Evidence Based
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10 Health Benefits of Lavender + Side Effects

Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Last updated:
Medically reviewed by
Evguenia Alechine, PhD (Biochemistry), Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, PhD (Pharmacology) | Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Last updated:

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Lavender

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.

Historically, lavender has been used for medical purposes. In the medieval era, physicians used lavender to treat epilepsy and migraine attacks [1].

Lavender essential oil can be taken orally, inhaled as a mist, or applied topically as an oil or lotion.

Constituents

The genotype, environment, and processing of lavender essential oils affect their chemical composition. Different species of lavender also contain different constituents [2, 1].

Lavender’s main constituents are [3, 1]:

  • Linalool
  • Linalyl Acetate
  • Cineole
  • Terpinen
  • Camphor

Linalool creates anti-conflict effects while both linalool and linalyl acetate cause sedative effects [1].

Mechanisms

Linalool and linalyl acetate, some of the lavender’s main constituents, have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties [4, 1].

Lavender essential oil increases HSP70 activity, which stops LPS-induced inflammatory reactions [5].

It also has an affinity for GABA receptors. Lavender essential oil can inhibit GABA receptor binding, which induces calming effects and reduces anxiety [1].

Health Benefits of Lavender

1) Reduces Stress

Lavender oil decreases blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature, indicating a decrease in the fight-or-flight response. It also reduces anxiety, emotional distress, and pain perception [6].

Lavender increases heart rate variability, which signals a higher stress tolerance. However, this effect is short-term [7].

2) Reduces Anxiety and Depression

Lavender increases relaxing brain waves (alpha and theta) [6].

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 [8].

In a study of 140 women who recently gave birth, their anxiety, stress, and postpartum depression levels were significantly lower when they inhaled lavender daily [9].

Similarly, lavender oil inhalation reduced anxiety and depression in rats [10].

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 higher tolerance to stress [11].

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 [11].

3) 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 [12].

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 [13].

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 [14].

4) 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 [15].

Lavender extract effectively improved the spatial performance of rats with Alzheimer’s Disease [16].

Rats that were injected with lavender oil demonstrated neuroprotective activity against strokes caused by insufficient blood flow to the brain and alleviated neurological symptoms [17].

Lavender oil improved the motor coordination and motor function in rats through the enhancement of dopamine receptors. Dopamine is responsible for movement and emotions [18].

5) Has Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Lavender essential oil has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects [19].

In rats, lavender oil prevented inflammation and allergic reactions when applied either topically or through injections [20].

Lavender can also suppress inflammation in the lungs and prevent bronchial asthma [21].

6) Enhances Wound Healing

Lavender treats wounds, burns, ulcers, and other skin disorders [22].

In rats, treatment with lavender ointment on excision wounds resulted in the wounds healing faster. Lavender ointment also enhanced protein synthesis for tissue restoration [22].

Also, lavender oil applied to canker sores reduces inflammation, pain, ulcer size, and healing time [23].

7) Helps Reduce Pain and Itchiness

Lavender essential oil can relieve muscle pain and itchiness from insect bites [24].

Aromatherapy using lavender can also alleviate joint pain [25, 26].

Lavender essential oil applied topically to the insertion area of a needle reduced the intensity of the pain caused by needle insertion in 30 healthy volunteers and 34 dialysis patients [27, 28].

8) Alleviates Menstrual Cramps

In two studies, lavender used in an aromatherapy massage to the stomach region significantly reduced the severity of menstrual cramps [29, 30].

9) Helps with Headaches

In a controlled trial of 47 patients, the inhalation of lavender oil significantly reduced headache severity compared to placebo [31].

10) Might Increase Hair Growth

In a study 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 [32].

Lavender oil also promotes hair growth in mice [33].

Side Effects & Precautions

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 [34].

High concentrations of lavender oil can be toxic to human skin cells [35].

If left exposed to air, lavender oil oxidizes to form chemicals that are irritating to the skin. It can cause skin rashes [36].

Common side effects include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Indigestion [37]

Limitations

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.

User Reviews

  • “This product has helped to relieve anxiety and headaches, without taking over the counter medicine” [38].
  • “Awesome product to relax & sleep” [39].
  • “It really calms me down and helps fall asleep. I feel less nervous with it too” [40].
  • “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” [41].
  • “This product really upset my stomach. I don’t recommend it” [41].

Buy Lavender Essential Oil

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About the Author

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen won the genetic lottery of bad genes. As a kid, he suffered from inflammation, brain fog, fatigue, digestive problems, anxiety, depression, and other issues that were poorly understood in both conventional and alternative medicine.Frustrated by the lack of good information and tools, Joe decided to embark on a journey of self-experimentation and self-learning to improve his health--something that has since become known as “biohacking”. With thousands of experiments and pubmed articles under his belt, Joe founded SelfHacked, the resource that was missing when he needed it. SelfHacked now gets millions of monthly readers.Joe is a thriving entrepreneur, author and speaker. He is the CEO of SelfHacked, SelfDecode and LabTestAnalyzer.His mission is to help people gain access to the most up-to-date, unbiased, and science-based ways to optimize their health.
Joe has been studying health sciences for 17 years and has read over 30,000 PubMed articles. He's given consultations to over 1000 people who have sought his health advice. After completing the pre-med requirements at university, he founded SelfHacked because he wanted to make a big impact in improving global health. He's written hundreds of science posts, multiple books on improving health, and speaks at various health conferences. He's keen on building a brain-trust of top scientists who will improve the level of accuracy of health content on the web. He's also founded SelfDecode and LabTestAnalyzer, popular genetic and lab software tools to improve health.

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