Purpose: It has been reported that mental stress is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular events and impairs coronary circulation. Lavender aromatherapy, one of the most popular complementary treatments, is recognized as a beneficial mental relaxation therapy. However, no study has examined the effect of this therapy on coronary circulation. We aimed to assess the effect of lavender aromatherapy on coronary circulation by measuring coronary flow velocity reserve (CFVR) with noninvasive transthoracic Doppler echocardiography (TTDE).
Material and methods: We enrolled 30 young healthy men (mean age 34+/-4.7 years, range 24-40 years). Coronary flow velocities in the left anterior descending coronary artery were recorded by TTDE at rest and during hyperemia induced with an intravenous infusion of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). CFVR was calculated as the ratio of hyperemic to basal mean diastolic flow velocity. CFVR was assessed at baseline and immediately after lavender aromatherapy (four drops of essential oil diluted with 20 ml of hot water and inhaled for 30 min). Simultaneously, serum cortisol was measured as a marker of stress hormones. To exclude the relaxation effects of rest, the same measurements were repeated in the same volunteers without aromatherapy as a control study.
Results: CFVR measurements were obtained in all volunteers (100%). Blood pressure and heart rate responses to ATP infusion were not affected by lavender aromatherapy. Serum cortisol significantly decreased after lavender aromatherapy (8.4+/-3.6 to 6.3+/-3.3, p<0.05), but remained unchanged in controls (9.1+/-3.5 to 8.1+/-3.9, p=ns). In addition, CFVR significantly increased after lavender aromatherapy (3.8+/-0.87 to 4.7+/-0.90, p<0.001), but not in controls (3.9+/-0.8 to 3.9+/-0.8, p=ns).
Conclusions: Lavender aromatherapy reduced serum cortisol and improved CFVR in healthy men. These findings suggest that lavender aromatherapy has relaxation effects and may have beneficial acute effects on coronary circulation.