What Is Lavender Oil?
A plant native to the Mediterranean, lavender (Lavandula angustifolia or Lavandula officinalis) gets its fragrance from the essential oil found inside its flowers. In aromatherapy, lavender essential oil is often used for its many healing properties.
The Benefits of Lavender Oil
Although lavender essential oil has yet to be extensively studied in clinical trials, research suggests that lavender-based aromatherapy may help with these conditions:
Thought to help calm the nervous system, lavender helped ease anxiety among a group of adults shown anxiety-provoking film clips in a 2009 study. According to the study's authors, lavender appears to act as an anti-anxiety agent under conditions of low anxiety, but may not be as useful in conditions of high anxiety.
Learn how to make a relaxing blend of essential oil.
Often touted as a natural sleep aid, lavender may have sedative effects. In a small study published in 2005, a group of people with insomnia reported improvements in sleep after four weeks using lavender (with the help of an aromatherapy vaporizer) at bedtime. Study results showed that women and younger volunteers with a milder insomnia improved more than others.
In a study of 86 people with alopecia areata (a disorder that causes the rapid onset of round patches of baldness), researchers found that 44 percent of those who massaged lavender essential oil (along with oils of thyme, rosemary, cedarwood, jojoba, and grapeseed) into their scalp daily had an improvement in their condition after seven months.
How to Use Lavender Oil
Often incorporated into massage, lavender essential oil can also be applied directly to the skin, added to baths, or inhaled (typically after sprinkling a few drops of the oil onto a cloth or tissue, or by using an aromatherapy diffuser or vaporizer).
Lavender essential oil is sold at many health-food stores and may also be found at spas. Although dried lavender is available in tea form, lavender essential oil should not be taken internally without the supervision of a health professional.
Learn more about using essential oils safely.
Lavender Oil Side Effects
Although lavender essential oil is generally considered safe, it may cause irritation when applied to the skin or aggravate drowsiness for people taking sedative medications.
A small study published in 2007 also showed that lavender oils in personal-care products may cause gynecomastia (breast development in a male) in boys.
Bradley BF, Brown SL, Chu S, Lea RW. "Effects of orally administered lavender essential oil on responses to anxiety-provoking film clips." Human Psychopharmacology 2009 24(4):319-30.
Hay IC, Jamieson M, Ormerod AD. "Randomized trial of aromatherapy. Successful treatment for alopecia areata." Archives of Dermatology 1998 134(11):1349-52.
Henley D, Lipson N, Korach K, Bloch C. Prepubertal Gynecomastia Linked to Lavender and Tea Tree Oils. "New England Journal of Medicine", Feb. 1, 2007.
Lewith GT, Godfrey AD, Prescott P. " A single-blinded, randomized pilot study evaluating the aroma of Lavandula augustifolia as a treatment for mild insomnia." Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2005 11(4):631-7.