Lavender Essential Oil Benefits and Uses

I really want to explore more into the world of aromatherapy this year.  I have dabbled a little bit with pre-made aromatherapy blends (previous posts here, here, and here) but now I want to work with oils in their pure form and explore the various ways aromatherapy oils are used to heal and the effects they have on emotions and mental state.  My first oil that I have researched is lavender.

The word “lavender” is derived from the latin “lavare” which means ‘to wash’ which probably comes back to the roots for the use of lavender in baths to help purify both body and spirit.  As a skin conditioning agent, this oil was also applied to salves and body oils in ancient times but was reserved only for the rich. Now it is widely available in all forms and as an integral part of many different bath, personal care products and even cleaning products.

It is native to the stony, mountainous regions of the Mediterranean, but is now grown all over the world but most prominently in southern Europe, Australia and the United States.  It’s a short, dense little shrub that has blue-violet flowers from which the oil is obtained.

Research has been done into the effects of lavender and has confirmed that lavender can product calming, soothing, and sedative effects when inhaled.  The studies have utilized small population groups, but have given conclusive evidential results that help with insomnia, other sleep disorders, and anxiety by slowing the central nervous system (CNS).  There have been a few small studies into the effects of lavender aromatherapy with patient’s with dementia with positive results.  The claims into the benefits of lavender in the treatment of hair loss has not been proven, in fact the studies show no effect of lavender in comparison to the control group.  The same goes for eczema.  It was proven that the therapeutic touch and a simple carrier oil improved the symptoms just as much as the carrier oil with lavender essential oil added.

One super cool study tested 50 subjects undergoing breast biospy surgery who either received pre- and post- op oxygen alone or oxygen supplemented with lavender.  The test group that received lavender supplemented oxygen reported better pain control and required less analgesic (pain control) medication than the control group.

Another Study in an intensive care unit with patients that were under obvious stress were given aromatherapy with lavender and reported a much better demeanour than those who had just simply rested or been given a massage.  They didn’t show any objective changes in their blood pressure, respiration or heart rate.  It simply acted as a CNS depressent, making the stress/pain/discomfort not as important anymore.

A double-blind study of 635 women who added lavender oil to their bathwater after child birth noticed a distinct improvement in recover time between the third and fifth day, which is when the discomfort is usually the most prominent.

Before using lavender as an aromatherautic agent or naturopathic healing agent, please, please, please contact a professional.  Lavender is toxic when ingested in it’s pure form, so please don’t swallow it.  Two or three drops in a cup of boiled water will give off a balanced aroma that will offer therapeutic effects.  You can also put a couple of drops in the laundry when you wash your sheets and pillows (oh my heavens, does this ever make getting out of bed in the morning even more difficult).  A couple of drops in a body oil or lotion is also beneficial aromatherapy wise, but skin conditioning wise there isn’t enough proof to date.

Something to keep in mind: Although there are no scientific reports of interactions between lavender and conventional medications, it may make the effects of other CNS depressants even stronger.  These drugs include narcotics, sedative and anti-anxiety medications, and alcohol.

References:

Anderson, C., Lis-Balchin, M., Kifk-Smith, M., Evaluation of massage with essential oils in childhood atopic Eczema. Phyother Res. 200; 14(6) 452-456.

Graham, P.H., Brown, L., Cox, H., Graham, J., Inhalation aromatherapy during radiotherapy: results of a placebo-controlled double-blind randomized trial. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2003; 21(12): 2372-6.

Gyllenhaal, C., Merrit, S.L., Peterson, S.D., Block, K.I., Gochenour, T., Efficacy and safety of herbal stimulants and sedatives in sleep disorders. Sleep Medicine Reviews. 2000; 4(2): 1-24.

Kim, J.T., Wajda, M., Cuff, G., et al., Evaluation of aromatherapy in treating postoperative pain: pilot study. Journal of Pain Practicitioners. 2006; 6(4): 273-7.

Lee, I.S., Lee, G.J., Effects of lavender aromatherapy on insomnia and depression in women college students.  Taehan Kanho Hakhoe Chi. 2006: 36(1): 136-43

Lin, P.W., Chan, W., Ng, B.F., Lam, L.C., Efficacy of aromatherapy (lavandula angustifolia) as an intervention for agitated behaviours in Chinese older persons with dementia: a cross-over randomized trial. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. 2007: 22: 405-10.

Pemberton, E., Turpin, P.G., The effects of essential oils on work-related stress in intensive care unit nurses. Holistic Nurse Practicioners. 2008: Mar-Apr; 22(2) 97-102,

Rosenfeld, I. MD., Dr. Rosenfeld’s Guide to Alternative Medicine: what works, what doesn’t and what’s right for you. 1996, Random House Publishing, New York.

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