Lavandula angustifolia, more commonly referred to as lavender, is a natural plant that is found in nature which has shown to have many health benefits.1 It is used for baking, teas, essential oils, and the lavender plants themselves are also used in gardening and décor.1 Lavender is an herb that is native in northern Africa and the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean.1,2 The potential medicinal benefits of lavender include simple aromatherapy, potential menstrual cramping relief, sleeping aid, and improved mood.1,2 Lavender can be used as aromatherapy, it can be made into a tea, and the essential oil can also be diluted and used as a topical agent as well.
In the United States today, lavender is not an approved supplement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).1 Therefore, it is important to ensure that any individual who would like to try this product consults with a healthcare provider to assess the safety of using this product.
Lavender for Improved Mood
Lavender is a supplement that is most often used as an aromatherapy agent, but it is also helpful with issues such as anxiety, depression and fatigue.1,2 Studies have shown that there are some compounds found within lavender plants that can stimulate certain areas of activity within the brain.2 It is also suggested that these compounds can influence the transmission of impulses between the cells of the brain in order to help promote calm and relaxing effects.2 One study showed that new mothers who drank lavender tea and used aromatherapy with lavender reported less fatigue and depression, compared to those who did not drink tea or use aromatherapy.3 This is suggestive that lavender can be beneficial for improved mood and less likelihood of depression. Lavender teas and aromatherapy have been a commonly used method to relieve stress and help individuals relax. It is very likely that this plant can be beneficial for individuals that need this relaxing effect.
Lavender for Sleep Aid
Lavender has been used as a sleep aid for many years. This is likely due to the calming effects associated with the scent of lavender. Although there are not any specific studies that indicate that lavender tea has an effect on sleep quality, there are some studies that show that the breathing of lavender has a promising effect. One study conducted in new mothers during the postpartum period determined that women who took deep inhalations of lavender aromatherapy for 4 days a week over a period of 8 weeks, had a significantly better sleep quality compared to women who did not do this.4 Additionally, a study conducted in college students who suffered from insomnia showed that those who participated in breathing in lavender had improved sleep quality.5 These results show that there is a promising effect between breathing in lavender aromatherapy in individuals who have difficulty sleeping.
Lavender for Menstrual Cramping
Another issue that lavender can possibly help with is menstrual cramping. Cramping is a very common issue for women during a menstrual period. Lavender can potentially help with this issue. One study determined that women who would use lavender aromatherapy for 30 minutes a day for the first 3 days of their menstrual cycle presented with significantly lower pain during cramping after about 2 months of lavender use.6 Additional studies have shown that when used topically, lavender has been associated with improvement in menstrual cramping as well.7
More data is required to provide a conclusive statement on the relationship between lavender use and its effects on improving menstrual pain. However, thus far, results are promising.
How Do I Use Lavender?
Lavender can be used as aromatherapy, topically, and lavender leaves can even be added to drinks such as tea. Lavender is often available in many grocery stores – especially as an essential oil (aromatherapy) option. The FDA recommends that when using lavender as an essential oil product, always refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines. Essential oils are not meant to be taken by mouth.2 It is important to keep the lavender essential oil away from young children and pets because accidental ingestion of this can be toxic.
Lavender essential oil, when used as aromatherapy, must be diluted into water.2 This can be placed into an oil diffuser which will then produce an aroma in the air. Additionally, some lavender drops can be placed onto a cotton ball, which can then be inhaled if you do not have an oil diffuser.2 If using lavender as a topical agent, it is important to dilute this into a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, in order to avoid any type of reaction.2 Lavender essential oil is very concentrated, and it is important to ensure that this product is diluted properly before the intended use.2 Otherwise, this can cause a skin irritation and/or rash.
If you are planning on using lavender in a tea, it is important to purchase the lavender leaves or tea bags from a reputable source. Most often, lavender tea bags can be found at a local grocery store. In order to make lavender tea, you may place a lavender tea bag into hot water and allow this to steep for about 4 minutes.2 If you are using loose lavender tea buds, it is recommended to use about 1 cup (250 mL) of hot water per ½ teaspoon of lavender and allow this to steep for 4 minutes.2
As discussed, lavender is not regulated by the FDA. Use caution when trying new this product and always use the same manufacturer once you have established which brand you prefer. This will help ensure that you are receiving a similar strength of the supplement with each use.
Safety of Lavender
As a natural product, this may seem like a wonderful option to try for various potential health benefits. However, lavender may not be for everyone.
Lavender is overall well tolerated by most individuals. However, there are some side effects that can occur. When using concentrated lavender essential oil, as mentioned above, always make sure to dilute the product. Otherwise, when applying undiluted lavender essential oil topically, this can cause burning sensations, skin irritation and be damaging to the skin.2 Additionally, avoid getting lavender essential oil into the eyes as this can cause irritation and burning sensations.2 Lastly, if you are someone who has sensitive skin, lavender essential oil should be avoided if possible, to avoid skin reactions like a rash.2 If you would still like to try lavender essential oil topically, you may try a patch test. Apply a small amount of lavender essential oil that has been diluted in a carrier oil to a small area of the skin. Monitor the area for 24 to 48 hours. If there is no reaction, this may be okay to use on the skin. Regardless, you should consult with a doctor or dermatologist to assess the safety for your skin type.
Additionally, there has been one case study that showed the possibility of an abnormally fast heartbeat after drinking lavender tea.8 There is not much data to validate this, therefore, use caution when trying lavender tea bags. Due to potential effects on the nervous system, however, it is important to consult with a doctor prior to starting use of this product to ensure this is safe for you.