Cinnamon, Peppermint May Help Put the Brakes on Driver Fatigue, Road Rage

You might find the scent of peppermint or cinnamon relaxing in your next traffic jam.

These two smells will not change the traffic pattern, reduce the distance between you and your destination, or speed up your commute. They might improve your driving mood. Research has shown that peppermint and cinnamon may reduce driver fatigue, improve alertness, and alleviate frustration behind the wheel. These findings were presented at the Association for Chemical Reception Sciences’ conference in Sarasota.

“Given these results, it’s reasonable to expect that the presentation peppermint or cinnamon smell while driving may produce an alert and conscientious driver and minimize fatigue associated with prolonged driving,” Bryan Raudenbush PhD, associate professor of psychology at West Virginia’s Wheeling Jesuit University.

Automotive Aromatherapy

Raudenbush claims that past research has shown peppermint and cinnamon odors increase motivation, performance and alertness, while cutting fatigue and stimulating your brain. He recently conducted a driving simulation to test these scents. Participants “drove” under three conditions: no smell, cinnamon, and peppermint. For 30 seconds, peppermint and cinnamon were passed through oxygen concentrators every 15 minutes. It was noted that drivers were awake, alert, moody, productive, and mentally performing well.

Road Results

Raudenbush’s findings are here:

  • Driving for long periods of time can lead to anger, fatigue, physical demands, and decreased energy.
  • Driving with peppermint is less stressful and more fatigue-free.
  • Driving frustrations can be reduced by using peppermint or cinnamon.
  • Both cinnamon and peppermint increase alertness while driving.

Researchers write that “Periodic administration” of these odors may be beneficial for maintaining alertness, decreasing highway accidents, and fatalities.

Updated 01/24/22