Can Lavender Really Calm?
Some scientific studies about lavender’s soporific sweetness...
Lavender (Lavandula officinalis), with its fragrant stalks and pretty pods of calmingly intoxicating purple flowers, is one of nature’s most beloved herbs. In the world of medicinal and aromatherapy herbs lavender’s virtues abound. The root word of lavandula is the Latin word lavare, which means, “to wash.” So not surprisingly, lavender has been the go-to herb for its antiseptic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory properties, but it’s also well loved for its calming attributes.
Where’s the proof? A study about the aroma of lavender concludes, “lavender aroma bath oil increased relaxation in mothers and infants, as evidenced by cortisol decreases, behavioral changes, and increased infant sleep.” (1) The authors of the study submitted, “these data suggest that infants with irritability and sleep problems could be calmed by this aroma and may experience more restful sleep.”
This is good news for parents trying to find safe, comforting ways to get their babies to settle down. Some infants and children are so stimulated by the day that sleep can be elusive. A calming routine can signal time to relax, connect and welcome the end of the day, and lavender can be more than just a sweet reminder that it’s time to sleep.
Clinical studies have also shown that the aroma of lavender can help improve relaxation, attentiveness, mood, and can be used for pregnant women for reducing their stress, anxiety and depression (2); it’s even a useful tool for reducing agitation in patients with dementia (3). Lavender has been shown to help alleviate dental patient anxiety (4) and may even help reduce pessimism (5) – so if you fear the worst from the dentist drill, you might just try taking along some lavender essential oil!
And it’s not just for calming, studies have suggested the external use of lavender for episiotomy wounds (6). Since it’s one of the safest essential oils, it can be applied directly to the skin to help speed healing of minor burns, scrapes, bee stings, cold sores and athlete’s foot. Rubbing a few drops into the temples can bring relief from minor headaches.
Aromatherapists make good use of lavender’s natural ability to reduce stress, anxiety, exhaustion, irritability, headaches, migraines, insomnia, depression and nervousness. The dried flowers can be made into a tea or dream pillow to help reduce anxiety and improve the quality of sleep. Lavender is one of the most valuable herbs for everyone’s family first aid kit, so whether you sprinkle, spritz, sip it or smooth it on, you can settle down with lavender’s science-based goodness!
(1) Lavender bath oil reduces stress and crying and enhances sleep in very young infants.
Field T, Field T, Cullen C, et al. Early Hum Dev. 2008 Jun;84(6):399-401.
FILE: Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) American Botanical Council HerbClip 020685-356
(2) J Effect of Lavender Cream with or without Foot-bath on Anxiety, Stress and Depression in Pregnancy: a Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial.
Caring Sci. 2015 Mar 1;4(1):63-73. doi: 10.5681/jcs.2015.007. eCollection 2015.
Effati-Daryani F1, Mohammad-Alizadeh-Charandabi S2, Mirghafourvand M3, Taghizadeh M4, Mohammadi A1.
(3) Aromatherapy may have some potential for improving cognitive function, especially in AD patients.
(4) This provides evidence favoring the use of Lavender scent in dental settings as a low cost, simple intervention for alleviating dental patient anxiety. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4199191/
(5) Adding lavender to the bath may help reduce pessimism in individuals who are not clinically depressed.
Morris N. The effects of lavender (Lavendula angustifolium) baths on psychological well-being: two exploratory randomised control trials. Complementary Therapeutics in Medicine 2002; 10(4):223-228 http://cms.herbalgram.org/herbclip/pdfs/050233-241.pdf
(6) Healing advantages of lavender essential oil during episiotomy recovery: a clinical trial.
Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2011 Feb;17(1):50-3. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2010.05.006. Epub 2010 Jun 17.
Vakilian K1, Atarha M, Bekhradi R, Chaman R.