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People have used lavender for centuries to relieve stress and help with sleep. Today, many people use lavender oil as a complementary therapy for anxiety, though evidence for its effectiveness is mixed.
Lavender oil is an essential oil that comes from the lavender plant. People use it for aromatherapy, either by inhaling its scent via a diffuser or steam or by diluting it in a carrier oil to apply to the skin.
This article looks at whether lavender essential oil can help with anxiety, a range of lavender oil products, and how to use them safely.
Although research suggests that essential oils may have some health benefits, it is important to remember that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not monitor or regulate the purity or quality of these. A person should talk with their healthcare provider before using essential oils, and they should be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. A person should always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.
Traditional herbal medicine has long associated lavender with sleep, relaxation, and pain relief. However, research into its effectiveness as a treatment for anxiety is still ongoing.
A 2018 study on mice showed that linalool, one of the compounds in lavender, had similar effects on the brain as common anxiety medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and benzodiazepines.
This could explain how lavender might reduce anxiety in humans. However, according to the National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), there are not enough high-quality human studies on lavender to confirm its effectiveness.
While a 2019 systematic review found that lavender had a significant effect on anxiety levels, it also notes that the quality of studies is lower than average in this area and carries a higher risk of bias.
Overall, scientists need to carry out more studies to determine if using lavender essential oil could be a safe, effective treatment for anxiety.
According to the NCCIH, lavender oil is likely safe when used in moderation. However, because lavender oil may influence neurotransmitters, it could potentially interact with other substances that alter a person’s brain chemistry. These include:
- benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium)
- herbal remedies for anxiety or depression, such as St. John’s Wort
People who use any medications or supplements or are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult a healthcare professional before using lavender essential oil.
Learn more about lavender here.
If a person wishes to try lavender oil, and it is safe for them to do so, there are many options to choose from. However, not all are of high quality.
The following products:
- contain real lavender essential oil
- do not contain artificial fragrance
- are quality-checked by a third party
Please note that the statements below are based only on research. No one at Medical News Today, including the writer, has tried these products.
Plant Therapy Organic Lavender Essential Oil
This pure lavender essential oil comes from Bulgarian Lavandula augustifolia plants. Certified organic by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), each batch undergoes quality testing via gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS).
GC-MS testing separates the individual compounds in an essential oil and measures what percentage of these compounds the oil contains. This helps to verify the oil’s purity and quality.
As a pure, undiluted essential oil, a person could use this product in various ways. It is suitable for use in a diffuser or carrier oil for topical application. The manufacturers recommend diluting it to 2-5% with the chosen carrier oil.
Red Silk Essentials Lavender Pre-Diluted Roll-on
Roll-on essential oil products are pre-diluted blends a person can apply directly to their skin. They allow someone to carry an essential oil with them throughout the day, applying in small amounts to the wrists to inhale the scent.
This roll-on product is a 10% dilution of organic Lavandula augustofolia oil in medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil. This product contains a relatively high concentration of essential oil, so a person should only use it on small areas of the body.
This product comes from a Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and USDA-certified manufacturer. The company also say they source their essential oils from traditional, sustainable farms.
This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray
This award-winning pillow spray features a blend of essential oils, including lavender, vetivert, and chamomile. While this product aims to help people sleep well, these oils may also help with general anxiety and relaxation.
In 2017, the company funded an independent study using functional MRI (fMRI) scans to measure brain activity while people used this pillow spray. The researchers found that the spray activated parts of the brain associated with calmness and pleasure.
According to the company website, 90% of the oils This Works uses are organic, and they do not use synthetic color or fragrance.
Toxicologists have tested all their products against European Union and U. S. safety standards.
As these products show, it is possible to use lavender oil in various ways, including as a roll-on, room spray, or by diluting the pure essential oil.
It is essential to follow safety guidelines when using pure lavender oil. At high concentrations, lavender oil can cause skin irritation. It may also cause allergic reactions and other adverse effects.
The Tisserand Institute explain how to use pure lavender essential oil safely.
- Steam inhalation: Add a few drops of lavender oil to a bowl of steaming water. Lean over the bowl and place a towel over the head, keeping the eyes closed to avoid irritation. Breathe in to inhale the steam. Do not do this for more than 15–20 minutes at a time.
- Diffusion: Follow the device instructions to fill the diffuser’s reservoir and add an appropriate amount of lavender oil. Diffuse for no more than 30–60 minutes on, then take a break for at least 30–60 minutes. Make sure the room is well-ventilated.
- Bathing: Dilute lavender oil in a carrier oil, such as sweet almond oil, or Castile soap, before adding to a bath. According to the Tisserand Institute, these substances will help to disperse the oil in the water. Adding pure essential oil directly to a bath is risky, as the oil will float on the surface and will not mix with the water, which may cause skin irritation.
- Skin application: Dilute the lavender oil in a carrier oil at a concentration of 1.5–3% for use on the body, and 0.2–1.5% for use on the face.
Lavender oil is not a replacement for mental health treatment. If a person regularly feels anxious, and this interferes with daily life, they may benefit from speaking to a doctor or therapist for support.
Essential oils can be dangerous at high concentrations or if ingested. If a person notices any new or worsening symptoms while using lavender oil, they should stop using it right away and see a doctor.
Always talk to a doctor before using any essential oils, especially if pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking any medications.
When using aromatherapy, consider others in the environment. Some essential oils are toxic to pets or dangerous for pregnant women and children.
Some evidence suggests that lavender oil may help people with anxiety to feel calmer. As a result, high-quality products that contain lavender essential oil may provide some temporary relief.
However, researchers still do not fully understand how lavender impacts the body, and it is not a proven treatment for mental health conditions. People should talk to their doctor before trying it.