Taking a deep sniff of lavender before you settle down for a horror film might stop you getting so scared - but only if you are a woman, a study has found.
Men should avoid the smell unless they crave a more unsettling experience, a paper being presented to the British Psychological Society suggests.
Volunteers were given either capsules containing lavender or a placebo. Their physiological responses to neutral, scary and light-hearted film clips were then observed. Women who took lavender had an increased heart rate variation - an indicator of a more relaxed state - during all three films. But men in fact displayed more symptoms of stress - including sweaty palms - during the scary film if they had taken a capsule containing lavender.
Ingesting rather than inhaling lavender was chosen as it would be impossible to provide a placebo if people could smell what they were taking, said lead researcher Belinda Bradely from the University of Central Lancashire.