Lavender and Attention
Though it can be challenging to find valid scientific papers regarding essential oils on the internet, I came across a particularly interesting one regarding the impact of lavendula angustifolia on sustained focus. Essential Oil of Lavender Inhibited the Decreased Attention during a Long-Term Task in Humans chronicles the experimental method and results of a study on the impact of the lavender aroma on attention and vigilance while engaged in a task for a long period of time. Not only are the results of this study noteworthy, but the article refers to similar prior studies and critiques the conflicting results that can occur in the absence of sound experimental protocol. This particular study was conducted with strict attention to the rigors of statistical significance and careful control of the experimental environment and method. The consideration given to controlling potentially confounding variables that were extraneous to the study’s aim provides for a high level of credibility in the results noted.
These researchers administered a carefully controlled dose of essential oil aroma, at a specific flow rate and pressure, to a fixed point maintained at 10 centimeters below each test subject’s nose. The control test condition was an absence of odor at the same flow rate, pressure, and position relative to the test subject(s). Aromas used in the experiment were lavendula angustifolia and eucalyptus globulus, presented in a randomized order with the controlled absence of aroma. The test subjects were seated at a computer, in a closed and controlled environment, with their head position fixed relative to the computer screen. The numbers 0 – 9 were flashed upon the screen in a random fashion at a rate of one number per second and the subjects were instructed to monitor the numbers on the screen and respond to only the number 0, by pushing a button with their hand. The accuracy of their responses as well as their time to respond was measured in order to evaluate any changes in either measure as the time at task increased. The experimental results showed that after a time period of 15 minutes at task, the inhalation of lavendula angustifolia increased the percentage of accurate responses; yet did not impact the percentage of incorrect responses. Reaction times measured throughout the test indicate that those in the absence of any aroma were consistently greater than those during the presence of the lavendula angustifolia aroma. The authors of this study conclude that the aroma of lavendula angustifolia maintains attentiveness over time and reduces human error – a provocative point, given the tranquilizing effect of lavender’s constituent linalool.
Kuniyoshi SHIMIZU, Mayumi GYOKUSEN, Shingo KITAMURA, Takahiro KAWABE, Tomoaki KOZAKI, Keita ISHIBASHI, Ryusuke IZUMI, Wataru MIZUNOYA, Koichiro OHNUKI and Ryuichiro KONDO, “Essential Oil of Lavender Inhibited the Decreased Attention during a Long-Term Task in Humans”, Biosci. Biotechnol. Biochem., Vol. 72, 1944-1947 (2008)
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