Therapeutic Benefits of Terpene Linalol
Linalool is not specific to cannabis. Its characteristic lavender scent with a hint of spiciness is common to over 200 types of plants. In fact, it's so common that even those who don't use cannabis end up consuming more than two grams of linalool each year through their food. It may sound like a lot, but there is very little risk of side effects. Linalool does not stay in your body for long and does not accumulate like cannabinoids which are stored in fatty tissue in the body and brain.
The therapeutic benefits of Linalool
Why would so many different plants produce linalool? Its antimicrobial properties protect the plant and represent potential therapeutic use in humans. It is not known whether it was used as an early antibiotic, but linalool (often in the form of the stems and leaves of lavender or peanut) has been used in traditional medicine practices for its sedative and antiepileptic properties.
Exposure to Linalool odors induces anxiolytic effects in mice
Mice exposed to linalool vapors exhibit reduced levels of anxiety and lower depressive behaviors. During these tests, mice exposed to linalool vapors spend more time in fearful environments and they will continue to work to escape a seemingly hopeless situation. It's not exactly like testing for anxiety and depression in the clinic, but in these well-validated measurements, linalool appears to help.
Linalool also makes the immune system more resistant to the destructive effects of stress. Stress causes a change in the distribution of white blood cells in the body (ie cells of the immune system); the percentage of lymphocytes decreases and neutrophils increase. In rats, linalool prevented this change and thus prevented stress-induced changes in the way rats' DNA was expressed. Interestingly, the authors believed that this protection was due to the ability of linalool to activate the body's parasympathetic response, which is activated when the body rests and digests food, consistent with the anti-anxiety effects of linalool.
How does Linalol affect the brain?
Some studies indicate that the behavioral effects of linalool may be largely influenced by its effects on the brain. One solution is to block receptors for the main brain excitatory chemical, glutamate, which may explain the potentially antiepileptic properties of linalool in some forms of epilepsy. This terpene also has the ability to increase the effect of other sedatives, such as pentobarbital.
In addition, linalool can relax muscles and have analgesic effects through additional distinctive mechanisms. For example, linalool reduces the signaling force of acetylcholine, a chemical in the brain needed for muscle contraction and movement. Linalool can have numbing effects by reducing the excitability of cells in the spinal cord that send pain signals to the brain.
Some of the pain relief abilities of linalool can be attributed to its increased levels of adenosine, an inhibitory chemical in the brain that is particularly blocked by caffeine. Together, this multitude of nervous system targets contributes to its sedative, anxiety-reducing, and pain-relieving effects.
These effects provide fundamental support for the benefits of linalool in the treatment of pain. In one study, obese patients who had gastric band surgery were exposed to linalool-rich lavender oil vapor or an unscented control. Only 46% of patients who inhaled lavender oil needed postoperative opioids, compared to 82% of the control group. Additionally, the morphine requirements of those in the lavender group were nearly half that of the control group, suggesting that linalool may reduce the need for opioid-based pain treatment after surgery.
Potential Benefits of Linalool in Alzheimer's Disease
Perhaps the most interesting therapeutic use of linalool is its emerging potential as a new treatment for Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease is a progressive and currently irreversible disease caused by the build-up of brain plaques and cellular tangles that lead to brain degeneration. This degeneration causes severe memory impairment and cognitive impairment. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer's disease and current treatment strategies are largely ineffective in recovering function. This has led scientists to seek techniques to reduce plaques and tangles in an attempt to reverse the course of the disease and restore normal brain function.
A promising study published in 2016 indicates that linalool is a potential treatment for Alzheimer's disease. In a genetic mouse model of Alzheimer's disease, linalool reversed many behavioral and cognitive impairments associated with the disease. Additionally, it reduced the number of brain plaques and cellular tangles that define disease and contribute to brain degeneration.
The terpene linalool still has many hurdles to overcome before entering the clinic. But these studies on Alzheimer's disease, combined with previous studies showing beneficial effects on pain, anxiety, and depression, underscore the importance of further research into the therapeutic benefits of linalool and other terpenes in cannabis.