Objectives: The objective of this study was to evaluate the potential anxiolytic effect of sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) aroma in healthy volunteers submitted to an anxiogenic situation.
Design: Forty (40) male volunteers were allocated to five different groups for the inhalation of sweet orange essential oil (test aroma: 2.5, 5, or 10 drops), tea tree essential oil (control aroma: 2.5 drops), or water (nonaromatic control: 2.5 drops). Immediately after inhalation, each volunteer was submitted to a model of anxiety, the video-monitored version of the Stroop Color-Word Test (SCWT).
Outcome measures: Psychologic parameters (state-anxiety, subjective tension, tranquilization, and sedation) and physiologic parameters (heart rate and gastrocnemius electromyogram) were evaluated before the inhalation period and before, during, and after the SCWT.
Results: Unlike the control groups, the individuals exposed to the test aroma (2.5 and 10 drops) presented a lack of significant alterations (p>0.05) in state-anxiety, subjective tension and tranquillity levels throughout the anxiogenic situation, revealing an anxiolytic activity of sweet orange essential oil. Physiologic alterations along the test were not prevented in any treatment group, as has previously been observed for diazepam.
Conclusions: Although more studies are needed to find out the clinical relevance of aromatherapy for anxiety disorders, the present results indicate an acute anxiolytic activity of sweet orange aroma, giving some scientific support to its use as a tranquilizer by aromatherapists.