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.
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 .
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 .
Lavender has not been approved by the FDA for medical use; extracts and oils generally lack solid clinical research. Regulations set manufacturing standards for them but don’t guarantee that they’re safe or effective. Speak with your doctor before supplementing.
Lavender increased relaxing brain waves (alpha and theta) in 20 volunteers .
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 .
Similarly, lavender oil inhalation reduced anxiety and depression in rats .
For low-anxiety situations, lavender helps lower heart rate, increases the variation between heartbeats, and decreases sweat secretion, indicating a decrease in anxiety levels. An increase in variation between heartbeats indicates a higher tolerance to stress .
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 .
The following purported benefits are only supported by limited, low-quality clinical studies. There is insufficient evidence to support the use of lavender for any of the below-listed uses. Remember to speak with a doctor before taking lavender or using lavender oil, and never use it in place of something your doctor recommends or prescribes.
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 .
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 .
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 .
Lavender extract effectively improved the spatial performance of rats with Alzheimer’s Disease .
Rats that were injected with lavender oil demonstrated neuroprotective activity against strokes caused by insufficient blood flow to the brain and alleviated neurological symptoms .
Lavender oil applied to canker sores reduced inflammation, pain, ulcer size, and healing time .
Lavender treats wounds, burns, ulcers, and other skin disorders .
In rats, treatment with lavender ointment on excision wounds resulted in the wounds healing faster. Lavender ointment also enhanced protein synthesis for tissue restoration .
Lavender essential oil relieved muscle pain and itchiness from insect bites .
However, the relative effect of the lavender oil and the massage is unknown.
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 .
Lavender oil also promoted hair growth in mice .
No clinical evidence supports the use of lavender for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies listed below should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.
Lavender essential oil has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects .
In rats, lavender oil prevented inflammation and allergic reactions when applied either topically or through injections .
Lavender also suppressed inflammation in the lungs and prevented bronchial asthma in mice .
Lavender is available as a dried whole or powdered herb, extract, or essential oil. Whole lavender is considered safe to consume as food, but not all preparations of lavender oil are appropriate for consumption by mouth; read any instructions carefully before administering lavender.
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. According to the authors, gynecomastia in the three boys was likely due to estrogenic and testosterone-blocking properties in the lavender and tea tree oils .
High concentrations of lavender oil can be toxic to human skin cells .
If left exposed to air, lavender oil oxidizes to form chemicals that are irritating to the skin. It can cause skin rashes .
Common side effects include:
- Stomach pain
- Indigestion 
To avoid adverse effects or unexpected interactions, talk to your doctor before using lavender extracts or oils.
Although short-term therapy with lavender is considered safe, relatively little is known about its long-term effects on humans. More long-term studies and clinical trials are needed before lavender’s efficiency can be determined.