Lavender essential oil is the most popular essential oil in use today. In the scientific community, it appears to be the second-most researched essential oil, only after Tea Tree. This is probably because the medical effects of Tea Tree, used as an antiseptic, antiviral and anti-fungal agent, are easily measured, and its actions are more familiar to the medical profession. Lavender’s actions are a little more challenging to define, as its primary actions affect us on psychological and emotional levels. Yet recently, even these effects have been proven without a doubt by major studies performed at world-renown university and medical centers. Here we’ll have a look at the effects of Lavender essential oil, and some of the incredible research that backs up these claims.
Lavender’s key actions are calming and regenerating; it imparts these actions on our physical body as well as our psyche, leading to a variety of useful applications. The synergy of these effects is important, as both our physical bodies and our minds need stress relief before healing can occur. Bumps and bruises need the swelling to go down, scrapes or burns need the inflammation to clear, and our psyche has to let go of tension for us to live happy and healthy lives. Lavender’s sweet aroma brings calm to nearly everyone — it’s anxiety-relieving effects have been proven in several university studies, and this is perhaps the easiest medicinal action to utilize.
Certainly one of the great features of Lavender essential oil is its ease of use. Need to relieve a little personal stress? Just inhale deeply from the bottle. Need to de-stress the entire room you’re in, or maybe your automobile? Just sprinkle a little on the carpet. Need to calm your child? A warm bath with a few drops of oil goes a long way. How about a great night’s sleep? Just a couple drops on the bedspread will do the trick, or setting a diffuser on low throughout the night can help with staying asleep through those early morning hours.
The latest research is even suggesting that ingesting Lavender has essentially the same effects as inhaling it. And despite the widespread belief in the United States that one should never, ever ingest essential oils, this is simply not true. Lavender is very safe: it is listed by the FDA as “Generally Recognized As Safe” for ingestion as a food additive, and some companies even have their bottles labeled as dietary supplements. While its important to keep in mind that the protocols for ingesting any essential oil are always on the order of 1-3 drops a couple times per day — and almost never more than this — its also great to see research of such a large scale telling us ingestion of certain oils is not only acceptable, but can result in a dramatic improvement in one’s health.
Researchers at the Medical University of Vienna, Austria have published their data resulting from a ten week trial of a eighty-milligram capsule of Lavender essential oil. The double-blind, placebo-controlled study investigated the anti-stress effects of this encapsulated Lavender, by evaluating the physical and emotional condition of the participants on a number of criteria. The results were quite profound — the Lavender capsule was found to have statistically significant effects for the relief of mild to moderate anxiety disorder, as well as improving the quality of rest. Further, perhaps as a direct result of the improvement of participant’s mental condition and their improved sleep, their physical condition was markedly improved as well.
To really be convincing, these same researchers also evaluated the Lavender capsule against a well-known, very potent anti-anxiety drug. The results were very impressive. The natural capsule was as effective as the pharmaceutical preparation in every way, with the researchers noting the important difference that the essential oil capsule had no potential for abuse. This was due to the fact that all the anti-anxiety properties came about without the additional feature of sedation; the Lavender oil pill could put you at ease without knocking you out!
Another interesting study exposed patients waiting to see the dentist to Lavender essential oil aroma. The oil was simply diffused in the waiting room for some, while other patients received no aroma. The result was that all patients still reported being nervous about seeing the dentist, but the group exposed to the Lavender aroma noted statistically significant lower anxiety while in the waiting room. So the essential oil’s scent didn’t change their personal idea of the experience of the dentist, but significantly affected the actual stress they felt just before their appointment. In a study very similar to this, the oil reduced pre-test taking anxiety of nursing students.
In a more medically oriented trial, patients were exposed to Lavender essential oil vapor immediately after surgery. Impressively, it was found that, among patients exposed to the aroma, fewer required pain relieving drugs at all, and those that did required less of them.
So clearly Lavender essential oil can really be of help to folks that are stressed out, or sleep poorly, or both. And the great thing about the oil is that is so easy to use for this purpose. No need to figure out dilution ratios for topical application — just inhale it! Open a little bottle and inhale straight from that, or sprinkle a little on your carpet, or go so far as to use in in an aromatherapy diffuser. You can even ingest a couple of drops a day, either in a capsule, cup of water, or “neat” if you like. Lavender essential oil is such a versatile, safe and effective stress reliever, its worth a try by nearly everyone in these fast-paced times.