Lavender Essential Oil: Health Benefits
The health benefits of lavender essential oil include its ability to eliminate nervous tension, relieve pain, disinfect the scalp and skin, enhance blood circulation and treat respiratory problems. The Latin name of lavender is Lavare, which means “to wash”, due to its aroma which has a particularly clean aroma.
Lavender oil is extracted mostly from the flowers of the lavender plant, primarily through steam distillation. The flowers of lavender are fragrant in nature and have been used for making potpourri for centuries. Traditionally, lavender essential oil has also been used in making perfumes. The oil is very useful in aromatherapy and many aromatic preparations and combinations are made using lavender oil.
Lavender oil blends well with many other essential oils including cedarwood, pine, clary sage, geranium, and nutmeg. Today, lavender essential oil is frequently used in various forms including aromatherapy oil, gels, infusion, lotion, and soaps. (Source)
7 Lavender Oil Benefits and Studies
1. Antioxidant Protection
Arguably the most dangerous and most common risk factor for every disease that affects Americans, free radicals (toxins, chemicals, pollutants, etc.) are responsible for shutting down your immune system and can cause unbelievable damage to your body.
So, what’s the solution?
The body’s natural response is to create antioxidant enzymes – especially glutathione, catalase, and superoxide dismutase (SOD) – which prevent these free radicals from doing their damage.
Unfortunately, your body can actually become deficient in antioxidants if the free radical burden is great enough. Sadly, this has become relatively common in the U.S. because of poor diet and high exposure to toxins.
Thankfully, natural options abound, such as lavender essential oil, which has been proven to be nature’s antioxidant super hero.
For instance, researchers from China have recently discovered that lavender essential oil helps your body produce three of your bodies most powerful antioxidants, glutathione, catalase, and SOD within 22 hours of using lavender essential oil!
Also, Romanian scientists have seen similar results after just seven days of inhaling lavender essential oil vapor for 60 minutes a day. They found that diffusing lavender oil protected cells from damage that can lead to cancer.
*I have many of my patients use a diffuser with their essential oils for health benefits. I personally have one going on the desk of my office and then we have the diffuser going in the living room during the day.
2. Diabetes Treatment
Possibly the most exciting of all research concerning lavender came out in 2014. Scientists from Tunisia set out to complete a fascinating task: to test the effects of lavender essential oil on blood sugar to see if it can help diabetes.
During the 15-day study, the results observed by researchers were absolutely amazing. In a nutshell, lavender essential oil treatment protected the body from the following symptoms of diabetes:
- Increase in blood glucose (the hallmark of diabetes)
- Metabolic disorders (especially fat metabolism)
- Weight gain (ever wonder why as diabetes continues to rise, so do our waistbands!)
- Liver and kidney antioxidant depletion (one of the reasons diabetes is lethal)
- Liver and kidney dysfunction (ditto)
- Liver and kidney lipoperoxidation (when free radicals “steal” necessary fat molecules from cell membranes)
Surprisingly, the radical-scavenging antioxidant activity of lavender was actually more robust than ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)!
Does this tell us that lavender essential oil should be used as a treatment option for diabetics? Maybe.
It’s just one study, but a powerful study nonetheless! We look forward to more research on this topic as natural approaches to diabetics continue to fill the scientific literature.
*You can apply lavender essential oil topically on your neck and chest, diffuse it in the air, or supplement with it for the health benefits.
3. Improves Mood and Supports Brain
In addition to the groundbreaking diabetes research we just saw, 2013 was the year lavender was put on the pedestal for its unique ability to protect against neurological damage.
Traditionally, lavender has been used to treat neurological issues like migraines, stress, anxiety, and depression so it’s exciting to see that the research is finally catching up to history.
Just last November, for instance, an evidence-based study was published by the International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice.
The study found that supplementing with 80 mg capsules of lavender essential oil alleviates anxiety, sleep disturbance and depression.
Additionally, in the study there were no adverse side effects from using lavender oil to treat anxiety, insomnia and depression. Whereas we know pharmaceutical drugs like prozac have dangerous side effects.
