Lavender is commonly used in cosmetic products such as soap and shampoo for its fragrance, but it also has many health benefits that are not as widely known.
Lavender can be used to reduce anxiety, improve sleep, and manage pain. Keep reading to learn more about its beneficial effects.
What is Lavender?
Lavender (Lavandula) is a group of plants native to southern Europe, northern and eastern Africa, southwest Asia, and southeast India.
Lavender essential oil can be taken orally, inhaled as a mist, or applied topically as an oil or lotion.
- Linalyl Acetate
Linalool creates anti-conflict effects while both linalool and linalyl acetate cause sedative effects [R].
Health Benefits of Lavender
1) Lavender Reduces Stress
Lavender increases heart rate variability, which signals a higher stress tolerance. However, this effect is short-term [R].
2) Lavender Reduces Anxiety and Depression
Lavender increases relaxing brain waves (alpha and theta) [R].
In mice, taking lavender oil orally alleviated their anxiety via N-type and P/Q-type voltage-dependent calcium channels. They inhibited the hippocampus, a region of the brain important for anxiety disorders [R].
Similarly, lavender oil inhalation reduced anxiety and depression in rats [R].
For low-anxiety situations, lavender helps lower heart rate, increase the variation between heartbeats, and decrease sweat secretion, indicating a decrease in anxiety levels. An increase in variation between heartbeats indicates a higher tolerance to stress [R].
In high-anxiety situations, lavender causes an increase in variation between heartbeats in women and an increase in sweat secretion in men. However, while the increase in variation between heartbeats indicates a mild decrease in anxiety for women, the increase in sweat secretion proves the opposite effect for men [R].
3) Lavender Improves Sleep Quality
Lavender inhalation can help with insomnia and improve sleep quality by reducing the stress responses, lowering resting heart rate and increasing the variability between heartbeats in the short-term.
Lavender oil increases sleep efficiency by allowing longer and deeper sleep. It decreases the amount of time spent awake during the night as well as morning tiredness. Also, lavender decreases restlessness [R].
Lavender increased the percentage of time spent in deep, restorative slow-wave sleep in a study of 31 healthy participants. In women, lavender increased light stage 2 sleep and decreased rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep. In men, lavender has the opposite effect on these two stages [R].
Scientists examined the brain activity of 10 healthy women who were exposed to lavender odor. A brain imaging study showed that lavender increases both brain arousal and feelings of relaxation [R].
4) Lavender Enhances Brain Functions
Aromatherapy with lavender, rosemary, lemon, and orange essential oils increased cognitive function in a study of 17 elderly patients with Alzheimer’s [R].
Lavender extract effectively improved the spatial performance of rats with Alzheimer’s Disease [R].
Rats that were injected with lavender oil demonstrated neuroprotective activity against strokes caused by insufficient blood flow to the brain and alleviated neurological symptoms [R].
5) Lavender Has Anti-Inflammatory Effects
In rats, lavender oil prevented inflammation and allergic reactions when applied either topically or through injections [R].
6) Lavender Enhances Wound Healing
Lavender treats wounds, burns, ulcers, and other skin disorders [R].
In rats, treatment with lavender ointment on excision wounds resulted in the wounds healing faster. Lavender ointment also enhanced protein synthesis for tissue restoration [R].
7) Lavender Helps Reduce Pain and Itchiness
Lavender essential oil can relieve muscle pain and itchiness from insect bites [R].
8) Lavender Alleviates Menstrual Cramps
9) Lavender Helps with Headaches
10) Lavender Might Increase Hair Growth
In a DB-RCT of 86 balding patients, the group that massaged a mixture of essential oils (lavender, thyme, rosemary, and cedarwood) onto their scalp experienced an improvement in hair loss symptoms [R].
Lavender oil also promotes hair growth in mice [R].
Three prepubescent boys who topically applied products containing lavender and tea tree oils on a regular basis developed gynecomastia, the enlargement of male breast tissue. The gynecomastia in the three boys was due to estrogenic and testosterone blocking properties in the lavender and tea tree oils [R].
High concentrations of lavender oil can be toxic to human skin cells [R].
If left exposed to air, lavender oil oxidizes to form chemicals that are irritating to the skin. It can cause skin rashes [R].
Common side effects include:
- Stomach pain
- Indigestion [R]
Although short-term therapy with lavender is relatively safe, not much is known about all of its effects on humans. More long-term studies and clinical trials are needed before lavender’s efficiency can be determined.
- “This product has helped to relieve anxiety and headaches, without taking over the counter medicine” [R].
- “Awesome product to relax & sleep” [R].
- “It really calms me down and helps fall asleep. I feel less nervous with it too” [R].
- “Since taking these, I really do feel a difference in terms of being more relaxed without being drowsy so they’re good to use during the day. The only drawback is slight lavender burping that seems to happen in the first maybe hour or two after taking a softgel” [R].
- “This product really upset my stomach. I don’t recommend it” [R].