A study from the University of the Ruhr, in Bochum, Germany, resulted in a press-release with a very provocative and enticing title – Intoxicating fragrance: Jasmine as valium substitute and a slew of articles which generated much interest. When I came across this 2010 press release recently, I was of course, intrigued and started digging deeper. Despite the fact that some folks felt it was a long stretch to extrapolate to humans, new research published this year confirms this headline may well have some merit.
Here are some highlights from the 2010 press release:
Instead of a sleeping pill or a mood enhancer, a nose full of jasmine from Gardenia jasminoides could also help, according to researchers in Germany. They have 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. They soothe, relieve anxiety and promote sleep.
The press release also shares that sedatives, sleeping pills and relaxants which increase the effect of GABA, are the most frequently prescribed psychotropic drugs. Also, “the benzodiazepines, which are now among the world’s most widely prescribed drugs” are “not only potentially addictive, but can also cause serious side effects, e.g. depression, dizziness, hypotension, muscle weakness and impaired coordination.” Valium, Xanax, Ativan and Klonopin are all benzodiazepines and I write more about these medications and why they are so problematic here.
Here are some really interesting facts from the press release/study:
- The two fragrances vertacetal-coeur (VC) and the chemical variation (PI24513) were … able to increase the GABA effect by more than five times and thus act as strongly as the known drugs.
- Injected or inhaled, the fragrances generated a calming effect.
- 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.
Here is a link to the 2010 paper: Fragrant dioxane derivatives identify beta1-subunit-containing GABAA receptors. I’ll be honest, it was challenging read for me and when I read the press release and actual paper at first, I wasn’t even sure they were talking about the same thing. You won’t find any mention of jasmine in the study, but instead will find vertacetal-coeur.
As I mentioned above, some organizations felt it was a long stretch to extrapolate to humans. The NHS in the UK was one example, publishing this:
Although some anti-anxiety medications are also known to interact with GABA receptors, it is far too soon to suggest that the effects of jasmine are similar to a recognised treatment for anxiety such as valium. People taking prescribed medication for anxiety should not change their treatment based on this study.
New 2019 research on jasmine for labor anxiety
However, a paper published just this month, A Systematic Review on the Anxiolytic Effect of Aromatherapy during the First Stage of Labor confirms the use of jasmine for reducing anxiety during the first stage of labor (in humans):
It is recommended that aromatherapy could be applied as a complementary therapy for reducing anxiety during the first stage of labor, but methodologically rigorous studies should be conducted in this area.
A total of 14 published papers and 2 unpublished papers were part of the review and other essential oils identified in the review for easing anxiety during labor include: rose, clary sage, geranium and frankincense, chamomile, bitter orange, sweet orange, peppermint, mandarin orange and clove.
Hopefully the NHS in the UK will update their article to include this new review.
Jasmine for other anxiety situations and feedback from real people
I feel very comfortable extrapolating this anxiety-reducing effect of jasmine during labor to other anxiety situations until we have more research.
I also asked folks on Facebook: “Do you use jasmine essential oil and love it? I’m working on a blog post on how jasmine impacts GABA levels and helps ease anxiety and I’d love to include some feedback (good or bad) in the blog. Care to share?” Here is some of the feedback –
Debra: “Never knew there was a Jasmine essential oil… love the smell of fresh Jasmine…will have to look out for it on days when I just need a bit more than what my antidepressant can do…”
Trish: “I use a blend from one of the companies called Joy that has Jasmine in it. It’s awesome, lightens the spirit, makes the day go happier. I use it as a perfume.”
Jessica: “I just started using it.. I really love it! I was using for facial purposes and then read it was good for anxiety and I do feel calm when using and just smelling it really.”
How to get some of the calming benefits of jasmine
There are many ways to enjoy the calming effects of jasmine. Here are some ideas for you:
- Diffuse the jasmine essential oil alone in combination with other calming essential oils like lavender and one of the citrus oils like neroli or lemon. The Joy blend that Trish mentions above has bergamot, ylang ylang, geranium, lemon, coriander, tangerine, jasmine, roman chamomile, palmarosa and rose. Dr. Mariza, suggests this “Simply Soothing Diffuser Blend” in her new book The Essential Oils Hormone Solution (my review here)– 2 drops neroli, 2 drops jasmine and 2 drops ylang ylang essential oil
- Use it topically with a carrier oil for a massage, alone or in a blend as above
- Do what Trish suggests and use it as a perfume (I currently do this with neroli and am now going to try some jasmine)
- Bring fresh jasmine flowers into your home or get a jasmine pot plant
- Enjoy it in a tea. Organic India has a lovely tulsi tea that contains chamomile and jasmine. If you recall, tulsi or holy basil is an adaptogenic herb which has anti-stress effects
- If you can tolerate caffeine, enjoy some Jasmine Oolong tea. Research suggests that the fragrant compounds in the tea “were absorbed by the brain and thereby potentiated the GABAA receptor response…and may therefore have a tranquillizing effect on the brain.”
Next steps: jasmine and GABA or jasmine alone?
It’s hard to know if jasmine used in any of the above ways will be enough to boost your GABA levels and ease your anxiety completely. The best way to find out is to try and see how you feel. It’s all very promising given that the 2010 study found that the compounds they used were able to increase the GABA effect by more than five times.
Until I’ve had clients use jasmine alone for this purpose, I’m still going to recommend the amino acid GABA (based on the questionnaire and a trial) and will suggest concurrent use of jasmine in some way. Once GABA levels have been boosted and all the other changes have been made (diet, blood sugar control, gut health, adrenals, low zinc, low vitamin B6 etc.), jasmine alone may be enough to keep GABA levels on an even keel.
However, right now I do see jasmine as a viable approach that is worth considering if you’re in the midst of tapering from a benzodiazepine and are not able to tolerate GABA and other oral supplements.
I’d love to get your feedback on jasmine and GABA and how you feel both help you (or have helped) with anxiety, depression, sleep or aggression? And if either has helped you taper off your benzodiazepine?
Please also share your favorite ways to use jasmine.
Feel free to post your questions here too.
Additional Anxiety Resources