Lavender essential oils and its numerous scientific benefits on our health

Lavender essential oils

 by Dr. Sameer Zaman MBBS BSc MRCP Pg Cert

Even before the advent of modern science, favourable associations between essential oils - especially botanically derived such as lavender - and wellbeing stretch back through the generations. But did you know that there is now a wealth of research underpinning the benefits of lavender essential oils, which backs up these age-old wisdoms?

 

Pure lavender substances are distilled from Lavandula angustifolia, the naturally occurring aromatic plant native to the Mediterranean region(1). The active ingredient in Lavandula angustifolia can be prepared in many ways including oils, liquids, or powder.

 

The health effects of coming into contact with Lavandula angustifolia (by smelling its scent, eating it or topical application of its oils to the body) were commonly knowledge in ancient cultures. In modern times, research has been conducted to see whether these are scientifically proven benefits or old wives’ tales. This article summarises the latest research on Lavandula angustifolia and its application to a wide range of clinical contexts. The results show many positive and encouraging health applications.

 

Skin and inflammation (Dermatological effects)

 

Inflammatory conditions such as eczema and psoriasis are the commonest skin problems, affecting up to 10% of the general population (~32 million people in the USA alone) (2). Due to the high prevalence, often debilitating symptoms, and variable response to medicated treatments, the dermatological benefits of essential oils such as Lavandula angustifolia is one of the most researched areas on this topic.

 

Lavandula angustifolia reduced production of the cells that cause skin overgrowth and inflammation in psoriasis (3). Topical application of lavender oil indicated reduced psoriasis-like skin inflammation (4). Using lavender-containing products on the skin such as soaps, balms and massage oil may benefit humans in similar ways.

 

Brain, nerves, pain and sleep (Neurological effects)

 

Lavender essential oils are frequently used in complementary medicine, especially for their properties to soothe pain, health injury, reduce anxiety (5) and improve sleep. In a very robust study of post-menopausal women who had difficulty sleeping (insomnia), researchers found that the group who smelled lavender essential oil aroma fell asleep quicker, were less depressed, had fewer hot flushes and less severe menopausal symptoms compared to the group who didn’t get lavender oil (6). Many of these findings were further supported by similar results in a study of sleep in patients with diabetes (7). These scents could be obtained from soaps, body lotions, and balms such as the ‘La Lagune’ range.

 

Lavender essential oils’ benefits are not just limited to the body, but have also been found to improve mental wellbeing. One study found that Lavandula angustifolia had similar anti-depressant effect to a common anti-depressant tablet (Fluoxetine (Prozac®)) (8). Another study found it to be very effective in reducing acute anxiety before surgery (9). In a large study examining many smaller research studies, scientists found that lavender has significant anti-depressant effects and even signalled this as an important area for more urgent research (10).

 

In another study, brain waves were measured in rats exposed to Lavandula angustifolia. The researchers found that lavender essential oils had distinct anti-anxiety benefits, comparable to the common (and often addictive) drug diazepam (Valium®)(11). A large lab-based study even suggests a potential role for Lavandula angustifolia in herbal management of Alzheimer’s disease, one of the commonest causes of dementia; more research is needed in this area (1).

 

Lavender essential oils have also been found to reduce pain. One study found that inhaling the scent of Lavandula angustifolia essential oils was effective in reducing chronic pain (12). Finally, a study found that smelling the scent of Lavandula angustifolia had some painkilling properties for babies (13).

 

Infection, immunity and healing (Microbiological effects)

 

One of the most compelling benefits of Lavandula angustifolia is its anti-inflammatory, anti-biotic and anti-fungal effect. It has been shown to increase the body’s production of anti-inflammatory cells, especially the ones which help with wound healing (14). In the lab, lavender essential oils were found to have strong antifungal activity (15) and anti-bacterial properties (16). It remains to be seen whether these benefits are sustained in the human body, but these results indicate encouraging associations. Using lavender essential oils based products such as the ‘La Lagune’ range may enable these benefits.

 

Women’s health (Gynaecological effects)

 

Lavender essential oils have been shown to be particular beneficial in alleviating symptoms in the field of women’s health. This includes reducing dysmenorrhea (period pain) without any major side effects or costs (17) and might be associated with reducing the amount of menstrual bleeding (heavy periods). Another study found that women receiving acupressure massages with Lavandula angustifolia essential oil reported better sleep quality and overall improved quality of life (18).

