Bergamot essential oil (BEO), Citrus aurantium subsp. bergamia (Risso) Wright & Arn. (Rutaceae), is used widely in aromatherapy to reduce stress and anxiety despite limited scientific evidence. A previous study showed that BEO significantly increased gamma-aminobutyric acid levels in rat hippocampus, suggesting potential anxiolytic properties. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of BEO (1.0%, 2.5% and 5.0% w/w) administered to rats on both anxiety-related behaviours (the elevated plus-maze (EPM) and hole-board tests) and stress-induced levels of plasma corticosterone in comparison with the effects of diazepam. Inhalation of BEO (1% and 2.5%) and injection of diazepam (1 mg/kg, i.p.) significantly increased the percentage of open arm entries on the EPM. The percentage time spent in the open arms was also significantly enhanced following administration of either BEO (2.5% and 5%) or diazepam. Total arm entries were significantly increased with the highest dose (5%), suggesting an increase in locomotor activity. In the hole-board test, 2.5% BEO and diazepam significantly increased the number of head dips. 2.5% BEO and diazepam attenuated the corticosterone response to acute stress caused by exposure to the EPM. In conclusion, both BEO and diazepam exhibited anxiolytic-like behaviours and attenuated HPA axis activity by reducing the corticosterone response to stress.
Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.