Sedative effects of vapor inhalation of agarwood oil and spikenard extract and identification of their active components


Agarwood oil and spikenard extract were examined for their sedative activity using a spontaneous vapor administration system. It was shown that inhalation of agarwood oil vapor sedated mice. The main volatile constituents of the oil were found to be benzylacetone [agarwood oil from a Hong Kong market (1)], or α-gurjunene and (+)-calarene [agarwood oil made in Vietnam (2)]. A hexane extract of spikenard contained a lot of calarene, and its vapor inhalation had a sedative effect on mice. Individual principles benzylacetone, calarene, and α-gurjunene were administered to mice, which reproduced the result of the corresponding oil or extract. However, the most effective dose of the compounds was lower than their original content in the oil and extract (benzylacetone 0.1%, calarene 0.17%, α-gurjunene 1.5%).

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8


  1. 1.

    Okugawa H, Ueda R, Matsumoto K, Kawanishi K, Kato K (2000) Effects of sesquiterpenoids from “Oriental incenses” on acetic acid-induced writhing and D2 and 5-HT2A receptors in rat brain. Phytomedicine 7(5):417–422

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Prabhu V, Karanth KS, Rao A (1994) Effects of Nardostachys jatamansi on biogenic amines and inhibitory amino acids in the rat brain. Planta Med 60(2):114–117

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Itokawa H, Masuyama K, Morita H, Takeya K (1993) Cytotoxic sesquiterpene from Nardostachys chinensis. Chem Pharm Bull 41(6):1183–1185

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Lis-Balchin M, Hart S (1999) Studies on the mode of action of the essential oil of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia P. Miller). Phytother Res 13(6):540–542

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Kovar KA, Gropper B, Friess D, Ammon HP (1987) Blood levels of 1,8-cineole and locomotor activity of mice after inhalation and oral administration of rosemary oil. Planta Med 53(4):315–318

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Bais HP, Dattatreya BS, Ravishankar GA (2003) Production of volatile compounds by hairy root cultures of Cichorium intybus L. under the influence of fungal elicitors and their analysis using solid-phase micro extraction gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. J Sci Food Agric 83(8):769–774

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Djerassi D, Connoly JD, Faulkner DJ, Mori K, Nakanishi K, Ourisson G, Raphael RA, Shamma M, Tamm CH (1993) Dictionary of natural products. Chapman and Hall, London

  8. 8.

    Yang JS, Wang YL, Su YL, He DH, Zheng QT, Yang J (1989) Studies on the chemical constituents of Aquilaria sinensis (Lour) Gilg. III. Elucidation of the structure of isobaimuxinol and isolation and identification of the constituents of lower boiling fraction of the volatile oil. Yao Xue Xue Bao 24(4):264–268

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Dunwiddie TV, Worth T (1982) Sedative and anticonvulsant effects of adenosine analogs in mouse and rat. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 220(1):70–76

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Lau CE, Falk JL (1994) Tolerance to oral and IP caffeine: locomotor activity and pharmacokinetics. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 48(2):337–344

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Buchbauer G, Jirovetz L, Jager W, Dietrich H, Plank C (1991) Aromatherapy: evidence for sedative effects of the essential oil of lavender after inhalation. Z Naturforsch [C] 46(11–12):1067–1072

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Paul C, Konig WA, Muhle H (2001) Pacifigorgianes and tamariscene as constituents of Frullania tamarisci and Valeriana officinalis. Phytochemistry 57(2):307–313

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Abraham WR, Kieslich K, Stumpf B, Ernst L (1992) Microbial oxidation of tricyclic sesquiterpenoids containing a dimethylcyclopropane ring. Phytochemistry 31(11):3749–3755

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Sugawara Y, Hara C, Tamura K, Fujii T, Nakamura T, Aoki T (1998) Sedative effect on humans of inhalation of essential oil of linalool: sensory evaluation and physiological measurements using optically active linalools. Anal Chim Acta 365(1):293–299

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    UNEP (2007) Screening information dataset for high volume chemicals.

  16. 16.

    Kagawa D, Jokura H, Ochiai R, Tokimitsu I, Tsubone H (2003) The sedative effects and mechanism of action of cedrol inhalation with behavioral pharmacological evaluation. Planta Med 69:637–641

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


This work was partially supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (No. 17406003 for M. Ito) provided by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Sciences. This work was also partly supported by the 21st Century COE program “Knowledge Information Infrastructure for Genome Science.”

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Gisho Honda.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Takemoto, H., Ito, M., Shiraki, T. et al. Sedative effects of vapor inhalation of agarwood oil and spikenard extract and identification of their active components. J Nat Med 62, 41–46 (2008).

Download citation


  • Agarwood oil
  • Nardostachys chinensis
  • Spikenard
  • Sedative effect
  • Inhalation
  • Spontaneous motor activity