Agarwood Essential Oil Ameliorates Restrain Stress-Induced Anxiety and Depression by Inhibiting HPA Axis Hyperactivity

Wang S, Wang C, Yu Z, Wu C, Peng D, Liu X, Liu Y, Yang Y, Guo P, Wei J
International Journal of Molecular Sciences,


In our previous investigation, we found that agarwood essential oil (AEO) has a sedative-hypnotic effect. Sedative-hypnotic drugs usually have an anxiolytic effect, where concomitant anxiety and depression are a common comorbidity. Therefore, this study further investigated the anxiolytic and antidepressant effects of AEO using a series of animal behavior tests on a restraint stress-induced mice model. The elevated plus maze (EPM) test, the light dark exploration (LDE) test, and the open field (OF) test demonstrated that AEO has a significant anxiolytic effect. Simultaneously, the tail suspension (TS) test and the forced swimming (FS) test illuminated that AEO has an antidepressant effect with the immobility time decreased. Stress can cause cytokine and nitric oxide (NO) elevation, and further lead to hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis hyperactivity. AEO was shown to dose-dependently inhibit the levels of cytokines, including interleukin 1α (IL-1α), IL-1β, and IL-6 in serum, significantly decrease the mRNA level of neural nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus, and inhibit the nNOS protein level in the hippocampus. Concomitant measurements of the HPA axis upstream regulator corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) and its receptor CRFR found that AEO significantly decreases the gene expression of CRF, and significantly inhibits the gene transcription and protein expression of CRFR in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus. Additionally, AEO dose-dependently reduces the concentrations of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and corticosterone (CORT) downstream of the HPA axis, as measured by ELISA kits. These results together demonstrate that AEO exerts anxiolytic and antidepressant effects which are related to the inhibition of CRF and hyperactivity of the HPA axis.


Wang S, Wang C, Yu Z, et al. Agarwood Essential Oil Ameliorates Restrain Stress-Induced Anxiety and Depression by Inhibiting HPA Axis Hyperactivity. Int J Mol Sci. 2018;19(11)

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