The lavender essential oil is best known for its soothing fragrance, but this is not the only use for this oil.
Be it skin care, hair care, pain or diabetes, the lavender essential oil can benefit many aspects of your health.
It is believed to have antiseptic, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. Here’s a closer look at this unique essential oil and its numerous health and beauty benefits.
What is lavender essential oil?
The lavender essential oil is derived by distillation from the flower spikes of the lavender plant. The lavender plant belongs to the mint family and is native to North Africa and the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean.
It is known for its beautiful flowers, its sweet fragrance, and its many uses. L. angustifolia, L. latifolia, L. stoechas, and L. x intermedia are the most commonly used species of lavender for making essential oil.
Since lavender oil is considered to have antibacterial, antifungal, carminative, sedative, and antidepressive properties, it has been used cosmetically and therapeutically for centuries (1).
Lavender is now cultivated commercially in France, England, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, the US, and Canada.
History of lavender essential oil
The lavender plant derives its name from the Latin word ‘Lavare’ which means to wash.
The use of lavender has been documented for the past 2500 years. The Ancient Egyptians used lavender as perfume and for mummification.
The ancients Romans used lavender for bathing, scenting their hair and also for cooking. During medieval and Renaissance France, clothes were washed in lavender and laid to dry on lavender bushes. The women who cleaned the clothes were known as lavenders.
Lavender was also used as a remedy during the great plague in London in the 17th century.
Lavender has also been referred to in the bible. It is one of the herbs Used to prepare the Holy Essence and ‘spikenard’ is mentioned in the Bible in the ‘Song of Solomon.’
Benefits of lavender essential oil
Lavender has been used to deal with stress, anxiety, depression, and migraines for centuries. Modern research has also proved that lavender essential oil can help deal with anxiety issues.
According to a 2013 study from Vienna, Austria, when patients of subsyndromal anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder were given 80 mg capsules of lavender essential oil, it alleviated anxiety, sleep disturbance, and depression.
Except for mild gastrointestinal symptoms, the drug did not cause any side effects, interaction, or withdrawal symptoms (2).
Another study showed that aromatherapy with lavender essential oil helps reduce depression in women who are at high risk for postpartum depression.
During this study, 28 women were given 15-minute aromatherapy sessions, twice a week for four weeks. The results showed significant improvements in anxiety and depression in these women (3).
Silexan, a lavender oil preparation is also used to treat patients of post-traumatic stress disorder (4).
2. Antioxidant protection
One of the most critical properties of lavender essential oil is its antioxidant properties. The antioxidant properties of lavender help increase the activity of the body’s most potent antioxidants like glutathione, catalase, and SOD.
According to a 2013 study, the lavender essential oil showed potent antioxidant and antiapoptotic activities in rats. The study showed that lavender essential oils have potent neuroprotective effects against scopolamine-induced oxidative stress in the rat brain (5).
3. Treats insomnia
Many older adults and youngsters including women in the postpartum period have insomnia. The soothing and calming properties of lavender oil can help you fall asleep faster and also improve the quality of your sleep.
During a 2015 study, 158 mothers in the postpartum period were given lavender oil aromatherapy four times a week for eight weeks. The results showed significant improvements in the sleep quality of the mothers (6).
Several other studies show that lavender oil is an excellent natural treatment to treat insomnia and improve sleep quality and also overall wellbeing (7, 8). Unlike other sedative drugs, lavender essential oil does not cause any side effects.
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that is known to affect many people across the globe. Recent research has shown that lavender essential oil helps lower high blood sugar levels and protects the body from oxidative stress that can cause complications in people with diabetes.
According to a study from Tunisia, when researchers treated rats for 15 days with lavender essential oil, it significantly protected against the increase of blood glucose as well as the decrease of antioxidant enzyme activities (9).
These findings suggest that Lavandula stoechas essential oils help protect against diabetes and oxidative stress.
5. Alleviates muscle and joint pain
Lavender essential oil helps ease the pain caused by rheumatism, sprains, tense muscles, backache and lumbago. Its potent anti-inflammatory properties can relax muscles and bones and help get rid of the pain.
During a 2014 study, 60 patients with neck pain applied a cream composed of marjoram, black pepper, lavender and peppermint oil on the affected area for four weeks. The results showed a significant improvement in pressure pain threshold (10).
Topical application of lavender essential oil is also helpful in decreasing pain during the insertion of dialysis needles, according to a study (11).
