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Lavender essential oil decreases stress response of horses


Simple and soft means are needed to manage horse stress. For instance, essential oils such as lavender oil contain active principles that may mitigate stress responses in humans and animals. Here we developed a protocol to test the effects of essential oil on equine stress response. We tested the effect of lavender oil on horse stress. Twenty-eight Welsh horse fillies were divided into two groups: horses treated with a roll-on with 2 mL of vegetable oil (control) and horses treated with 2 mL of 10% lavender essential oil in vegetable oil. Horses were then subjected to a series of stress tests. Heart rates and stress behavioral indicators were monitored during the 30 min of the stress tests. Saliva was collected. Blood from six horses was sampled after lavender essential oil application to follow plasma linalool content and antioxidant efficiency. Results show that stress indicators such as heart rate, alert postures and defecations are lower in lavender oil-treated horses. Lavender essential oil also modified salivary cortisol. Pharmacokinetics of linalool in plasma displayed a peak 20 min after lavender essential oil application, thus confirming the effect of lavender oil. Overall, our findings demonstrate that lavender essential oil reduces the response to stress of horses placed in stressful situations.

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The authors are grateful to Fabrice Reigner and Jean Marie Yvon (INRA Nouzilly, France) for their efficient help and for the blood sampling.

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Correspondence to Anne Poutaraud.

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Poutaraud, A., Guilloteau, L., Gros, C. et al. Lavender essential oil decreases stress response of horses. Environ Chem Lett 16, 539–544 (2018).

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  • Horse
  • Stress
  • Lavandula angustifolia
  • Essential oils
  • Pharmacokinetic
  • Antioxidant