"The major components of lavender oil were identified as 51% linalyl acetate and 35% linalool measured by gas chromatography."
When looking at the therapeutic uses of lavender there have been many explanations as to what gives lavender its sedating effects. It is important to start first off with a bit of a chemistry lesson and how it is that all of these medicines, interventions and even chemicals we breathe in our air for survival, impact the entire system. The general explanations of chemistry speak of molecules locked together with bonding forces that gives potential in stored energy. The dynamic nature of human life is defined by the constant changing of these molecules, as most of human physiology is biochemical reactions and consequences there of. In looking at some of the research spoken to it was said that gaba-aminobutyric acid (GABA), figure 1, a neurotransmitter used in the nervous system, was increased in the body after ingestion or aerial infusion of lavender oil.
Figure 1. gaba-aminobutyric acid chemical structure
When looking at these chemical structures there are, again, a few chemical principles that need to be understood when looking at the biological activity of essential oils and their compounds. When the body has inhaled, absorbed, or ingested a chemical substance and it is flowing in the blood stream there will be an impact on the local environment. When looking at how oxygen levels increase and support anxiety attacks, COPD patients, etc, why are there not other natural inhalants such as eucalyptus, and Young Living’s Thieves blend, studied for relaxing the airway and clearing the lungs as well? When looking at urinary metabolites of trials using aerial diffusion of lavender there are many active compounds of linayl acetate, figure 2, and linalool, figure 3, amongst many others found to influence dopamine, glutamate and benzodiazepine pathways. When looking at these chemical structures, similarities are seen in the basic nature of these compounds, or how simple chemical reactions can alter and form secondary chemicals to increase the body’s natural neurotransmitters and endorphins.
Figure 2. Chemical structure of linayl acetate
When looking over the various chemical structures so far it does not seem to fit that that these chemical structures would be working in a similar nature to make the structure seen in figure 1; however, what if it could be shown that these chemical compounds could be acting as the building blocks for other compounds that the body will be making naturally?
Figure 3. Chemical structures of linalool.
Along with GABA, the body makes and uses other neurotransmitters for controlling the nervous system and ultimately the human form and cognition. Another one of these naturally occurring molecules is called dopamine, figure 4. Dopamine is a modern known neurotransmitter with the heroin epidemic and relentless opioid addiction in America, but it works with many processes in the body. Besides making people numb and "stoned" dopamine works in the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory system, genitourinary system and can modulate many of the body’s processes. When these systems break down or are off balance, there are major consequences, as seen in the changes during opioid withdraw, overdoses and diseases such as Parkinson's disease.
Figure 4. Dopamine chemical structure
When looking the commonalities between the major components of lavender oil and now the chemical structure of dopamine, it is apparent that there may be only a few changes necessary for these products to act as neurotransmitters or be developed into by the body's natural mechanisms. Similar approaches are used when looking at the way some modern chemical therapies generate change in people living with disease states. Levodopa, figure 5, is a chemical developed for use in Parkinson's patients, as it reduces tremors and symptoms. A comparison of this to the structure of dopamine can show why it is such an effective chemical for this condition.
Figure 5. levodopa chemical structure
When now looking into the use of lavender for holistic renewal in the cases of seizure disorders or mental instability, there can be more of an understanding to where the GABA pathway is stimulated in the use of lavender. When looking at the commonly used chemical, valproic acid, figure 6, and its derivatives for seizures and bipolar disorder, the history in the use of valerian root stands right in the modern medical community yet is not always honored or understood when speaking in terms of using essential oils and plant based therapy. When looking now at linalyl acetate and valproic acid there are similarities of GABA structures. There are benefits to the natural molecules that stand in the plants, yet the levodopa structure not only supplies the base of the dopamine molecule, but the "leaving group" will essentially be a molecule similar to GABA as well! Where we bring technology into healing and balancing the body, mind and spirit is a choice to everyone, it is always nice to see the options that present themselves in nature and in research designs.
Figure 6. Chemical structure of valproic acid
A solid understanding of chemistry can bring a whole new level to your knowledge of the human body and the way nature can provide for us. When we seek to understand and heal ourselves, nature will provide everything we need. Just because the technology is there, this does not mean we must use it the way everyone else does. By diving into the chemistry of essential oils, we can generate a scientific foundation to their ancient healing properties and with that research will come the recognition of holistic healing practices. Win, win!
Live healthy, get Balanced!