10%, 20%, 30%) groups with 9 male Wistar rats in each group. Swim test was applied daily as a
stress stimulus and the balms were applied daily on the shaved back for 30 days. Data were shown as
mean ± SD and analyzed using Kruskal Wallis and Spearman correlation test with a significant value of
p<0.05. We found a significant difference in plasma cortisol levels between control and treatment groups
(p = 0.001). The concentration of each essential oil has a significant moderate negative correlation with
plasma cortisol level. The three essential oil balms reduced plasma cortisol level of prolonged swim-
induced stress rats. The greater essential oils concentration has a greater effect to reduce cortisol level.
The 30% concentration of each essential oil has a similar effect to diazepam. The three essential oil
balms have a similar effect of reducing cortisol levels. Lavender, cedarwood, and vetiver balms have a
beneficial effect as an anti-stress treatment by reducing cortisol hormone level.
Keywords: Cedarwood, cortisol, lavender, stress, vetiver
1. Introduction
Stress is a reaction or response to stimuli (external or internal) which changes physical and
psychological functions. Stress can occur immediate (acute) or prolonged (chronic). Stress
stimulates fight or flight mechanisms in the body. Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis
is a defense mechanism to cope with stress. Stress stimuli can be mechanical, chemical,
biological, or psychological factors. Stress enhances and activates the neuroendocrine
mechanism which starts from hypothalamus by producing Corticotropin Releasing Hormone
(CRH). The pituitary gland is stimulated by CRH to produce Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
(ACTH). The adrenal cortex is stimulated by ACTH to produce glucocorticoid hormones [1].
Cortisol is one of glucocorticoid hormones which work as a stress hormone. A prolonged
stress exposure enhances the cortisol production. Excessive cortisol production causes immune
suppression, sleep disturbance, and metabolic imbalance. Cortisol also enhances catabolic
process which accelerates degradation and degeneration [1].
Essential oil aromatherapy has been widely used to treat stress by stimulating relaxation.
Previous studies found some essential oils, e.g., lavender, cedarwood, vetiver, have a relaxing
effect. These essential oils reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms. Common applications of
essential oils are inhalation and topical/massage [2]. The aim of this study was to find the effect
of lavender, cedarwood, and vetiver balm of reducing plasma cortisol hormone levels.
2. Materials and Methods
The study design was experimental with post-test-only control group. The study was approved
by Ethical Committee, Faculty of Medicine, Widya Mandala Catholic University Surabaya.
2.1 Animals
Four-to-5-month-old male Wistar (Rattus norvegicus) rats with 100-200 g body weight, were
acclimatized for 1 week, in the laboratory with room temperature (28±1°C), and humidity of
35±3%. The rat was excluded if the body weight decreased >10%. The rats were randomly
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American Journal of Essential Oils and Natural Products www.essencejournal.com
divided into 4 control and 9 treatment groups with 9 rats in
each group. The control groups were 1) negative (no stress
and treatment), 2) positive (stress and no treatment), 3) stress
and a standard drug (diazepam 2 mg/kg BW), 4) stress and
balm vehicle. The treatment groups were lavender balms with
concentrations of 10%, 20% and 30%; cedarwood balms with
concentrations of 10%, 20% and 30%; vetiver balms with
concentrations of 10%, 20% and 30%.
2.2 Essential oils balm
We used lavender (linalyl acetate, linalol), cedarwood (α-
himachalene, β-himachalene, γ-himachalene), and vetiver
(khusimol, α-vetivone, β-vetivone) essential oils (Young
LivingTM). The vehicles were beeswax (West Java) and virgin
coconut oil (VCO) (Kalimantan) purchased from the local
markets. The ratio of beeswax and VCO was 1:5. The
equipment was sterilized using ultraviolet (UV) light for 30
minutes. The balms were stored in room temperature
(28±1°C) and humidity of 35±3%.
2.3 Stress Stimulus
Swim test was given 10 seconds daily in the afternoon. The
rat was placed in a transparent water-filled cylinder with
depth of 20 cm.
2.4 Plasma Cortisol Hormone Level
The intracardiac blood sample was collected for 1 mL and
tested using ELISA method. We used ELISA rat cortisol
reagent kit (Elabscience®). Data were measured in ng/mL.
2.5 Experiment Protocol
After an adaptation period, the rats that matched the criteria
were randomly divided into control and treatment groups. The
back was shaved 2 cm x 2 cm. The swim test was given daily
for 30 days. The balms were daily applied on the shaved back
after the swim test. The 3 rats from each group were
euthanized on 10th, 20th, and 30th day by ether inhalation. Data
were shown in mean ± SD. Kruskal Wallis and Spearman
correlation tests were used with a significant value of p<0.05
by SPSS 20.0.
3. Results and discussion
We found a significant difference of plasma cortisol levels
between control and treatment groups by Kruskal Wallis test
(p=0.001). Concentrations of essential oils have a significant
weak negative correlation with plasma cortisol level by
Spearman test (p = 0.003, r = -0.266).
