Rosewood oil (RO) (Aniba rosaeodora Ducke) is rich in linalool, a monoterpene alcohol, which has well studied anxiolytic, sedative and anticonvulsant effects. The inhibition of the increases in cAMP protects against seizures in a diversity of models of epilepsy. In this paper, the principal aim was to investigate the effects of RO, (±)-linalool and (-)-linalool) on adenylate cyclase. They were tested in chick retinas and forskolin was used to stimulate the enzyme target. The phosphodiesterase inhibitor, 4-(3-butoxy-4-methoxybenzyl)-imidazolidin-2-one, and the non-selective adenosine receptor antagonist 3-isobutyl-methyl-xanthine (IBMX), were used to control the participation of phosphodiesterase and adenosine receptors in the resulting effects, respectively. The cAMP accumulation was measured by enzyme immune assay (EIA). Rosewood oil, (-)-linalool and (±)-linalool inhibited exclusively the cAMP accumulation stimulated by forskolin, even when adenosine receptors were blocked with IBMX. The IC50 values (in μ m concentration range) calculated from their concentration response–curves were not statistically different, however, the compounds presented a different relative efficacy. These results extend the range of subcellular mechanisms underlying the relaxant action of linalool on the central nervous system. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.