Lavender is legendary. It is one of the most popular essential oils and for good reason. The vibrant purple petals in the fields of France call to vacationers and essential oils lovers across the globe. The sweet, pungent aroma seals the deal with a lingering floral scent that is recognizable anywhere. Lavender is most legendary in its versatility. Its many uses make it a staple of many households and an essential oil to have on hand.
Lavender oil was used by ancient societies thanks to its potent health benefits and sweet scent. Ancient Romans and Egyptians used lavender oil as a perfume and to add fragrance to baths. Since then, lavender oil has burst onto the scene and stolen the hearts of health aficionados everywhere. Lavender oil is used in modern times to help promote sleep and relaxation, even out skin and fend off pesky insects.
What Is Lavender Essential Oil?
Lavender essential oil is made from the petals of the lavender plant known by the Latin name Lavandula angustifolia. The lavender plant is native to the Mediterranean including Croatia, France and Italy. The strongly aromatic shrub can grow up to six feet tall. The plant is characterized by stunning purple flowers that sit at the top of long, green spikes. The oil is extracted from the petals by applying steam. The biggest producer of lavender essential oil today is Bulgaria.
Lavender essential oil is extracted through a process known as steam distillation. The lavender flowers are typically harvested in June and compacted into a still. The still consists of two main parts—a boiler and a cold water pipe. The low-pressure boiler adds steam to the lavender still to induce oil extraction. The heat from the steam breaks open the lavender flower parts that contain oil, releasing the lavender oil.
The lavender oil then attaches itself to the cold water pipe where it is collected. The oil and water mixture is sent to a holding tank where the water and oil separate, making it easy for manufacturers to remove the lavender oil and prepare for packaging.
Lavender essential oil has a sweet, floral herbaceous fragrance. The soothing and refreshing aroma makes it one of the most versatile essential oils. Lavender oil blends well with frankincense, bergamot and rosemary oil.
Health Benefits and Uses of Lavender Essential Oil
1. Induces Relaxation
One of the most popular lavender essential oil uses is to induce relaxation and ensure better quality sleep. Lavender essential oil targets the nervous system producing a calming effect that can help you get to sleep faster. Lavender oil has been used for centuries to treat nervous tension, headaches and migraines. These head pains can make it hard to get a good night’s sleep. The scent of this oil produces a relaxing atmosphere that can help to treat sleep disorders and depression.
A scientific review published by the International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice examined the use of lavender essential oil in treating anxiety and related disorders. The review included results from seven separate trials in which patients were given lavender oil for up to 10 weeks. Researchers found that patients who received at least 80 milligrams of lavender oil showed significantly decreased feelings of depression and anxiousness.
A second 2014 study found that lavender essential oil was more effective in treating anxiety that prescription medications. The study examined 539 adults who were given varying amounts of lavender essential oil, a placebo or paroxetine—an antidepressant medication. At the conclusion of the study, 60% of patients who received 160 milligrams of lavender essential oil showed a 50% decrease in feelings of depression.
Lavender oil has also proven to be effective in treating symptoms of PTSD. A study published by Phytomedicine examined the use of Silexin—a lavender oil supplement on 47 men and women who suffer from PTSD. Silexin is approved in Germany to treat anxiety and restlessness. Researchers found that 80 milligrams of Silexin resulted in a 33% decrease in depression. Patients also reported more stable moods and fewer sleep disturbances including nightmares.
Finally, lavender essential oil has also been shown to help treat postpartum depression in women. A study published by Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice examined 28 women who had postpartum depression up to 18 months after birth. The women were given 15-minute treatment sessions two times a week for four weeks. At the conclusion of the study, the women who received lavender oil aromatherapy showed significant decrease in feelings of depression and anxiety.