Applying lavender oil can help many patients undergoing hemodialysis who suffer from fear and anxiety due to the pain of the insertion of needles.
Massage with lavender essential oil also helps in relieving dysmenorrhea, which is associated with menstrual pain and cramping in the lower abdomen (12).
6. Improves brain health
Not only do the soothing effects of lavender oil help in relieving tension and depression, but it also boosts cognitive abilities. Research has shown that lavender oil is an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
Another study showed that lavender oil as neuroprotective effects against stroke, thanks to its antioxidant effects (15).
7. Heals cuts and burns
The lavender essential oil has antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties that help protect against infections.
Its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties help reduce the pain from the cuts, burns, scrapes, and injuries. Lavender oil also promotes cellular growth which promotes faster healing and reduces the appearance of scars.
According to a 2016 study from Japan, topical treatment with lavender oil promotes wound healing by accelerating the formation of granulation tissue, tissue remodeling by collagen replacement and wound contraction (16).
8. Benefits cancer patients
Aromatherapy with lavender essential oil can help with general well-being, anxiety and other side effects of cancer treatment.
According to a report published in the African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, aromatherapy with essential oils like lavender helps in reducing anxiety and depression symptoms and to increase sleep patterns and wellbeing.
Lavender oil stimulates the immune system, boosts mood and helps fight stress (17).
9. Treats migraines
Lavender oil can also help in treating headaches and migraines. According to a study published in European Neurology, when patients with a definite diagnosis of a migraine headache inhaled lavender essential oil for 15 minutes, the patients reported a significant decline in the severity of their migraine headache.
The study concluded that lavender essential oil is a safe and effective treatment for the management of migraine headaches (18).
10. Skin care
Lavender essential oil helps treat skin in numerous ways. It helps treat acne, lighten skin and reduces wrinkles. It also helps soothe eczema and dry skin.
The anti-inflammatory properties of lavender oil help reduce redness, and blotching while restoring the natural skin tone.
The antioxidants in lavender oil protect the skin from damaging free radicals, which can lead to fine lines and wrinkles.
Lavender oil also has fungicidal properties which also help kill fungal infections and irritation on the skin (19).
11. Promotes hair growth
The lavender essential oil has many properties that support hair health. It also stimulates hair growth. According to a 2016 study, when researchers applied lavender oil to mice, it made their hair grow thicker and faster than average (20).
This property of lavender oil can help people with alopecia and baldness.
Thanks to its antibacterial properties, lavender oil also helps treat dandruff and itchy scalp when applied to the hair and scalp. A 2011 study also found that lavender oil can help prevent head lice (21).
Ways to use lavender essential oil
- Add lavender essential oil to your diffuser and go to sleep.
- Add a few drops on a tissue and inhale
- Rub some lavender oil on the palms of your hands and inhale
- Add a few drops to an unscented body lotion and use it on your feet.
- Dilute a few drops in water and pour into a spray bottle. Spray this mist around the room.
- Mix 3 to 5 drops of lavender essential oil with a carrier oil and massage it on the affected area.
- Soak a towel in hot water infused with lavender oil and use it on the affected area.
For cuts, bruises, and burns
- Add four drops of lavender oil to a ½ teaspoon of coconut oil and apply this mixture on the affected area.
For skin care
- Dilute a few drops of lavender oil in a carrier oil of your choice and apply.
- Add around four or five drops of lavender essential oil to your bath water and soak in it.
- Mix lavender oil with frankincense essential oil and apply it on your skin after a shower in the morning.
- Add a few drops of lavender oil to your shampoo
Side effects and precautions
Lavender oil is considered safe for most people. However, some people could develop an allergic reaction to this essential oil. The symptoms may include hives, difficulty in breathing, and swelling of face, lips, and tongue.
When ingested lavender oil may cause constipation, headache and increased appetite in some people.
Lavender oil also seems to have hormonal effects and can disrupt normal hormones in the body of young boys. This can result in abnormal breast growth called gynecomastia.
Lavender oil also causes sleepiness, so do not use it with other medication like sedatives as this may cause excessive drowsiness.
Lavender can also slow down the central nervous system. So avoid using it at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.
The lavender essential oil is known for its numerous health and beauty benefits. These include pain relief, reducing stress and anxiety, improving brain health, promoting hair growth, treating acne and treating insomnia.
You can massage it on to the skin, use it a diffuser and also ingest it after diluting. Consider any side effects before you use it.