Lavender in Your Daily Life - Four Little-Known Uses
by Dr. Anne Hussain, ND and Birth Doula
The Wellness Group Aurora
15620 Bayview Ave, Aurora, ON L4G 0Y7
Lavender Oil and Its Properties
Lavender oil is extracted via steam distillation of its flowering tops for topical application;
however, in aromatherapy, the whole plant is used. The oil can be used in a variety of
ways: ingested orally, inhaled, used topically on the skin directly, used in aromatherapy
blends, in baths, and more. Even when applied topically, lavender oil can enter the
bloodstream, and studies have shown its constituents and metabolites in the serum of
Lavender’s primary effects include anxiolytic, antimicrobial, analgesic, antidepressant,
calming, and cooling.
Lavender Species and Constituents
When we think of lavender, small purple flowers with frosty leaves come in mind.
Lavender can actually refer to a few different species of the genus Lavandula, mainly
L. angustifolia, L. stoechas, L. latifolia, and L. intermedia, and they all look slightly different
and have different constituent profiles. For skin ailments, the species of lavender used
is L. angustifolia. The main active compounds in lavender include linalool, linalyl acetate,
lavandulol, eucalyptol, α-pinene, 1,8‑cineole, lavandulyl acetate, and camphor.
These constituents—especially linalool, which is found in the highest percentage of
the above-listed compounds—play an important role in lavender’s therapeutic effects.
Linalool has actually been shown to have antidepressant effects as well as calming
effects by working on the nervous system’s GABA receptors. It also has antibacterial
and analgesic properties, which makes lavender a great addition to topicals for wound
care and pain management. In addition, new research in mice has implicated linalool
in improved cognition and decrease in progression of Alzheimer’s dementia.
Cuts and Scrapes
Due to its antibacterial properties and the ability to stimulate collagen, lavender
works wonderfully in conjunction with other topicals to help heal cuts and scrapes.
In animal studies, topical lavender oil has been shown increase collagen production
and decrease wound size over the span of seven days versus a control solution. It
can even be mixed in with a honey ointment or Polysporin ointment for a synergistic
effect. In fact, it has been shown that L. angustifolia oil acts synergistically in wound
healing with conventional agents such as nystatin, chloramphenicol, ciprofloxacin, and
fusidin against microbes and fungi such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus
aureus, and Candida albicans.
Stress and Anxiety
Lavender is a very soothing herb that relaxes the nervous system and decreases cortisol—
stress hormone—levels in the body. It is usually found in combination with other herbs
like chamomile, oatstraw, and lemonbalm in calming teas, tinctures, and supplements.
Its essential oil can be used in a bath, in a diffuser, in personal-care products, and/or
in a hair oil to help calm you down. Even when simply inhaled, lavender essential oil
has been shown to decrease blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature when
compared to a base oil without lavender essential oil. An oral preparation of lavender
has been shown to be as effective as 0.5 mg of a common benzodiazepine called
lorazepam for general anxiety disorder. Even in babies, inhalation of lavender oil has
been associated with decreased stress and crying during bath time.
Another use for lavender is as a sleep aid. It has been shown to improve the quality
of sleep in a variety of different patient populations—university students, menopausal
women, and geriatric patients—and has been shown to improve sleep duration in
patients who have decreased sleep duration due to benzodiazepine withdrawal.
It is a constituent of many sleepy-time teas, tinctures, and supplements alongside
chamomile, lemonbalm, catnip, valerian, and passionflower. Aside from ingesting
lavender in the above-mentioned forms, lavender essential oil can be massaged into
the scalp (mixed in with a carrier oil), used in a diffuser, and/or applied to a pillow or
Perineal discomfort after childbirth and C‑section scar pain have been shown to be
decreased with topical applications of lavender, in the form of sitz baths for the former
and massage with lavender-infused oil for the latter. Lavender has been shown to
help decrease the intensity of migraine headaches when inhaled during the headache’s
early stages for 15 minutes. It has also been shown to decrease the pain of needle
insertion in hospital settings—the oxygen face-masks were coated with lavender prior
Lavender can also be used to alleviate sore, achy neck and back pain. It combines
well with other essential oils such as wintergreen, peppermint, and/or copaiba. Clinical
experience has shown that a good way to use lavender in this case would be to combine
3 tbsp. of castor oil with two drops each of the essential oils of lavender, peppermint,
wintergreen, and/or copaiba, and massage into achy traps, back muscles, or calves for
Lavender has some promising uses in mucosal healing in gastrointestinal damage such
as ulcers, as an anticonvulsive for epilepsy, helping those suffering from PTSD, and in
improving cognitive defects due to Alzheimer’s dementia.
Lavender oil is relatively safe for all ages and is not addictive. In adults, lavender
essential oil can even be used undiluted for topical application, but not for infants or
children. When ingesting lavender oil, it is advisable to only use food-grade, and in a
diluted form or in an encapsulated form that has shown to be safe. Lavender, alongside
tea tree oil, can have some estrogenic and antiandrogenic effects according to in vitro
studies. There has also been a small case study showing gynecomastia in young
males using topical herbal blends of lavender, which resolved with discontinuation of
the herbal blend. Lavender should not be ingested during pregnancy, and used with
caution during breast-feeding. People with allergies to lavender should avoid lavender;
common symptoms of an adverse effect to oral administration of lavender include
stomach upset and nausea. Most research regarding application and ingestion of
lavender have been short-term, so the long-term effects are unclear.
Lavender is a very safe and versatile herb; its healing properties have been utilized all
around the world and the medical research world is finally catching up to corroborating
many of its traditional and historical uses. Its essential oil has antimicrobial, calming,
cooling, and hormone-balancing effects, and is safe enough to be used directly onto
the skin without dilution (for adults). From minor cuts to managing anxiety, it’s definitely
one to keep around the house.