What is it?
Lavender is used for restlessness, insomnia, nervousness, and depression. It is also used for a variety of digestive complaints including meteorism (abdominal swelling from gas in the intestinal or peritoneal cavity), loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea, intestinal gas (flatulence), and upset stomach.
Some people use lavender for painful conditions including migraine headaches, toothaches, sprains, nerve pain, sores, and joint pain. It is also used for acne and cancer, and to promote menstruation.
Lavender is applied to the skin for hair loss (alopecia areata) and pain, and to repel mosquitoes and other insects.
Some people add lavender to bathwater to treat circulation disorders and improve mental well being.
By inhalation, lavender is used as aromatherapy for insomnia, pain, and agitation related to dementia.
In foods and beverages, lavender is used as a flavor component.
In manufacturing, lavender is used in pharmaceutical products and as a fragrance ingredient in soaps, cosmetics, perfumes, potpourri, and decorations.
Lavender (scientific name Lavandula angustifolia) is commonly contaminated with related species, including Lavandula hybrida, which is a cross between Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula latifolia, from which lavandin oil is obtained.
How effective is it?
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
The effectiveness ratings for LAVENDER are as follows:
Possibly effective for...
- Hair loss in a condition called alopecia areata. There is some evidence that applying lavender oil in combination with oils from thyme, rosemary, and cedarwood might improve hair growth by as much as 44% after 7 months of treatment.
- Anxiety. Some research shows that taking lavender oil by mouth for 6-10 weeks improves anxiety and sleep and prevents anxiety recurrence in people with mild-to-severe anxiety. However, lavender does not seem to be more effective than the anti-anxiety medication lorazepam (Ativan). So far, early studies disagree about the effectiveness of using lavender oil as aromatherapy for treating anxiety.
- Canker sores. Some research shows that applying two drops of lavender oil to the affected area three times daily can improve canker sore healing and reduce canker sore swelling and pain.
- Fall prevention. There is some evidence that attaching a pad with lavender oil onto the neckline of clothing reduces falls in nursing home residents.
- Pain after Cesarean section (C-section). Some research suggests that inhaling lavender essence while receiving pain killers intravenously (by IV) can help reduce pain in women after a C-section.
Possibly ineffective for...
- Cancer-related pain. Some research shows that using lavender oil for aromatherapy massage does not reduce pain in people with cancer-related pain.
- Dementia. Applying lavender oil to the collar of clothing or using lavender oil for aromatherapy massage does not seems to improve mental function in people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
- Pain in the area between the vulva and anus in females (perineal pain). Most research shows that adding lavender oil to baths does not improve perineal pain. However, some evidence suggests that lavender oil baths might reduce perineal pain immediately after childbirth.
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
- Agitation. There is conflicting evidence on the efficacy of lavender aromatherapy for agitation. Some evidence suggests that lavender aromatherapy improves agitation in people with Alzheimer’s disease, while other evidence shows no effect.
- Itchy and inflamed skin (eczema). Early research shows that using a combination of lavender oil and other herbal essential oils for aromatherapy massage does not improve skin irritation in children with itchy and inflamed skin.
- Colic. Results from a small research study show that massaging a combination of lavender and almond oils into the belly of infants for 5-15 minutes at the onset of colic reduces crying time.
- Constipation. Early research shows that massaging a combination of lavender, lemon, rosemary, and cypress oils onto the stomach might improve symptoms of constipation.
- Depression. There are conflicting results regarding the effects of lavender oil aromatherapy for treating depression. Some research suggests that lavender oil aromatherapy massage does not improve depression in cancer patients. Other research shows that it might improve mood in women experiencing depression after childbirth (post-partum depression). Early research suggests that taking lavender oil by mouth for 6 weeks might improve depression in people with depression. Tincture of lavender appears to be slightly less effective than the medication imipramine (Tofranil) for treating depression, but taking the two in combination might improve the antidepressant effects of imipramine.
- Menstrual pain. Lavender oil massages might reduce pain associated with menstruation in young women better than regular massages.
- High blood pressure. Early research suggests that using an essential oil mixture of lavender, lemon, and ylang ylang as aromatherapy might reduce blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.
- Sleeplessness (insomnia). Early research suggests that using lavender oil in a vaporizer overnight, or on a gauze pad left beside the bed, might help some people with mild insomnia sleep better.
- Lice. Early research suggests that applying a combination of lavender and tea tree oil to the skin helps kill lice eggs and reduce the number of live lice. It is unclear if the effects are caused by lavender alone or the combination of lavender and tea tree oil.