And according to research, lavender essential oil benefits don’t stop there, it has also been shown to reduce symptoms and development of Alzheimer’s disease!
Last year, the journal Phytomedicine published a study which highlighted that inhaling lavender essential oil vapor for 60 minutes a day was shown to prevent brain oxidative stress in rats with dementia.
Another study published in 2012 took 28 high-risk postpartum women 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.
Also in 2012, the Swiss journal Molecules printed the results of a study that shockingly proved that lavender is a viable treatment option for stroke. Yes stroke!
Another study proving that lavender aromatherapy improves mood was done on people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The results revealed that just 80 mg of lavender oil per day helped decreased depression by 32.7% 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, can be rubbed topically behind your ears for the same benefits.
4. Lavender Heals Burns and Cuts
Widely known for its antimicrobial properties, lavender has a rich history of being used to prevent various infections and combat bacterial/fungal disorders. In fact, almost 100 studies have been conducted establishing this truth over and over again.
Also, we have found that lavender oil speeds the healing of burns, cuts, scrapes and wounds and a big part of this is because of it’s anti-microbial properties.
For example, in a study evaluating how lavender’s antimicrobial ability is enhanced when blended with other essential oils like clove, cinnamon and tea tree oil. Specifically, a 1:1 ratio of these oils was found to be the most effective in fighting against Candida albicans and Staph aureus, which are both common causes for many fungal and bacterial infections that lead to respiratory pneumonia and skin funguses.
*For burns or eczema, mix lavender oil with coconut oil in 1:5 ratio for rapid healing.
5. Lavender Oil Benefits Skin
Most likely due to its antimicrobial and antioxidant characteristics, lavender essential mixed with aloe or coconut oil has profound benefits on your skin.
Just 10 drops per 1 ounce of aloe vera or oil will sooth the worst sunburn and bring rapid healing to dry skin, minor cuts and scraps.
Research has even proven its ability to speed recovery from canker sores and can prevent allergic reactions!
Want to reduce age spots? Try mixing lavender oil with frankincense essential oil and put it on your skin first thing in the morning, right after you shower and right before bed. Success stories of these two oils improving age and sunspots are numerous.
6. Lavender Oil for Headaches
There are millions of people around the world who struggle with both tension headaches and migraine heartaches who are searching for a natural alternative to drugs. According to new medical research, lavender oil may just be that natural cure they are looking for.
According to a study published in the European Journal of Neurology people struggling with migraine headaches saw a significant reduction in pain when they inhaled lavender oil for 15 minutes.
Probably the most effective natural treatment for headaches is combing lavender oil with peppermint oil and rubbing these oils on the back of the neck, the temples on the lateral side of the forehead along with inhaling it. Typically 2 drops of each oil in the palm of your hand then rubbed into the areas works perfectly.
7. Lavender for Sleep and Insomnia
A study on college students found that using lavender oil improved the overall quality of sleep by 60%. This included length of sleep, time it took to fall asleep, restfulness and reduced symptoms of insomnia.
Another study published in the Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine found that lavender oil showed immediate improvements on 5 men and 5 women who struggled with insomnia.
If you are trying to improve your quality of sleep diffusing lavender before or during sleep can help. Also, you can rub it directly on your neck, chest and temples which is also effective.
If you do struggle with sleep I have found that making a mixture of lavender oil, roman chamomile oil and magnesium oil is the best overall combination in improving sleep.
And finally, taking a healing bath by adding 15 drops of lavender oil and 1 cup of epsom salts to the bathtub is another effective way to use lavender oil to improve sleep and relax the body.
Lavender Oil Uses at Home
As a Natural Perfume
Do you want to smell good without using toxic perfumes? Lavender oil is a great scent for women and for men too. You can either try adding pure oil directly to your skin, or you can dilute oil in water for a more subtle scent.
