LAVENDER ESSENTIAL OIL SCIENCE
Lavender essential oil is the most used essential oil in the world today, but the benefits of lavender were actually discovered over 2,500 years ago. Because of its powerful antioxidant, antimicrobial, sedative, calming and antidepressive properties, lavender oil benefits abound and it’s been used both cosmetically and therapeutically for centuries. (1)
The Egyptians used lavender for mummification and as a perfume. In fact, when King Tut’s tomb was opened in 1923, there was said to be a faint scent of lavender that could still be detected after 3,000 years.
Early and modern aromatherapy texts advocate for lavender’s use as anantibacterial essential oil. The leaves and stems of the plant were used to prepare decoctions against digestive system diseases and rheumatism, and lavender was valued for its cosmetic purposes. The Romans used lavender oil for bathing, cooking and purifying the air. And in the Bible, lavender oil was among the aromatics used for anointing and healing. (2)
Today, lavender oil benefits for your body include the following:
- Reduce anxiety and emotional stress
- Protect against diabetes symptoms
- Improve brain function
- Help to heal burns and wounds
- Improve sleep
- Restore skin complexion and reduce acne
- Slow aging with powerful antioxidants
- Relieve pain
- Alleviate headaches
Because lavender oil contains such versatile properties and is gentle enough to apply directly to the skin, I consider it a must-have oil, especially if you are just getting started with using essential oils for your health. Science has only recently started to evaluate the range of health benefits that lavender essential oil contains, but there’s already an abundance of evidence that points out the amazing capabilities of this oil. (3)
Today, lavender is one of the most popular essential oils in the world. And for good reason. People are beginning to catch on to lavender oil benefits, for your body as well as your home.
10 Lavender Oil Benefits and Studies
- Antioxidant Protection
Free radicals, like toxins, chemicals and pollutants, are arguably the most dangerous and most common risk factor for every disease that affects Americans today. Free radicals are responsible for shutting down your immune system and can cause unbelievable damage to your body.
The body’s natural response to free radical damage is to create antioxidant enzymes — especially glutathione, catalase and superoxide dismutase (SOD) — that prevent these free radicals from doing their damage. Unfortunately, your body can actually become deficient in antioxidants if the free radical burden is great enough, which has become relatively common in the U.S. because of poor diet and high exposure to toxins.
Thankfully, lavender essential oil is a natural antioxidant that works to prevent and reverse disease. A 2013 study published in Phytomedicine found that lavender oil increased the activity of the body’s most powerful antioxidants — glutathione, catalase and SOD. And more recent studies have indicated similar results, concluding that lavender has antioxidant activity and helps to prevent or reverse oxidative stress. (4, 5)
- Diabetes Natural Treatment
In 2014, scientists from Tunisia set out to complete a fascinating task: to test the effects of lavender essential oil on blood sugar to see if it can helpreverse diabetes naturally.
During the 15-day animal study, the results observed by researchers were absolutely amazing. In a nutshell, lavender essential oil treatment protected the body from the following diabetes symptoms (6):
- Increased blood glucose (the hallmark of diabetes)
- Metabolic disorders (especially fat metabolism)
- Weight gain
- Liver and kidney antioxidant depletion
- Liver and kidney dysfunction
- Liver and kidney lipoperoxidation (when free radicals “steal” necessary fat molecules from cell membranes)
Although more research is needed to understand the full capacity of lavender oil for the prevention or reversal of diabetes, the results of this study are promising and indicate the therapeutic potential of lavender. To use lavender oil for diabetes, apply it topically to your neck and chest, diffuse it at home or supplement with it for the health benefits.
- Improves Mood and Reduces Stress
In recent years, lavender oil has been put on a pedestal for its unique ability to protect against neurological damage. Traditionally, lavender has been used to treat neurological issues like migraines, stress, anxiety and depression, so it’s exciting to see that the research is finally catching up to history.
In 2013, an evidence-based study published by the International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice found that supplementing with 80 milligram capsules of lavender essential oil alleviates anxiety, sleep disturbance and depression. Additionally, in the study there were no adverse side effects, drug interactions or withdrawal symptoms from using lavender oil. (7)
Another study published in 2012 took 28 high-risk postpartum women and found that by diffusing lavender in their homes, they had a significant reduction of postnatal depression and reduced anxiety disorder after a four-week treatment plan of lavender aromatherapy. (8)
Lavender oil has also been shown to improve PTSD symptoms. 80 milligrams of lavender oil per day helped decrease depression by 33 percent and dramatically decrease sleep disturbances, moodiness, and overall health status in 47 people suffering from PTSD. (9)
To relieve stress and improve sleep, put a diffuser by your bed and diffuse oils while you sleep at night or in the family room while you’re reading or winding down in the evening. You can also apply lavender oil topically behind your ears for the same benefits.
- Supports Brain Function
The neurological benefits of lavender essential oil don’t stop at its ability to treat depression and boost mood. Research also shows that lavender oil serves as a natural treatment for Alzheimer’s disease! Studies conducted on rats show that inhaling lavender essential oil vapor can help to prevent brain oxidative stress and improve cognitive impairment. (10, 11)
Also in 2012, the Swiss journal Molecules printed the results of a study that shockingly proved that lavender oil is a viable treatment option for neurological dysfunctions such as stroke. Researchers believe that lavender’s neuroprotective effects are due to its antioxidant properties. (12)
To support the nervous system with lavender oil, diffuse it at home, inhale it directly from the bottle or apply it topically to the temples and back of neck.
