An ingredient in perfume significantly eases symptoms of tremor – a condition affecting one in 25 people over 40 – according to a new study.
Tremor is a brain disorder that triggers exaggerated shaking and occurs during movement, but not at rest. It usually involves the arms and hands, though the head, face and feet can also be affected.Octanol, a colourless fluid that is used to make artificial flavours as well as scents, is a form of alcohol.
Scientists begun investigating its use for tremor after observations that symptoms reduce significantly when sufferers drink alcohol.
According to researchers at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, around 80 per cent of patients have significant tremor reduction from drinking alcohol.
Now, they have turned to octanol as a safe form of alcohol that doesn’t cause the damage associated with alcoholic drinks.
Early research has shown octanol can be effective in easing symptoms, sometimes for hours. It also seems to work at a much lower dose than ethanol, the form of alcohol used in drinks.
In one study in Minneapolis, researchers gave patients a single dose of one milligram of octanol for each kilogram of their weight, and found it significantly decreased tremor for up to 90 minutes.
And in a small study at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, people who had octanol had fewer symptoms of tremor after five hours than those given a placebo.
It is thought tremor is caused by spontaneous activity in nerve cells in the areas of the brain that control movement.
One theory is that alcohol may help dampen this activity. It’s known that alcohol has some effect on this kind of movement because as well as reducing tremor, it can also cause it if drunk excessively.
“Essential tremor can cause significant distress or embarrassment,” the Daily Mail quoted Dr Nicholas Silver, consultant neurologist at The Walton Centre for Neurology and Neurosurgery, an NHS hospital in Liverpool, as saying.
“Some patients find they get useful benefits from alcohol, but this can give rise to regular drinking above the safe limits, which can damage nerve cells and lead to irreversible neurological problems.
“So, the potential emergence of a safe and non-intoxicating alternative is of great interest,” he noted.