If you’d like to rub the oil right onto your skin, try adding 2-3 drops into your palms and then rubbing your hands together. Then add the oil directly onto on your skin, clothes, or hair. You can also try using 2 drops of lavender oil added to a spray bottle with about ½ cup of water. Shake up the spray bottle and then spray whatever you’d like. You may also want to consider combining lavender oil with other relaxing oils, like cedar wood essential oil or frankincense essential oil. Combining different oils means you have lots of versatility when it comes to different scent options, without needing to purchase many different bottled, expensive perfumes.
As a Non-toxic Air Freshener
The same way you use lavender oil as a perfume, you can use it around your home as a natural, toxic-free air freshener. Either spray lavender oil around your home or try diffusing it. To create a relaxing atmosphere in your bedroom before you fall asleep, try spraying the lavender oil and water mixture directly onto your bed sheets or pillow. You can try the same method in your bathroom as well, and also on your bath towels. Before taking a relaxing bath or shower, spray your towel with lavender oil so its relaxing scent is waiting for you when you step out of the shower.
As a Natural, Chemical-Free Lip Balm
Lavender oil is excellent for preventing sun burns on the lips and also healing chapped, dried lips. Try adding a couple of drops of oil to shea butter, jojoba oil, coconut oil/coconut butter, or another “carrier oil” and then rubbing it into your lips for protection whenever you will be in the sun. If you are sun burned in other areas on your body, try using the same method to heal the skin more quickly and prevent itchiness and pealing that can result after a bad sun burn.
As a Remedy for Stomach Discomfort
Many people find the scent of lavender to be soothing to the stomach. If you are feeling nauseous, or know that you are going to be traveling in a car of plane and are prone to motion sickness, spray some lavender oil on your skin and clothes or rub it into your temples, next, and palms.
As a Secret Flavor Booster in Healthy Recipes
Lavender is a great flavor enhancer in things like grain-free muffins, teas, and even salad dressings. Lavender oil is completely edible, but you will want to use a very small amount since the taste is very powerful. Try adding 1-2 drops to your recipes for a surprising flavor booster. Lavender is said to pair perfectly with things like dark cocoa, pure honey, cranberries, balsamic vinaigrette, black pepper, and apples.
Lavender Oil Side Effects to Consider
For most people, using lavender oil is completely safe, however there has not been an extensive amount of scientific research done on lavender oil interactions with other medications, or for its use in pregnant women, so there are certain situations where you will want to use caution.
If you are already taking any prescription medication for sleep related disorders or for depression, be cautious of the fact that lavender can increase the effectiveness of these medications. Even if you use an over-the-counter sleep aid or any type of sedatives (even cough or flu medicine), keep in mind that lavender makes many people sleepy and even somewhat drowsy, so it’s best to not combine lavender oil with other medications or sleep-related supplements. If you are planning on having surgery or undergoing anesthesia in the near future, you will also want to avoid using lavender oil.
Pregnant Women and Children
There has not been enough research done at this time to show that lavender oil is completely safe for pregnant women or women who are nursing. Because it can have a relaxing effect on muscles and can also effect hormone levels, it’s not recommended that women who are in their third trimester use lavender oil. It’s best to speak with your doctor about use of any essential oils when pregnant, since it has not been guaranteed that these are safe at this time.
Lavender oil is considered generally safe for children to use, although there is some concern that lavender’s effect on hormone levels could be harmful for boys who have not yet gone through puberty. Although there isn’t strong evidence for lavender being a hormone disrupter (only 1-2 very small studies were ever completed), parents are told to use caution if using lavender oil frequently on young children.
Ingesting Lavender Oil
Studies to date have primarily looked at the effects of using lavender oil topically on the skin or inhalation. There have been no negative symptoms found when 3 drops of oil is mixed with a carrier oil and applied directly to the skin, however not much research has formally been done to look at the effect of swallowing the oil. Most people experience no negative symptoms when consuming lavender oil, but because of it’s high levels of anti-oxidants you would want to keep this to a minimum and be careful if you have a sensitive digestive system. There are no known food interactions of lavender oil at this time. (Source)