While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with a healthcare professional before you begin using essential oils and be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.
Lavender is one of the most popular essential oils. It not only smells really good, but it also has many uses in health and wellness.
You may have heard of lavender benefits like improved sleep and alopecia relief. People also treat many other conditions with this essential oil. For example, lavender can help ease anxiety.
For most people though, lavender offers comfort and relief paired with beautiful fragrance. There are many ways you can use this herb to help improve your well-being.
The potential health benefits of lavender can vary among people. So, you may not experience the same effects as someone else.
Lavender benefits can include:
- improved mood
- reduced heart rate and blood pressure
- lowered adrenaline levels
- regulated breathing
- improved sleep
- reduced pain
In a 2016 randomized controlled
Sometimes, the symptoms you feel can indicate an underlying condition that needs medical attention. For this reason, it’s generally a good idea to consult with your doctor before starting lavender use, just to make sure you’re not experiencing something more serious.
Lavender can be beneficial as a complementary treatment for many ailments, both physical and psychological.
Some physical symptoms it may help include:
- stomach irritation
- skin and hair conditions
A 2006 randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial involving 67 female college students resulted in reduced menstrual cramp pain for the participants who received lavender oil abdominal massage. The placebo massage and control groups didn’t experience the same pain reduction.
Some of the mental health conditions lavender may help include:
Lavender is often considered the best essential oil for anxiety, although there are other oils that also help for this purpose.
Lavender oil has a long history of anecdotal evidence that says it works to treat anxiety, but there’s research to back up the claim, too.
German scientists developed an oral use extract of lavender oil called Silexan. Silexan is not made from an essential oil because these cannot be ingested. Instead, the extract is made from the leaves of the lavender plant and often offered as a tea.
Because Silexan is standardized, it’s easier to get accurate results in research. According to a
One of the benefits of the lavender extract Silexan is that it’s calming without being sedating. Drowsiness is an unwanted side effect for many people who try anxiety medication.
Lavender may also be effective in reducing the stress of childbirth. A
Essential oils are concentrations of plant extracts called aromatic terpenoid constituents. They’re effective in small concentrations because they can cross cell membranes.
Once inhaled, essential oils affect various processes including:
- regulation of certain neurotransmitters
- making proteins that help nerve cells grow
- hormone regulation
- nerve tissue growth
- activation of certain brain regions
- blood chemistry changes
Brain anatomy is part of a
Lavender affects the autonomic nervous system. This is the part of the peripheral nervous system that influences processes like your heart rate, digestion, and blood pressure.
Tests revealed lowered blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature. Participants also experienced brain changes associated with relaxation, as measure by an electroencephalogram (EEG).
You can inhale lavender essential oil through aromatherapy or dilute it in a carrier oil — common ones are sweet almond oil or warmed coconut oil — that can be applied to your skin.
Lavender teas, which are made from the lavender plant, can be consumed safely by most people. Loose leaf teas of pure lavender or blends with chamomile or black teas are available in tea bags.
Even the simple act of opening a bottle and inhaling the fragrance of lavender oil can affect your nervous system.
Essential oil diffusers produce a cool mist with the aroma of the oil you’ve added. To use a diffuser, add a few drops of oil to cold water. Check your diffuser to make sure it includes a dry shut off feature.
When using essential oils, consider pets, children, and those who are pregnant. Some essential oils can be harmful and even toxic.
The steam method disperses the lavender oil though the air using steam from hot water. Place a bowl of hot water on a stable surface such as a table, add several drops of lavender oil, and inhale.
To intensify the effect, place a towel over your head and the bowl to trap the steam. Adding some lavender oil to your bath or to the walls of your shower is another way to achieve the steam effect.
You can also try the dry evaporation method. Shake a few drops of lavender oil onto fabric or a cotton ball and allow the scent to disperse naturally. There are accessories available such as necklaces and bracelets with absorbent pieces like lava stones designed for essential oil dry evaporation.
It’s possible to experience lavender benefits by applying a diluted oil to your skin. Since essential oils are very concentrated, they must be mixed with a carrier oil, like jojoba or coconut oil.
Essential oils are not safe to ingest. However, lavender is available as teas, tinctures, and extracts, which are safe to ingest.
Before buying one of these products, consider researching the company. Try to look for products manufactured under national brand names.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t monitor teas, herbs, and essential oils the way it does prescription drugs, so the consistency of quality between brands may be lacking.
The FDA has granted the status of “generally recognized as safe” to lavender products, including extracts, tinctures, and essential oils. However, this still doesn’t mean they’re safe to ingest.
However, there’s a lack of long-term safety studies on the effects of lavender.
In addition to health benefits, lavender use also has some risks.
Certain medications may result in excessive sleepiness when combined with lavender. These include:
- zolpidem (Ambien)
It’s unknown whether lavender can harm an unborn baby or pass through to breast milk. For this reason, it might be a good idea to avoid lavender use during pregnancy and breastfeeding or chestfeeding.
Lavender is toxic to dogs and cats. If you use a diffuser, ensure that the area is well ventilated or pets are outside.
Doctors recommend ending lavender use at least 2 weeks before you have surgery. This is because lavender is thought to slow down the central nervous system and may not be safe to combine with anesthetic.
Lavender is also not recommended for prepubescent boys. When it’s applied to their skin, it can interrupt hormones and cause atypical breast tissue (gynecomastia).
Since lavender may lower blood pressure in some people, consider consulting with your doctor before using it, if you take blood pressure medication.
If you’re wondering about other ways you can incorporate lavender aromatherapy into your day, try some ideas such as:
- making a lavender sachet for your clothes closet
- using lavender in homemade laundry detergent
- adding lavender oil to a clean cloth and putting it in the dryer
- using a spray bottle to mist lavender on your pillow and bedding
- making lavender body lotion
There are many different reasons to enjoy the effects of lavender essential oils or the herb itself. Maybe you simply like the scent. Or maybe you’re seeking relief for a physical or mental health condition and you’ve heard that lavender may help.
It’s fun to research recipes for essential oil personal care products like lotions and deodorant, but remember to first do a patch test on your skin to check for allergies.
There’s a wide range of options for lavender oil use. You can try a diffuser or start with a simpler method like cotton balls for dry evaporation. You might also consider trying a lavender tea or tea blend that includes lavender.
Consider taking this opportunity to not only indulge in the beautiful fragrance of lavender, but also to prioritize relaxation and self-care.