- Migraine. Early research suggests that rubbing 2 or 3 drops of lavender oil on the upper lip, so that the vapor is inhaled, might reduce migraine pain and nausea, and help stop the headache spreading.
- Ear infections. Early research suggests that administering ear drops containing lavender and other herbal extracts improves ear pain in people with ear infections. However, this herbal combination does not appear to be more effective than using a skin-numbing agent along with the antibiotic amoxicillin.
- General psychological well-being. Some research suggests that adding 3 mL of a 20% lavender oil and 80% grapeseed oil mixture to daily baths produces small improvements in mood, compared with baths containing grapeseed oil alone. However, other research suggests that adding lavender oil to aromatherapy massage does not improve well-being or quality of life in cancer patients.
- Wound healing. Early research suggests that using lavender oil as aromatherapy during bandage changes does not reduce pain in people with vascular wounds.
- Loss of appetite.
- Use as a mosquito repellent and insect repellent.
- Other conditions.
How does it work?
Are there safety concerns?
When taken by mouth, lavender can cause constipation, headache, and increased appetite. When applied to the skin, lavender can sometimes cause irritation.
Special precautions & warnings:Children: Applying products to the skin that contain lavender oil is POSSIBLY UNSAFE for young boys who have not yet reached puberty. Lavender oil seems to have hormone effects that could disrupt the normal hormones in a boy's body. In some cases, this has resulted in boys developing abnormal breast growth called gynecomastia. The safety of these products when used by young girls is not known.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking lavender if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Surgery: Lavender might slow down the central nervous system. If used in combination with anesthesia and other medications given during and after surgery, it might slow down the central nervous system too much. Stop using lavender at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Are there interactions with medications?
- Chloral Hydrate
- Chloral hydrate causes sleepiness and drowsiness. Lavender seems to increase the effects of chloral hydrate. Taking lavender along with chloral hydrate might cause too much sleepiness.
- Medications for high blood pressure (Antihypertensive drugs)
- Lavender might decrease blood pressure in some people. Taking lavender along with medications used for lowering high blood pressure might cause your blood pressure to go too low. Do not take too much lavender if you are taking medications for high blood pressure.
Some medications for high blood pressure include captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), losartan (Cozaar), valsartan (Diovan), diltiazem (Cardizem), Amlodipine (Norvasc), hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDIURIL), furosemide (Lasix), and many others.
- Sedative medications (Barbiturates)
- Lavender might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Medications that cause sleepiness are called sedatives. Taking lavender along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepiness.
Some sedative medications include amobarbital (Amytal), butabarbital (Butisol), mephobarbital (Mebaral), pentobarbital (Nembutal), phenobarbital (Luminal), secobarbital (Seconal), and others.
- Sedative medications (Benzodiazepines)
- Lavender might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Medications that cause sleepiness and drowsiness are called sedatives. Taking melatonin along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepiness.
Some of these sedative medications include lorazepam (Ativan), alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), midazolam (Versed), and others.
- Sedative medications (CNS depressants)
- Lavender might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Medications that cause sleepiness are called sedatives. Taking lavender along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepiness.
Some sedative medications include clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), phenobarbital (Donnatal), zolpidem (Ambien), and others.
Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?
- Herbs and supplements that might cause sleepiness
- Lavender might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Using lavender along with other herbs and supplements with similar effects might cause too much sleepiness. Some of these supplements include 5-HTP, calamus, California poppy, catnip, hops, Jamaican dogwood, kava, St. John's wort, skullcap, valerian, yerba mansa, and others.
- Herbs and supplements that might lower blood pressure
- Lavender might lower blood pressure. Using it along with other herbs and supplements that have the same effect might increase the risk of blood pressure dropping too low in some people. Some of these products include andrographis, casein peptides, cat's claw, coenzyme Q-10, fish oil, L-arginine, lycium, stinging nettle, theanine, and others.
Are there interactions with foods?
- There are no known interactions with foods.
What dose is used?
APPLIED TO THE SKIN:
- For bald spots (alopecia areata): one study used a combination of essential oils including 3 drops (108 mg) of lavender, 3 drops (114 mg) of rosemary, 2 drops (88 mg) of thyme, and 2 drops (94 mg) of cedarwood, all mixed with 3 mL jojoba oil and 20 mL grapeseed oil. Each night, the mixture is massaged into the scalp for 2 minutes with a warm towel placed around the head to increase absorption.
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.
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