The sleep-enhancing effect of valerian inhalation and sleep-shortening effect of lemon inhalation

Chem Senses. 2006 Oct;31(8):731-7. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjl015. Epub 2006 Jul 20.


We examined the effects of odorant inhalation on the sleep-wake states in rats. Odorants used in the experiment were clove, jasmine, lavender, lemon, peppermint, pine, rose, sandalwood, valerian, and ylang-ylang. Valerian and rose inhalation significantly prolonged the pentobarbital-induced sleeping time, whereas lemon inhalation significantly shortened it. The effect of valerian inhalation was markedly noticeable. In the anosmic rats, a significant effect of odorants on the pentobarbital sleep time was not seen. Electroencephalographic studies on natural sleep revealed that rose inhalation did not exert any significant effect on sleep, but a significant shortening in sleep latency and a significant prolonging in total sleep time were observed with valerian inhalation, whereas a significant prolonging in sleep latency was observed with lemon inhalation. Such effects of valerian and lemon inhalation were not admitted in anosmic rats. gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) transaminase assay indicates that valerian inhalation decreases the activity of the enzyme and enhances GABA activity. Although valerian has been reported to exert a good effect for sleep as a medicine for internal use, the present study is the first medical report suggesting that the inhalation of valerian may enhance the sleep. On the other hand, the present results may suggest the possibility that lemon inhalation may cause a worsening of insomnia symptoms.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Assay
  • Citrus / chemistry*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Inhalation
  • Male
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Oils / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sleep / drug effects*
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Sleep Stages / drug effects*
  • Sleep Stages / physiology
  • Transaminases / metabolism
  • Valerian / chemistry*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • Plant Oils
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Transaminases