Recently, an essential oil of selected quality produced from the flowering tops of Lavandula angustifolia Mill. by steam distillation (Silexan) has been approved in Germany for the treatment of restlessness in case of anxious mood. Based on the observed clinical effects, it has been speculated that lavender oil may exert benzodiazepine-like action including the known dependence and abuse potential of this class of drugs. Although no evidence for such an activity was generated during the long-standing medicinal use of lavender oil, further preclinical investigations were now conducted to evaluate this potential side effect in more detail. Twelve adult, male, Sprague-Dawley rats were trained to discriminate the benzodiazepine drug diazepam (2 mg/kg i.p.) from saline using a two-lever operant procedure. After approximately 40 training sessions the majority of rats learned the discrimination and pre-treatment with ascending doses of diazepam (0.3-2 mg/kg i.p.) produced a dose related generalization to the diazepam cue. In these same animals Silexan was administered to see if animals recognized the drug as "diazepam-like" i.e. generalized to diazepam or "saline-like". Silexan tested at doses 3-30 mg/kg i.p. produced almost exclusively (>90%) saline-like responding. Also there was no effect of Silexan on response rate, i.e. rate of lever pressing, at any dose suggesting that the test article is well tolerated and does not exert a sedating effect. In sum, Silexan has no diazepam-like interoceptive property in adult, male rats. This suggests that Silexan does not share the potential of benzodiazepines to induce the development of tolerance, dependence and addiction.
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