It might still feel grey and blustery as we progress from spring into summer, but one species is in its full glory right now ‑ the blowsy ivory flowers of gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides). Yet this exotic houseplant has much more to offer than mere visual appeal. Its creamy-white petals house structures that generate sweetly-scented compounds which not only fill a room with their rich, jasmine-like fragrance, but according to recent trials may also have a profound effect on your mood.
Research in Germany found that in behavioural tests on mice, simply inhaling such chemicals could markedly relieve anxiety and promote sleep. The study’s authors are doing more research into this area, to establish if such findings may be replicated in humans, which could pave the way to the development of scent-based anxiety medicines.
Remarkably, another scented compound found in gardenia, known as methyl jasmonate, can also be picked up by the nearby houseplants in your living room, through sensors in their leaves. The chemical was developed by plants as a warning signal to flag up to their neighbours that they were being attacked by pests such as aphids, so others could respond by boosting their defences.
A stunning flower that might just perk up both people and plants at this transitional time of year – I for one am getting out this week to pick up my own horticultural happy pill.