How to Use: Aromatherapy or Supplement
To reap the relaxing benefits of lavender essential oil, add it to your aromatherapy program. Simply add 3 to 4 drops to your diffuser and inhale the lavender essential oil vapor deeply. Use lavender oil aromatherapy any time you start having feelings of sadness or anxiety. For better sleep, do lavender aromatherapy before bed. Alternatively, you can take a German-developed lavender essential oil supplement known as Silexan. If you are out and start feeling stressed, simply add 1 drop each of lavender oil and carrier oil behind your ears or underneath your nose.
2. Heals Skin Damage
The powerful skin care effects of lavender essential oil were actually discovered by a scientist after he burned himself in the lab. Lavender essential oil contains antimicrobial properties that help to fend off infection and speed up healing for cuts and burns.
A 2013 study found that combining lavender essential oil with tea tree, clove and cinnamon oil further improved its bacteria fighting power. Researchers found that a 1:1 ratio of lavender oil and one of these oils was the most effective in treating candida and staph bacteria strains. Excess amounts of these bacteria can lead to fungal growth and respiratory disorders. Candida bacteria can cause oral thrush, a disease that causes open sores and a white film in the mouth.
A second study published by BioMed Central examined the effects of lavender oil on wound healing. The study examined wounds on rats treated with lavender oil for 14 consecutive days. The wounds treated with lavender oil were significantly smaller than those treated with a placebo. The lavender oil increased the production of collagen and fibroblasts—two skin compounds that accelerate skin healing.
How to Use: Skin Salve
Make a lavender oil salve to heal burns and cuts more quickly. Simply add 3 to 5 drops of lavender oil to half a teaspoon of coconut oil. Apply directly to the wound using your fingertips, a cotton ball or a cotton swab.
3. Protects Brain Function
Research has shown that lavender oil can support brain function and prevent neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Chemical compounds in lavender oil such as linalool help to prevent oxidative stress that land to impaired cognition.
A study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that lavender essential oil prevents oxidative stress and enhances nervous system processes. The linalool in lavender oil improves the brain’s ability to send signals along synaptic nerves. This improvement leads to better memory recall and cognition.
How to Use: Aromatherapy
To reap the brain boosting effects of lavender oil, simply add a few drops to your diffuser. You can also inhale the fragrance directly from the bottle or apply topically as part of a massage.
4. Relieves Pain
Lavender oil can help to alleviate pain associated with headaches and sore muscles. This is due to its anti-inflammatory properties, which help to reduce swelling that can cause dull aches. Chemical compounds in lavender oil also help to increase blood circulation, alleviating tension headaches and menstrual cramps.
A 2015 study examined the use of lavender oil to treat intense pain at needle injection sites in hemodialysis patients. The study examined 34 patients who were either given a placebo, lavender essential oil or no intervention. The patients who were given lavender oil showed a significant reduction in moderate pain at the injection site.
European Neurology published a study that examined the ability of lavender essential oil to treat headaches and migraines. Participants consisted of 47 patients who had previously been diagnosed with migraine headaches. The participants were divided into a control group and an experimental group that received lavender essential oil aromatherapy. In the lavender oil group, 71% showed a significant reduction in headaches compared to just 37% in the control group.
Two additional studies showed that topical application of lavender essential oil can relieve pain associated with menstrual cramps and neck pain. The first study, published in the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, examined the effectiveness of a cream made of essential oils including lavender, black pepper, marjoram and peppermint. Results showed that patients with neck pain showed significant improvement with use of the cream after four weeks.
The Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research published the second study. Researchers examined 80 participants who reported menstrual cramps. The participants were divided into two massage groups. The placebo group was massaged without oils while the experimental group was massaged using lavender essential oil. The experimental group showed significant decreases in pain compared to the placebo group after 30 minutes of treatment.
How to Use: Topical Application and Aromatherapy
Use aromatherapy to alleviate pain from headaches and migraines. Simply add 3 to 5 drops of lavender oil to your diffuser and inhale for 15 minutes. Apply lavender oil topically to alleviate pain associated with needle pricks, cramps or sore muscles. Simply mix a few drops of lavender oil with carrier oil and massage into sore areas for 10 minutes.
