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Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender (Lavandula) is a fragrant group of plants native to the mountainous areas of the Mediterranean. With over 25 different species worldwide, its fresh flowers are cultivated to make lavender essential oil.1

Derived from the Latin root lavare, meaning to wash, lavender essential oil can often be found in soaps, skin care items, bath products and lotions.1

Traditionally, lavender has been used to treat anxiety, colds, stress, upset stomach, loss of appetite and problems with the liver or kidneys.4

Today, lavender essential oil is one of the most commonly used forms of aromatherapy. Known for its calming and stress-releasing effects, lavender remains one of the most popular scents worldwide.

Lavender Essential Oil Uses

How to Use Lavender Essential Oil – Lavender is often incorporated into various natural treatments, beauty routines, and around the house. Below are some of the most common uses for lavender essential oil.

Massage
Adding 3-4 drops of lavender essential oil into a carrier oil (like coconut, jojoboa, or almond) makes a divine, natural massage oil. If you’d like to make a larger batch to have on hand for your next massage, make sure to store it in a dark glass container.

Skincare
Lavender essential oils can also be used topically. Add 1-2 drops of essential oils, lavender in particular, to approximately 1 Tbsp. of carrier oil, or into your favorite unscented lotion and apply to the desired area.1

Aromatherapy
For aromatherapy, add 2-4 drop of lavender essential oil to 2-3 cups of boiling hot water or a diffuser. Studies suggest inhalation for approximately 30 minutes in a well-ventilated space. This method is most commonly recommended for anxiety, insomnia and depression.1

Add to a bath
Adding lavender essential oil to a hot bath is known to promote relaxation and calmness. Experts recommended combining up to 5 drops with 1 Tbsp. of carrier oil, and adding it to the bath water.

How to make lavender essential oil at home – While commercially available, pure essential oils are usually manufactured using a steam distillation process, you can easily make a lavender-infused oil at home.

Take several sprigs of fresh cut lavender and place in a glass container with a tight-fitting lid. Pour in a pale oil of your choosing and seal the jar. Let set for at least 48 hours in a warm or sunny location. Strain several times with a cheesecloth or mesh strainer into a smaller container until desired strength of fragrance is achieved.

Lavender Essential Oil Benefits

What does lavender essential oil do? – As one of the most well-researched essential oils, lavender has demonstrated anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and analgesic (pain relieving) properties. Further, lavender has antibacterial agents that when applied topically, are claimed to aid wound healing and dry skin.

Based upon the latest scientific research, we share the top 7 scientifically-backed benefits of lavender essential oil.

Sleep Quality 
Traditionally, lavender was inserted into pillowcases to act as a sleep aid for restless sleepers.
Today, studies suggest that the essential oil lavender may be able to slow down activity of the central nervous system. This calming effect may result in better sleep quality, reduced anxiety and better mood.1

Lavender may also be a complimentary treatment for insomnia and sleep loss due to generalized anxiety disorder. Several studies have noted that lavender aromatherapy may modestly improve sleep quality in these populations, with larger research still needed.2

Anxiety 
In two separate studies, lavender essential oil has been used as aromatherapy to reduce anxiety and improve overall mood in dental offices. One study, published in Physiology & Behavior, concluded that lavender was more effective at decreasing anxiety than the aroma of orange essential oil, music or nothing in the dental office lobby.2

Lavender essential oil aromatherapy has also been implemented in trauma settings with some success. Individuals admitted to an ICU wing who were exposed to lavender aromatherapy reported less anxiety and improved mood. The calming effect appears to be temporary, and only while the essential oil is present.2

Reduced anxiety due to lavender aromatherapy has also been self-reported in students who experience anxiety over tests.2

Relaxation
Stop, and smell the roses? Try lavender. Several studies have examined the effect of essential oils, lavender particularly, on reducing stress and promoting relaxation.