- Heals Burns and Cuts
Widely known for its antimicrobial properties, for centuries lavender oil has been used to prevent various infections and combat bacterial and fungal disorders. In fact, almost 100 studies have been conducted establishing this benefit of lavender over and over again. Research shows that lavender oil speeds the healing of burns, cuts, scrapes and wounds — and a big part of this is because of its antimicrobial compounds.
A study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine evaluated how lavender’s antimicrobial ability is enhanced when it’s blended with other essential oils, like clove, cinnamon and tea tree oil. Researchers found that a 1:1 ratio of these oils was found to be the most effective in fighting against Candida albicans and Staph aureus —two common causes of many fungal and bacterial infections that lead to respiratory pneumonia and skin funguses. (13)
A 2016 study conducted on rats found that lavender oil promoted wound healing in the early phase by accelerating the formation of granulation tissue (tissue from the healing surface of the skin) and promoting collagen synthesis. The area of wounds treated with lavender oil was significantly decreased compared to the control group. (14)
For burn relief and to heal cuts, scrapes or wounds, mix 3–5 drops of lavender oil with ½ teaspoon of coconut oil and apply the mixture to the area of concern. You can use your fingers or a clean cotton ball.
- Promotes Healthy Skin and Hair
Most likely due to its antimicrobial and antioxidant characteristics, lavender essential mixed with a carrier oil (like coconut, jojoba or grapeseed oil) has profound benefits on your skin.
Using lavender oil topically can help to improve a number of skin conditions, from canker sores to allergic reactions, acne and age spots. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties help to ease skin conditions and reverse signs of aging. (15)
To use lavender oil for skin health, combine 3–4 drops with ½ teaspoon of coconut or jojoba oil and massage the mixture into the area of concern. You can also add lavender oil to your face or body wash. I also recommend mixing lavender oil with frankincense essential oil and applying it to your skin first thing in the morning, right after you shower, and right before bed. This will help to reduce inflammation and signs of aging, like dark spots.
Studies also show that lavender oil, along with other essential oils like thyme, rosemary and cedarwood, can significantly improve alopecia areata and hair loss when massaged into the scalp daily. (16)
- Relieves Headaches
If you are one of the millions of people struggling with tension or migraine headaches, lavender oil may just be the natural remedy you’ve been looking for. It’s one of the best essential oils for headaches because it induces relaxation and relieves tension. It works as a sedative, anti-anxiety, anticonvulsant and calming agent.
According to a study published in European Neurology, people struggling with migraine headaches saw a significant reduction in pain when they inhaled lavender oil for 15 minutes. The difference between the control group and lavender oil treatment group was statistically significant. Of the 129 headache attack cases, 92 responded entirely or partially to lavender. (17)
I have found that one of the most effective natural headache remedies is combing two drops each of lavender oil with peppermint oil and rubbing the mixture into the back of the neck and the temples. Diffusing lavender or inhaling it directly from the bottle can also help to relieve headaches.
- Improves Sleep and Insomnia
Because of lavender oil’s sedative and calming properties, it works to improve sleep and treat insomnia. A 2015 study involving 158 mothers in their postpartum period were divided into the control or intervention group. The intervention group inhaled lavender oil before bed four times a week for eight weeks. The women using lavender oil displayed a significant improvement in sleep quality when compared to the control group. (18)
There are several studies, just like this one involving mothers, that demonstrate the sleep-inducing, calming effects of lavender oil. Inhaling lavender has shown to reduce sleep disturbance, improve quality and duration of sleep, fight insomnia and improve overall well-being. Plus, unlike most sedative drugs, lavender does not cause any unwanted side effects. It actually promotes general mental and physical health. (19)
To improve your quality of sleep, diffuse lavender oil in your bedroom before or during sleep. Also, you can rub 3–5 drops directly on your neck, chest and temples. Taking a healing bath by adding 15 drops of lavender oil and 1 cup of Epsom salts to the bathtub is another effective way to use lavender oil to improve sleep and relax the body.
And I have also found that making a mixture of lavender oil, Roman chamomile essential oil and magnesium oil is the best combination for improving sleep. Just rub this mixture into the back of your neck and wrists to induce a calm, peaceful feeling.
- Relieves Pain
Several studies have found that lavender oil helps as a natural painkiller. Simply rubbing lavender into the area of concern can reduce inflammation and pain intensity, helping to alleviate the symptoms of many health conditions.
A 2015 study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine indicates that topical application of lavender oil decreases moderate intensities of pain during the insertion of dialysis needles. Researchers point out that lavender may be an option to reduce the pain of inserting dialysis needles, which causes constant fear and anxiety for many hemodialysis patients. (20)
Another study, published in the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, found that a combination of lavender, marjoram, peppermint and black pepper essential oils improved neck pain when applied to the affected area daily. (21)
And yet another recent study proved that lavender oil, when massaged into the skin, can help to relieve dysmenorrhea, which is associated with menstrual pain and cramping in the lower abdomen. The results of this study suggest that lavender oil can be used as a natural remedy for PMS and menstrual cramps. (22)
- Complementary Therapy for Cancer
A 2012 study published in the African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines shows that aromatherapy, particularly using lavender oil, helps patients with cancer cope with stress, nausea, chronic pain and depression. Because lavender oil works to stimulate the immune system, boost mood, improve sleep and fight stress, it can be used as a therapeutic agent. (23)
Massaging lavender oil into the back of your neck, chest, wrists and temples can induce relaxing and calming effects. If you are experiencing muscle or joint pain, or pain at the site of injections, apply 2–3 drops of lavender to the affected area.
To relieve stress and anxiety, and improve sleep, diffuse lavender or inhale it directly from the bottle. This can be particularly useful before and after surgical procedures and chemotherapy treatment.