How can we use lavender to improve our health? Join Sandi Schwartz as she shows us how this herb provides many health benefits from reducing insomnia and pain to improving skin and digestive conditions. (And can even be used to make a yummy refreshing lemonade!)
Herbal Profile: Lavender
There is no scent more relaxing than lavender. I love when a yoga instructor walks around the room and sprays the relaxing scent on everyone’s mats. I always choose lavender oil during a massage and wear it in my perfume. Before I go to sleep each night, I inhale a big whiff of it and enjoy how calm it makes me feel.
Research indicates that aromatherapy with lavender may slow the activity of the nervous system, improve sleep quality, and promote relaxation. Studies also suggest that massage with it in oil form may lead to a better night’s sleep. Another way to enjoy it is to brew a few of its flowers in hot water to create a relaxing tea before bedtime.
Alopecia (Hair Loss)
There is some evidence that applying lavender oil in combination with thyme, rosemary, and cedarwood oils might improve hair growth by as much as 44 percent after 7 months of treatment. In addition, lavender-based shampoo can help with a variety of hair loss conditions. You can make your own by steeping lavender flowers as though you are brewing tea and then applying that mixture to your hair. It will function as an effective shampoo and significantly boost the health of your follicle beds and hair.
Because of its potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, lavender oil is effective in addressing painful conditions like migraine headaches, toothaches, sprains, nerve pain, sores, and joint pain. You can reduce inflammation throughout your body and ease achy muscles by soaking in a bath with lavendar flowers or applying a soothing salve. It has also been used to reduce pain after surgery. A group of patients who received oxygen supplemented with lavender oil reported better pain control than those who did not receive the aromatic oil. Also, research suggests that inhaling lavender essence while receiving pain killers intravenously can help reduce pain in women after a C-section.
Stress and Anxiety
The antioxidant components of lavender can lower the level of stress hormones in our body. Some research shows that taking lavender oil by mouth for 6-10 weeks reduces anxiety and prevents anxiety from reoccurring in people with mild-to-severe anxiety. There are a number of methods to use lavender to soothe stress and anxiety. Leaves and flowers can be ground between the fingers and then rubbed into the temples. Some people add lavender to bathwater to improve mental well-being. You can also brew it as a tea for a calming effect or try this delicious variation of lemonade.
Lavender oil is used to treat skin conditions including fungal infections (like candidiasis), wounds, psoriasis, eczema, and acne. One study evaluating treatments for children with eczema founded that massage with lavender oil reduced the dry, scaly skin lesions. An easy way to use lavender to improve your skin is to fill a spray bottle with lavender flowers. When your skin feels dry or irritated, simply spray some of the infused water on the area for a quick relief. If you or your child suffer from acne, try making your own lavender green clay mask.
It is also used to treat a variety of digestive issues such as loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea, intestinal gas, and upset stomach. The polyphenols found in lavender help prevent the development of harmful bacteria in the gut, easing stomach discomfort, reducing bloating, and eliminating cramping. You can either chew on lavender leaves or drink lavender tea to reduce stomach discomfort.
Some research shows that applying two drops of lavender oil to the affected area three times a day can improve canker sores.
- Internal use: Speak with a knowledgeable provider to find the right dose for you.
- Inhalation: 2 to 4 drops in 2 to 3 cups of boiling water. Inhale vapors for headache, depression, or insomnia. If you have asthma, talk to your doctor before using essential oil inhalations to see if they are right for you.
- Topical external application: For ease of application, add 1 to 2 drops per tbsp. of base oil (such as almond or olive oil). Also, avoid contact with eyes or mucous membranes, such as the lips and nostril.
- Oral use: not recommended.
- Inhalation: There are some aromatherapy formulas for children as well. Speak with a knowledgeable provider for dosing.
- Topical external application: May be used topically in diluted concentrations to treat skin infections and injuries, such as minor cuts and scrapes.
Lavender is likely safe for most adults when taken by mouth, applied to the skin, or inhaled in medicinal amounts. When taken by mouth, it can cause constipation, headache, and increased appetite. When applied to the skin, lavender can sometimes cause irritation.
If you are pregnant or breast-feeding you may want to avoid using lavender because there is not enough safety information available yet.
Finally, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that lavender and tea oils in some shampoos, soaps, and lotions may cause breast development in boys.