In animal models, lavender has been observed to have anti-aggressive properties. In humans, one scientific trial indicated that participants self-reported less feeling of frustration following lavender essential oil used in bath aromatherapy.2

Pain Control
In recent years, lavender has been noted to have anxiolytic (pain reducing) properties. When administered to post-biopsy patients, those who received oxygen infused with lavender essential oil reported better pain control than patients who received normal oxygen.1

Reduce Hair Loss
Lavender essential oils may also reduce hair loss in some conditions. A recent study investigated the effects of essential oils on promoting hair growth for people suffering from alopecia areata (an autoimmune disease). Patients who massaged their scalp with essential oils (lavender and several others) saw a significant increase in hair growth, compared to those who massaged their scalp without the essential oils.1 

Heart Health 
Keep your heart healthy with lavender essential oil. Both a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure have been noted in separate aromatherapy studies.As an added bonus, volunteers self-reported feeling more fresh, good and active after the aromatherapy.5

Migraine Reflief 
According to a 2016 study, the next time you have a migraine you may want to reach for lavender essential oils.  Over a three-month period, individuals who suffered from migraines combined the essential oil lavender to their daily routine, ingesting a specially prepared mixture of water and lavender essential oil

While there is no cure for migraines, results indicated that by the end of the clinical trial, headache severity was reduced by approximately 50%. Headache frequency also decreased by 60%.4 

Note: This was a specially prepared lavender essential oil for a clinical setting. Commercially available essential oils should not be ingested, unless under the guidance of a professional.

Lavender Infographic

Side Effects of Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender appears to be well-tolerated and generally regarded as safe for most people. Users should keep in mind that herbs contain active ingredients that may cause an allergic reaction. Headaches, nausea, chills, vomiting and contact dermatitis have been reported by individuals who inhaled or applied lavender to their skin.1,10

To date, there are no known interactions between lavender and medications. However, lavender has a calming effect and may possibly enhance the effects of depressants that target the central nervous system.1

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are advised to avoid using lavender. Always read and follow the label to make sure a product is right for you.

Scientific Research Referenced in this Article

  1. University of Maryland Medical Center. (2015, January 2). Lavender. Retrieved January 20, 2016 from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/lavender – View reference
  2. Chien, L., Cheng, S. L., & Liu, C. F. (2012). The Effect of Lavender Aromatherapy on Autonomic Nervous System in Midlife Women with Insomnia. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012, 1-8. doi:1155/2012/740813
  3. Lewith, G. T., Godfrey, A. D., & Prescott, P. (2005). A Single-Blinded, Randomized Pilot Study Evaluating the Aroma of Lavandula augustifolia as a Treatment for Mild Insomnia. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine11(4), 631-637. doi:1089/acm.2005.11.631
  4. Lehrner, J., Marwinski, G., Lehr, S., Johren, P., & Deecke, L. (2005). Ambient odors of orange and lavender reduce anxiety and improve mood in a dental office. Physiology & Behavior86(1-2), 92-95. doi:1016/j.physbeh.2005.06.031
  5. Dunn, C., Sleep, J., Collett, D. (1995). Sensing an improvement: an experimental study to evaluate the use of aromatherapy, massage and periods of rest in an intensive care unit. J Adv Nurs.21(1). 34-40. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7897075
  6. McCaffrey, R., Thomas, D.J., & Kinzelman, A.O. (2009). The effects of lavender and rosemary essential oils on test-taking anxiety among graduate nursing students . Holist Nurs Pract23(2):88-93. doi: 1097/HNP.0b013e3181a110aa
  7. Umezu, T. (2000). Behavioral effects of plant-derived essential oils in the geller type conflict test in mice. Jpn J Pharmacol.83(2),150- Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10928328
  8. SILVA, G. L., LUFT, C., LUNARDELLI, A., AMARAL, R. H., MELO, D. A., DONADIO, M. V., OLIVEIRA, J. R. (2015). Antioxidant, analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of lavender essential oil. Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências87(2), 1397-1408. doi:10.1590/0001-3765201520150056
  9. Rafie, S., Namjoyan, F., Golfakhrabadi, F., Yousefbeyk, F., & Hassanzadeh, A. (2016). Effect of lavender essential oil as a prophylactic therapy for migraine: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Journal of Herbal Medicine6(1), 18-23. doi:10.1016/j.hermed.2016.01.003
  10. Goiriz R, Delgado-Jiménez, Y., Sánchez-Pérez, J., García-Diez, A. (2007). Photoallergic contact dermatitis from lavender oil in topical ketoprofen. Contact Dermatitis57(6):381-2. DOI: 1111/j.1600-0536.2007.01102.x
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