5. Repels Bugs
Like other aromatic essential oils, lavender oil features a scent that is repulsive to insects and bugs. The sweet fragrance of lavender oil also adds a nice touch to bug sprays that can often smell overwhelming. Studies have shown that essential oil bug repellants are just as powerful as standard bug sprays that contain chemicals. The chemicals such as DEET can have harmful effects including seizures, slurred speech and skin rash. An all-natural essential oil bug spray doesn’t have these dangerous side effects.
How to Use: Bug Repellent and Bug Bite Reliever
Make your own all-natural bug repellent right at home in your kitchen using essential oils. Start with an 8-ounce spray bottle and add 40 drops of essential oils. We recommend using a blend of clove oil, eucalyptus oil lemongrass oil tea tree oil and lavender oil. Combine with half a cup each of witch hazel and apple cider vinegar. Spray liberally and make sure to reapply every 90 minutes.
Lavender oil also contains anti-inflammatory properties that help to soothe bites if you do get bit. Simply add 2 drops each of lavender oil and carrier oil to a cotton ball. Apply directly to itchy bug bites and let sit for 2 to 5 minutes.
Proper Use of Lavender Essential Oil
The proper uses of lavender oil are topical application and inhalation aromatherapy. Always use carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil when applying topically. For aromatherapy, add a few drops of therapeutic grade lavender oil to your diffuser or mix with hot water and inhale deeply.
Make sure to buy only the highest quality essential oils to avoid skin irritation from contaminants and synthetics. Low quality oils can add in these dangerous compounds in order to cut costs. Remember that essential oil aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration so you need to do some research when purchasing essential oils.
Only buy from reputable brands that clearly indicate where and how the lavender was grown and produced to make the oil. High quality lavender essential oils come from organically and sustainably harvested crops. Reputable brands will also prominently display quality controls from third parties.
Side Effects of Lavender Essential Oil
There are a few side effects to know about when using lavender essential oil. Things like skin irritation, and medication interactions can be avoided by using the oil properly.
Lavender essential oil can be toxic when taken orally. Never consume pure lavender oil orally. Signs of lavender poisoning include vomiting, blurred vision, rash, a burning sensation in the throat and respiratory problems. If you accidentally ingest lavender oil, contact your poison control center immediately.
Lavender essential oil can cause skin irritation in certain individuals. This side effect is uncommon, but people with sensitive skin are most susceptible. Make sure to test lavender oil on a small patch of skin before applying liberally. For people with sensitive skin, start by mixing just one drop of lavender oil with five drops of carrier oil. If your skin tolerates this dilution, you can increase the amount of lavender oil gradually.
Topical application of lavender essential oil is not recommended for young boys. Research has shown that lavender essential oil can cause breast growths called gynecomastia in young boys. These growths usually disappear a few weeks after lavender oil use ceases. Err on the safe side and avoid using lavender essential oil on boys who haven’t reached puberty. Always consult with your child’s pediatrician before using essential oils.
Lavender essential oil helps to calm and slow the nervous system. This can be dangerous when combined with surgical drugs including anesthesia. Stop using lavender essential oil two weeks before any scheduled surgery. Lavender oil can also interact with and increase the effect of depressants. Talk to your doctor before using lavender oil to avoid interactions with current medications. If you take lavender oil in combination with other sedative medications, avoid driving as the drowsy effects are enhanced.
Relax and Reap the Rewards of Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender essential oil can help you soothe your mind, body and soul. Relax into a peaceful slumber by adding lavender aromatherapy to your routine before bed. Consistent use of lavender aromatherapy can make a significant difference when it comes to treating postpartum depression, depression and PTSD. Alleviate aches and pains by applying lavender oil topically with carrier oil. Fend off bug bites without harmful chemicals by adding lavender essential oil to your homemade bug spray.