The three essential oils balms reduced plasma cortisol level of
prolonged swim-induced stress rats. The greater essential oils
concentration has a greater effect to reduce cortisol level. The
30% concentration of each essential oil has a similar effect to
diazepam. However, the diazepam had greater effect than
essential oil 30% balms. The three essential oils balms have a
similar effect of reducing cortisol levels.
Fig 1: Plasma cortisol levels
We used 4-to-5-month-old rats because of this age analog
with the human adolescent period of the age of 13-18.
Prolonged stress in adolescence reduces prefrontal cortex,
amygdala, and hippocampus volume. Morphologic changes
associated with the deterioration of learning ability and
cognitive function. The disruption of these structures leads to
neuropsychiatric disorders in adulthood. The adolescent brain
is more susceptible and responsive to glucocorticoid hormone
(cortisol) than the adult [3, 4]. Chronic cortisol exposure
reduces neuroplasticity (neurogenetic and synaptic
connectivity), stimulates aggressively, inhibits social
interaction/relationship, and stimulates anxiety in adulthood [3,
4]. Our study found the effect of essential oil balms to reduce
plasma cortisol level. Previous several studies found the effect
of essential oil aromatherapy to ameliorate stress disorders.
The research conducted by Cho et al., 2013, found that the
mixed essential oil inhalation (lavender, Roman chamomile,
and neroli) attenuated anxiety level and improved the sleep
quality of percutaneous coronary intervention patients in
intensive care unit [5]. Chamine et al., 2016 showed that the
lavender essential oil use in subjects with acute stress
improved their work performance in memory and speed-
related tasks [6]. Another study of Takeda et al., 2017 found
that elderly people who were treated using 3 kinds of
aromatherapy (pure lavender; lavender and sweet orange
blend; pine, cypress, Virginian cedarwood, and Japanese
cypress blend) on the night before sleep for 20 days would
have better total sleep time and sleep maintenance. The
treatment would also inhibit early morning awakening [7].
Metanalysis study conducted by Sánchez-Vidana et al., 2017
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American Journal of Essential Oils and Natural Products www.essencejournal.com
reported the benefit of essential oils to ameliorate depressive
symptoms. Topical application by massage predominantly
improved depressive symptoms than inhalation. Lavender is
the common usage in order to gain a relaxing effect [8]. The
possible mechanism of aromatherapy to reduce anxiety was
studied by Wu et al., 2012. Aromatherapy inhalation of
lavender, clary sage, Indian sandalwood, sweet orange in rats
for 10 days increased threitol, glucose-6-phosphate, glucose,
glucuronolactone, N-acetylglutamine, mannose, glucose-5-
phosphate. These compounds were discovered to have an
anxiolytic effect. These essential oils increased histamine and
decreased phenylalanine. This subsequently caused anxiety
amelioration [9]. Lavender has the anxiolytic effect similar to
pregabalin. Lavender inhibits voltage-dependent calcium
channel in primary hippocampus neuron synaptosome.
Calcium influx inhibition reduces glutamate and
norepinephrine releasing. Glutamate and norepinephrine have
roles in anxiety pathogenesis [10]. The study by López et al.,
2017, reported the mechanism of lavender oil (linalool and
linalyl acetate) as anxiolytic and antidepressant through N-
methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonism and
serotonin transporter (SERT) inhibition [11]. In addition, the
study by Atsumi and Tonosaki, 2007, found lavender oil
reduced blood and saliva cortisol level in human subjects [12].
The cedarwood essential oil has been used as antispasmodic,
astringent, decongestant, insecticide, and sedative. Cedarwood
contains a sesquiterpene (cedrol 12-22%) as the main active
ingredient. Cedrol inhalation has a relaxing/sedative effect.
The mechanism of action of cedrol was not only in the
olfactory pathway but possibly also via the non-olfactory one
[13]. The vetiver essential oil has a relaxing/sedative effect.
Vetiver increases total sleep time and has a similar
sedative/hypnotic effect to diazepam [14]. Vetiver also contains
sesquiterpene hydrocarbons (khusimol, β-vetivenene and β-
vetispirene). Our study found that lavender, cedarwood, and
vetiver balm could reduce plasma cortisol level. Essential oil
titration could have a greater effect to reduce cortisol level.
We still need further investigations for the dose titration to
understand toxicity, side effects, dependency and tolerance of
the essential oils. We argue the essential oil balms have a
systemic effect via the skin penetration. There is well-
established evidence that cortisol works as a stress hormone.
If we can modulate the plasma cortisol level, stress can be
attenuated. Lavender, cedarwood, and vetiver oils can be
proposed as anti-cortisol agents.
4. Conclusions
Lavender, cedarwood, and vetiver balms have a beneficial
effect as an anti-stress treatment by reducing cortisol hormone
level. The dose increase gives a greater effect on reducing
plasma cortisol level. These balms can be used as an
alternative medication to manage prolonged stress.
5. Acknowledgements
This study was funded by Research Office of Widya Mandala
Catholic University Surabaya, Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia.
We thank to Prof. Gregory Tan, School of Medicine, Notre
Dame University, Fremantle Campus, Perth, Australia.
