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How It Works – Linalool from Lavender

How It Works – Linalool From Lavender

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Linalool is a fragrant alcohol terpene. The scent that we associate with lavender blossoms is largely due to linalool. The scent of linalool is very helpful to the terpene producer for many reasons. It attracts beneficial pollinating insects to plants and serves as a deterrent for other bugs like fleas, cockroaches and fruit flies.

Terpenes are common compounds made by plants and some insects and fungi. It has a resinous quality via texture. Alcohol terpenes are a combination of resinous and volatile. The alcohol part serves as transportation for the resinous part into the atmosphere. The drifting scent of linalool on a warm summer breeze sends a message over a wide area that insects pick up.

Bugs aren’t the only creatures that notice linalool. This monterpene is a broad spectrum antimicrobial. Both Gram positive and Gram naegative bacteria are repelled by linalool. It is commonly noted as an antibiotic in its use for food preservation in the industrial setting. It is also being studied for use in the agricultural setting as linalool can be easily mixed in small amounts (less than 2%) in feed for chickens instead of using prescription antibiotics. This use reduces the antibiotic resistance in farm animals considerably.

Linalool is a mild sedative. It calms the nerves of the smooth muscle tracts which includes the digestive system. This explains why lavender is so useful in soothing formulas or as strewing herbs for stress. The scent of linalool is helpful to the plant as it calms beneficial insects so they linger long enough to pollinate the myriad of blossoms.

A little goes a long way with lavender essential oil. Linalool makes up over 50% of lavender essential oil. Human noses are very sensitive to this terpene. The average person can detect the presence of linalool even if the concentration in a liquid is one part per million. Those using lavender do not want it to be overwhelming, we want it to be soothing and effective. Linalool is just one of the medicinal constituents of plants like lavender. The blend of chemicals work together to protect the plant and the plant user.

Lavender is just one of over 200 plants that produce linalool. This list includes oranges, bay laurels, thyme, cinnamon, coriander, birch, basil, hops, mugwort, cannabis and many mints. There are 3 plant families that produce the lion’s share of this terpene: the Lamiaceae (mint) family, the Lauraceae (laurel) family, and the Rutacea (citrus and rue) family. It’s just common scents.

Sue Sierralupe

Sue Sierralupé is a Certified Master Herbalist, Master Gardener and Sustainable Landscape Specialist. She is the clinic manager and lead herbalist at Occupy Medical clinic. Sue is author of The Pocket Herbal: Medicinal Plants that Changed the World and co-author of The Practical Herbalist Herbal Folios series. Follow her blog at Herbalism Manifesto for commentary on herbs, parenting, nutrition and a whole lot more.


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