Lavender is an herb sometimes recommended for the relief of anxiety. One of the most widely used remedies in aromatherapy, the plant’s essential oil is said to promote relaxation. Some research shows that lavender oil may possess sedative properties, which could play a key role in its potentially anxiety-reducing effects. Lavender has been used for restlessness, insomnia, anxiety, diabetes, GI distress, perineal discomfort following childbirth, chemoprevention, as an insect repellant, and as a food flavoring agent. However, there are limited clinical trials to support any therapeutic use for lavender.
Lavender Oil for Depression
Lavender oil benefits mood and has long been used to help battle depression. A study published by the International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice reported that 80-milligram capsules of lavender essential oil can help alleviate anxiety and depression. The study also showed that there were no adverse side effects of using lavender oil to treat anxiety and depression. This is great news since we know that synthetic medications and psychotropic drugs often have many negative side effects.
A 2012 study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice evaluated 28 women at high risk for postpartum depression and found that by diffusing lavender in their home, they had a significant reduction of postnatal depression and reduced anxiety disorder after a four-week treatment plan of lavender aromatherapy.
Yet another study showcasing that lavender aromatherapy improves mood was done on people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can result in depression. Lavender had amazing results, showing signs of enhanced moods. The results revealed that the lavender oil, when used daily, helped decrease depression by 32.7 percent and dramatically decreased sleep disturbances, moodiness and overall health status in 47 people suffering from PTSD.
To relieve stress and improve sleep, put a diffuser by your bed and diffuse oils while you sleep at night or in the family room while you’re reading or winding down in the evening. Also, it can be rubbed topically behind your ears for the same benefits.
Lavender Oil / Anxiety Relief
According to the principles of aromatherapy, breathing in the scent of lavender essential oil or applying lavender essential oil to the skin transmits messages to the limbic system (a brain region known to influence the nervous system and help regulate emotion). Proponents suggest that lavender essential oil may help alleviate anxiety in part by inducing a calming effect on the central nervous system.
While there’s currently a lack of large-scale clinical trials testing lavender’s effects on people with anxiety, a number of studies show that the oil may offer some anti-anxiety benefits.
Several studies have tested lavender’s anxiety-reducing effects in specific populations. For example, a study published in Physiology & Behavior in 2005 focused on 200 people awaiting dental treatment and found that breathing in the scent of lavender both lessened anxiety and improved mood.
In addition, a pilot study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice in 2012 indicates that lavender-essential-oil-based aromatherapy may help soothe anxiety in high-risk postpartum women. In an experiment involving 28 women who had given birth in the previous 18 months, researchers found that four weeks of twice-weekly, 15-minute-long aromatherapy sessions helped alleviate depression in addition to lowering anxiety levels.
There’s also some evidence that ingesting lavender oil may help relieve anxiety. In a report published in Phytomedicine in 2012, for instance, scientists analyzed 15 previously published clinical trials and concluded that dietary supplements containing lavender oil may have some therapeutic effects on patients struggling with anxiety and/or stress.
Lavender essential oil may cause irritation or an allergic reaction in some individuals. If you experience nausea, vomiting, or a headache after using lavender, discontinue use immediately. Because consuming lavender essential oil can have toxic effects, this remedy should not be ingested.
Alternatives to Lavender
There are many ways to lessen everyday anxiety naturally. For example, practicing mind/body techniques like meditation and deep breathing may help you relax and keep your anxiety in check. Undergoing alternative therapies like massage and acupuncture may also benefit people with anxiety.
Lavender Oil / Side Effects & Safety
Lavender is LIKELY SAFE for most adults in food amounts. It’s POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth, applied to the skin, or inhaled in medicinal amounts.
When taken by mouth, lavender can cause constipation, headache, and increased appetite. When applied to the skin, lavender can sometimes cause irritation, although this is uncommon.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Children: Applying products to the skin that contain lavender oil is POSSIBLY UNSAFE for young boys who have not yet reached puberty. Lavender oil seems to have hormone effects that could disrupt the normal hormones in a boy’s body. In some cases, this has resulted in boys developing abnormal breast growth called gynecomastia. The safety of these products, when used by young girls, is not known.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking lavender if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Surgery: Lavender might slow down the central nervous system. If used in combination with anesthesia and other medications given during and after surgery, it might slow down the central nervous system too much. Stop using lavender at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
ADULTS / BY MOUTH:
- Anxiety: 80-160 mg of a specific lavender oil ingredient (Silexan, Dr Willmar Schwabe GmbH & Co. KG) was been taken daily for 6-10 weeks.
INHALED AS AROMATHERAPY:
- Anxiety: 8 drops of an oil blend containing 2% lavender and rose essential oil has been applied to a cotton pad and inhaled for 15 minutes twice weekly for 4 weeks. The lavender and rose oil formulation were prepared by diluting 2 drops of an essential oil blend containing 75% lavender oil and 25% rose oil diluted in 5 mL of jojoba oil.
- Menstrual pain: Applying 3 drops of lavender oil to the hands and inhaling every 6 hours or placing 3 drops of oil onto a piece of cotton and inhaling for 30 minutes daily for the first 3 days of menstruation has been used. Also, 2 mL of lavender oil applied on the abdomen for 15 minutes as part of an aromatherapy massage has been used during a menstrual period.
- Fall prevention: Attaching a 1 cm x 2 cm patch containing lavender oil to the clothing neckline once daily for one year has been used.
- Pain after surgery: Two drops of 2% lavender essence has been applied to the inside of an oxygen face mask and inhaled for 3 minutes at 3, 8, and 16 hours after receiving pain-relievers for C-section pain.
APPLIED TO THE SKIN:
- For bald spots (alopecia areata): A combination of essential oils including 3 drops of lavender, 3 drops of rosemary, 2 drops of thyme, and 2 drops of cedarwood, all mixed with 3 mL jojoba oil and 20 mL grapeseed oil has been used. Each night, the mixture is massaged into the scalp for 2 minutes with a warm towel placed around the head to increase absorption.
- Canker sores: 2 drops of a solution containing 36 mg of lavender oil per drop has been applied three-times-daily.
Lavender Oil / Interactions
Moderate Interaction / Be cautious with this combination!
- Chloral Hydrate interacts with LAVENDER.
Chloral hydrate causes sleepiness and drowsiness. Lavender seems to increase the effects of chloral hydrate. Taking lavender along with chloral hydrate might cause too much sleepiness.
- Sedative medications (Barbiturates) interacts with LAVENDER.
Lavender might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Medications that cause sleepiness are sedatives. Taking lavender along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepiness. Some sedative medications include amobarbital (Amytal), butabarbital (Butisol), mephobarbital (Mebaral), pentobarbital (Nembutal), phenobarbital (Luminal), secobarbital (Seconal), and others.
The Bottom Line
While lavender may help soothe mild anxiety, it should not be used in place of mental-health-professional-provided treatment for any type of anxiety disorder.