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Coconut Fragrance and Cardiovascular Response to Laboratory Stress: Results of Pilot Testing

Mezzacappa, Elizabeth Sibolboro PhD; Arumugam, Uma MD; Chen, Sylvia (Yue) BA; Stein, Traci R. PhD, MPH; Oz, Mehmet MD; Buckle, Jane PhD, RN

doi: 10.1097/HNP.0b013e3181fbb89c
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There is preliminary evidence that pleasant fragrances may alter response to stressors in different settings. This pilot study examined the effect of coconut fragrance on cardiovascular response to standard laboratory stressors. While inhaling coconut fragrance (n = 17) or air (n = 15), subjects performed a Stroop color-word task and a mental arithmetic task. Heart rate (HR), heart period variability (HPV) and blood pressure were measured during the 5-minute baseline, the task, and the recovery periods. The results indicated that subjects breathing coconut fragrance had higher HR and lower HPV than those who performed tasks while breathing air. HR response to mental arithmetic seemed to be blunted in the subjects breathing coconut; however, the lack of a difference in HPV seems to indicate that the blunting may be due to decreased sympathetic response, not decreased parasympathetic withdrawal under stress. Blood pressure recovery was slightly enhanced in subjects under coconut fragrance. Thus, the results of this pilot test suggest that coconut fragrance may alter cardiovascular activity both at rest and in response to stressors. Future experimentation should attempt to replicate and extend these findings in larger samples in clinical settings.

Behavioral Medicine Program (Drs Mezzacappa and Arumugam and Ms Chen), and Department of Surgery (Drs Stein and Oz), Columbia University, New York; and R. J. Buckle Associates, London (Dr Buckle).

Correspondence: Elizabeth Sibolboro Mezzacappa, PhD, Target Behavioral Response Laboratory RDAR-QES-D Bldg 3518, Picatinny Arsenal, NJ 07806 (elizabeth.mezzacappa@us.army.mil).

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.