Is lavender nature’s anti-anxiety remedy? Traditionally, lavender has been used both orally and through aromatherapy as a calming herb making it appealing for those with anxiety, as this mental struggle becomes ever more prevalent in our society.
Historical Use of Lavender
Here in Victoria, lavender is blooming in gardens all around at this time of year. However, it is actually native to the Mediterranean and Middle East, as it prefers well-drained soil and plenty of sun. The Romans used lavender in bathing rituals due to it’s ability to kill off bacteria as well promote relaxation. In traditional Asian medicine, lavender has been used to help the “shen” or mind by calming the various mental troubles.
Why is Lavender so calming?
Sometimes just a whiff of lavender helps me find instant zen. When any herb or flower has a distinct smell to it, this is the actions of the volatile oils found in the plant. If you want to get even more nerdy about it, there are two main components found in lavender oil: linalyl acetate and linalool. In animal studies, inhaled linalool alone showed the ability to decrease anxiety-like behaviours by increasing social interaction and decreasing aggressive behaviour (1). Lavender oil is also suggested to act on the calming neurotransmitter GABA to decrease nervous system activity (2).
How is Lavender used in Naturopathic practice?
There are many species of lavender, but the most commonly used species for medicinal purposes is Lavandula angustifolia. Here are a few different ways this herb is used:
Tea: a hot water extract of herbal components.
Pro tip: keeping a cover on your tea while letting it steep for 10 minutes will help contain the medicinal components found in the volatile oils.
Tincture: an alcoholic extract of herbal components. Typically more potent than a tea.
Capsule or Tablet: typically even more potent than a tea or tincture
Aromatherapy: rather than ingesting the herb, the components in the volatile oils are taken in aromatically through the nose by smell.
It’s important to talk to your Naturopathic Doctor about assessing the quality of any herbal medicine before use.
So is lavender actually effective for anxiety?
Various clinical trials have assessed the efficacy of oral lavender oil in anxiety disorders. Some studies found the effects of lavender to be superior to placebo and comparable to the anti-anxiety medication lorazepam (3, 4). A systematic review of clinical trials suggests that oral lavender may provide therapeutic effects, but these studies need to be repeated before making any firm conclusions (5).
Can anyone use lavender?
Although side effects and potential for abuse are minimal, lavender and any herbal medicine is just that, medicine. That means it’s important to check with a Naturopathic Doctor before using lavender as dosing of any medicine should be tightly monitored, and it may interact with other supplements and medications you’re taking. Ingestion should also be avoided during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
For more information on the benefits of Lavender, and whether or not this is an appropriate treatment for you, please consult your local Naturopathic Doctor.
To book an appointment with a Naturopath at Juniper Family Health please call 778-265-8340 or book online here.
1. Linck, V., da Silva, A., Figueiro, M., Caramao, E., Moreno, P., Elisabetsky, E. (2010). Effects of inhaled Linalool in anxiety, social interaction, and aggressive behaviour in mice. Phytomedicine, 17, 8-9, 679-683.
3. Kasper, S., Gastpar, M., Muller, W., Volz, H., Moller, H., Schlafke, S., Dienel, A. (2014). Lavender oil preparation Silexan is effective in generalized anxiety disorder - a randomized, double-blind comparison to placebo and paroxetine. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 17, 6, 859-869.
4. Woelk, H., Schlafke, S. (2010). A multi-centre, double-blind, randomized study of the lavender oil preparation Silexan in comparison to Lorazepam for generalized anxiety disorder. Phytomedicine, 17, 2, 94-99.