Lavender in Your Daily Life - Four Little-Known Uses

Dr. Anne Hussain
Dr. Anne Hussain's picture

Lavender in Your Daily Life - Four Little-Known Uses

by Dr. Anne Hussain, ND and Birth Doula

The Wellness Group Aurora
15620 Bayview Ave, Aurora, ON L4G 0Y7
http://www.annehussain.com/

Lavender in Your Daily Life - Four Little-Known Uses




Lavender Oil and Its Properties

Lavender oil is extracted via steam distillation of its flowering tops for topical application; however, in aromatherapy, the whole plant is used. The oil can be used in a variety of ways: ingested orally, inhaled, used topically on the skin directly, used in aromatherapy blends, in baths, and more. Even when applied topically, lavender oil can enter the bloodstream, and studies have shown its constituents and metabolites in the serum of tested individuals.[5]

Lavender’s primary effects include anxiolytic, antimicrobial, analgesic, antidepressant, calming, and cooling.

Lavender Species and Constituents Lavender in Your Daily Life - Four Little-Known Uses

When we think of lavender, small purple flowers with frosty leaves come in mind. Lavender can actually refer to a few different species of the genus Lavandula, mainly L. angustifolia, L. stoechas, L. latifolia, and L. intermedia, and they all look slightly different and have different constituent profiles.[1] For skin ailments, the species of lavender used is L. angustifolia. The main active compounds in lavender include linalool, linalyl acetate, lavandulol, eucalyptol, α-pinene, 1,8‑cineole, lavandulyl acetate, and camphor.[1]

These constituents—especially linalool, which is found in the highest percentage of the above-listed compounds—play an important role in lavender’s therapeutic effects. Linalool has actually been shown to have antidepressant effects as well as calming effects by working on the nervous system’s GABA receptors.[2] It also has antibacterial and analgesic properties, which makes lavender a great addition to topicals for wound care and pain management.[3] In addition, new research in mice has implicated linalool in improved cognition and decrease in progression of Alzheimer’s dementia.[4]

Lavender Uses

Lavender in Your Daily Life - Four Little-Known Uses Cuts and Scrapes

Due to its antibacterial properties and the ability to stimulate collagen, lavender works wonderfully in conjunction with other topicals to help heal cuts and scrapes. In animal studies, topical lavender oil has been shown increase collagen production and decrease wound size over the span of seven days versus a control solution.[6] It can even be mixed in with a honey ointment or Polysporin ointment for a synergistic effect. In fact, it has been shown that L. angustifolia oil acts synergistically in wound healing with conventional agents such as nystatin, chloramphenicol, ciprofloxacin, and fusidin against microbes and fungi such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, and Candida albicans.[7]

Stress and Anxiety Lavender in Your Daily Life - Four Little-Known Uses

Lavender is a very soothing herb that relaxes the nervous system and decreases cortisol— stress hormone—levels in the body.[8] It is usually found in combination with other herbs like chamomile, oatstraw, and lemonbalm in calming teas, tinctures, and supplements. Its essential oil can be used in a bath, in a diffuser, in personal-care products, and/or in a hair oil to help calm you down. Even when simply inhaled, lavender essential oil has been shown to decrease blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature when compared to a base oil without lavender essential oil.[9] An oral preparation of lavender has been shown to be as effective as 0.5 mg of a common benzodiazepine called lorazepam for general anxiety disorder.[10] Even in babies, inhalation of lavender oil has been associated with decreased stress and crying during bath time.[11]

Insomnia Lavender in Your Daily Life - Four Little-Known Uses

Another use for lavender is as a sleep aid. It has been shown to improve the quality of sleep in a variety of different patient populations—university students, menopausal women, and geriatric patients—and has been shown to improve sleep duration in patients who have decreased sleep duration due to benzodiazepine withdrawal.[12][13] It is a constituent of many sleepy-time teas, tinctures, and supplements alongside chamomile, lemonbalm, catnip, valerian, and passionflower. Aside from ingesting lavender in the above-mentioned forms, lavender essential oil can be massaged into the scalp (mixed in with a carrier oil), used in a diffuser, and/or applied to a pillow or sleep-mask.

Pain Relief

Perineal discomfort after childbirth and C‑section scar pain have been shown to be decreased with topical applications of lavender, in the form of sitz baths for the former and massage with lavender-infused oil for the latter.[14] Lavender has been shown to help decrease the intensity of migraine headaches when inhaled during the headache’s early stages for 15 minutes.[15] It has also been shown to decrease the pain of needle insertion in hospital settings—the oxygen face-masks were coated with lavender prior to administration.[16]

Lavender in Your Daily Life - Four Little-Known Uses

Lavender can also be used to alleviate sore, achy neck and back pain.[17] It combines well with other essential oils such as wintergreen, peppermint, and/or copaiba. Clinical experience has shown that a good way to use lavender in this case would be to combine 3 tbsp. of castor oil with two drops each of the essential oils of lavender, peppermint, wintergreen, and/or copaiba, and massage into achy traps, back muscles, or calves for relief.

Other Uses

Lavender has some promising uses in mucosal healing in gastrointestinal damage such as ulcers, as an anticonvulsive for epilepsy, helping those suffering from PTSD, and in improving cognitive defects due to Alzheimer’s dementia.[18][19][20][21]

Safety

Lavender oil is relatively safe for all ages and is not addictive. In adults, lavender essential oil can even be used undiluted for topical application, but not for infants or children. When ingesting lavender oil, it is advisable to only use food-grade, and in a diluted form or in an encapsulated form that has shown to be safe. Lavender, alongside tea tree oil, can have some estrogenic and antiandrogenic effects according to in vitro studies.[22] There has also been a small case study showing gynecomastia in young males using topical herbal blends of lavender, which resolved with discontinuation of the herbal blend.[22] Lavender should not be ingested during pregnancy, and used with caution during breast-feeding. People with allergies to lavender should avoid lavender; common symptoms of an adverse effect to oral administration of lavender include stomach upset and nausea.[10] Most research regarding application and ingestion of lavender have been short-term, so the long-term effects are unclear.

Conclusion

Lavender is a very safe and versatile herb; its healing properties have been utilized all around the world and the medical research world is finally catching up to corroborating many of its traditional and historical uses. Its essential oil has antimicrobial, calming, cooling, and hormone-balancing effects, and is safe enough to be used directly onto the skin without dilution (for adults). From minor cuts to managing anxiety, it’s definitely one to keep around the house.