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Exploring pharmacological mechanism of lavender
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... For therapeutical purposes, vetiver root infusion has been used as a refrigerant, febrifuge, diaphoretic, stimulant, stomachic, antispasmodic, emmenagogue, astringent, blood purifier, spermatorrhoea, and strangury [111]. In folk medicine, vetiver and its root oil are further well known for their beneficial effects in the treatment of mental and emotional symptoms and their relaxing/sedative effects [112]. The EO is also claimed to possess anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, aphrodisiac, cicatrisant, tonic, and vulnerary efficacy, as well as benefits in strengthening bones, the treatment of rheumatism, gout, arthritis, muscle aches, dryness, cramps, and dry skin [110]. ...
... Besides that, vetiver balm could reduce plasma cortisol hormone level in prolonged swim-induced stress rats in a concentration-dependent manner, stating that EO titration may have a stronger effect. Thus, vetiver balms showed a beneficial effect as an anti-stress treatment [112]. ...
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Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent psychiatric disorders and affect a great number of people worldwide. Essential oils, take effects through inhalation or topical application, are believed to enhance physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Although clinical studies suggest that the use of essential oils may have therapeutic potential, evidence for the efficacy of essential oils in treating medical conditions remains poor, with a particular lack of studies employing rigorous analytical methods that capture its identifiable impact on human biology. Here, we report a comprehensive gas chromatography time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GC-TOFMS) based metabonomics study that reveals the aromas-induced metabolic changes and the anxiolytic effect of aromas in elevated plus maze (EPM) induced anxiety model rats. The significant alteration of metabolites in the EPM group was attenuated by aromas treatment, concurrent with the behavioral improvement with significantly increased open arms time and open arms entries. Brain tissue and urinary metabonomic analysis identified a number of altered metabolites in response to aromas intervention. These metabolic changes included the increased carbohydrates and lowered levels of neurotransmitters (tryptophan, serine, glycine, aspartate, tyrosine, cysteine, phenylalanine, hypotaurine, histidine, and asparagine), amino acids, and fatty acids in the brain. Elevated aspartate, carbohydrates (sucrose, maltose, fructose, and glucose), nucleosides and organic acids such as lactate and pyruvate were also observed in the urine. The EPM induced metabolic differences observed in urine or brain tissue was significantly reduced after 10 days of aroma inhalation, as noted with the loss of statistical significance on many of the metabolites in the aroma-EPM group. This study demonstrates, for the first time, that the metabonomics approach can capture the subtle metabolic changes resulting from exposure to essential oils and provide the basis for pinpointing affected pathways in anxiety-related behavior, which will lead to an improved mechanistic understanding of anxiolytic effect of essential oils.
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Adolescence is a time of many psychosocial and physiological changes. One such change is how an individual responds to stressors. Specifically, adolescence is marked by significant shifts in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis reactivity, resulting in heightened stress-induced hormonal responses. It is presently unclear what mediates these changes in stress reactivity and what impacts they may have on an adolescent individual. However, stress-sensitive limbic and cortical brain areas that continue to mature during adolescence may be particularly vulnerable to these shifts in responsiveness. Consequently, perturbations of the maturing adolescent brain may contribute to the increase in stress-related psychological dysfunctions, such as anxiety, depression, and drug abuse, often observed during this stage of development. The purpose of this review is to describe the changes that occur in HPA function during adolescence, as well as to briefly discuss the possible ramifications of these changes on the developing brain and psychological health.
Article
It has been reported that cedarwood oil has sedative effects when inhaled. In this study, we evaluated sedative effects of inhaled cedrol, which is a major component of cedarwood oil. Accumulative spontaneous motor activity was significantly decreased in the cedrol-exposed Wistar rats. Similar results were confirmed in caffeine-treated Wistar rats, spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR), and ddY mice. In addition, exposure to cedrol prolonged pentobarbital-induced sleeping time in Wistar rats. To investigate whether cedrol, which has a very faint aroma, affects the olfactory system, the nasal cavities of Wistar rats were treated with zinc sulfate to reduce olfactory function. Two days later, the pentobarbital-induced sleep time was measured as described above. Compared to intact rats, the sleep prolongation effect was decreased in a lavender-roman chamomile mixed oil exposure positive control group, indicating that olfactory function was impaired. In contrast, prolongation of the sleeping time did not change in the cedrol exposure group. The above findings indicate that cedrol inhalation had marked sedative effects regardless of the animal species or the functional state of the autonomic nerves, suggesting that the mechanism of action is via a pathway other than the olfactory system.
Effects of aromatherapy on the anxiety level, vital signs, and sleep quality of percutaneous coronary intervention patients in intensive care units, Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
  • M Y Cho
  • E S Min
  • M H Hur
  • M S Lee
Cho MY, Min ES, Hur MH, Lee MS. Effects of aromatherapy on the anxiety level, vital signs, and sleep quality of percutaneous coronary intervention patients in intensive care units, Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Article ID: 381381, 2013, 6. http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/81381.