In a preliminary experiment, we found that lavender essential oil relaxes vascular smooth muscle. Thus, the present experiments were designed to investigate the relaxation mechanism of linalyl acetate as the major ingredient of lavender essential oil in rabbit carotid artery specimens. Linalyl acetate produced sustained and progressive relaxation during the contraction caused by phenylephrine. The relaxation effect of linalyl acetate at a concentration near the EC50 was partially but significantly attenuated by nitroarginine as an inhibitor of nitric oxide synthase, 1H-[1,2,4]oxadiazolo[4,3-a]quinoxaline-1-one as an inhibitor of guanylyl cyclase, or by the denudation of endothelial cells. In specimens without endothelium, the phenylephrine-induced contraction and phosphorylation of myosin light chain (MLC) were significantly attenuated after the pretreatment with linalyl acetate. The relaxation caused by linalyl acetate in the endothelium-denuded specimens was clearly inhibited by calyculin A as an inhibitor of MLC phosphatase, although not by ML-9 as an inhibitor of MLC kinase. Furthermore, suppression of the phenylephrine-induced contraction and MLC phosphorylation with linalyl acetate was canceled by the pretreatment with calyculin A. These results suggest that linalyl acetate relaxes the vascular smooth muscle through partially activation of nitric oxide/cyclic guanosine monophosphate pathway, and partially MLC dephosphorylation via activating MLC phosphatase.