 

The table below summarizes the benefits of Lavandula angustifoliaI reported in recent scientific researcher studies.

 

Health system/body part

Benefit of Lavandula angustifolia

Skin

Reduced skin inflammation (4)

Reduce inflammation cells in psoriasis (3)

Brain, nerves and mind

Anti-depressant (improves mood) (8,10,19)

Reduced anxiety (5,9)

Reduced pain (12,13)
Improves sleep (reduces insomnia) (6,7)

Reduces menopausal symptoms (6)

Increased melatonin (sleep hormone) (20)

Infection

Improve wound healing (14)

Anti-fungal (15)

Anti-bacteria (16)

Women’s health

Improve overall quality of life (18)

Reduced period pain (17)

Might reduce heavy periods (more research needed) (17)

Table 1: Summary of Lavandula angustifoliaI benefits reported in recent research studies

 

Summary

 

Essential oils containing lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) have been extensively researched in the healthcare literature and found to have a wide spectrum of biological activity (14), including benefits for skin health, inflammation, infection, low mood, anxiety, pain-reduction and improved sleep. Although the majority of studies are laboratory based, the science suggests that there may be a number of health benefits to including these naturally occurring substances to your lifestyle. Most importantly, there is no major evidence suggesting that Lavandula angustifoliaI is unsafe or effects significant side effects, which can occur with medicated treatments such as tablets or creams. Products such as the ‘La Lagune’ range, which contain lavender essential oils in natural, paraben-free applications may help you achieve these benefits.

 

 

The content of this article are the personal opinions of the author and do not in any way constitute medical advice or endorsement of any specific product(s). Please consult your physician before starting any new treatment or diet.

 

 

References

 

  1. Soheili M, Karimian M, Hamidi G, Salami M. Alzheimer’s disease treatment: The share of herbal medicines. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2021 Feb;24(2):123–35.
  2. Eczema Prevalence, Quality of Life and Economic Impact [Internet]. National Eczema Association. [cited 2021 Jun 23]. Available from: https://nationaleczema.org/research/eczema-facts/
  3. Koycheva IK, Vasileva LV, Amirova KM, Marchev AS, Balcheva-Sivenova ZP, Georgiev MI. Biotechnologically Produced Lavandula angustifolia Mill. Extract Rich in Rosmarinic Acid Resolves Psoriasis-Related Inflammation Through Janus Kinase/Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription Signaling. Front Pharmacol. 2021 Apr 27;12:680168.
  4. Rai VK, Sinha P, Yadav KS, Shukla A, Saxena A, Bawankule DU, et al. Anti-psoriatic effect of Lavandula angustifolia essential oil and its major components linalool and linalyl acetate. J Ethnopharmacol. 2020 Oct 28;261:113127.
  5. Koehler T. Lavender Aromatherapy as a Nurse-Driven Intervention for Preoperative Anxiety. Nurs Womens Health. 2021 Jun 18;S1751-4851(21)00121-5.
  6. Dos Reis Lucena L, Dos Santos-Junior JG, Tufik S, Hachul H. Lavender essential oil on postmenopausal women with insomnia: Double-blind randomized trial. Complement Ther Med. 2021 Jun;59:102726.
  7. Nasiri Lari Z, Hajimonfarednejad M, Riasatian M, Abolhassanzadeh Z, Iraji A, Vojoud M, et al. Efficacy of inhaled Lavandula angustifolia Mill. Essential oil on sleep quality, quality of life and metabolic control in patients with diabetes mellitus type II and insomnia. J Ethnopharmacol. 2020 Apr 6;251:112560.
  8. Araj-Khodaei M, Noorbala AA, Yarani R, Emadi F, Emaratkar E, Faghihzadeh S, et al. A double-blind, randomized pilot study for comparison of Melissa officinalis L. and Lavandula angustifolia Mill. with Fluoxetine for the treatment of depression. BMC Complement Med Ther. 2020 Jul 3;20(1):207.
  9. Karan NB. Influence of lavender oil inhalation on vital signs and anxiety: A randomized clinical trial. Physiol Behav. 2019 Nov 1;211:112676.
  10. Firoozeei TS, Feizi A, Rezaeizadeh H, Zargaran A, Roohafza HR, Karimi M. The antidepressant effects of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia Mill.): A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Complement Ther Med. 2021 Jun;59:102679.
  11. Manor R, Kumarnsit E, Samerphob N, Rujiralai T, Puangpairote T, Cheaha D. Characterization of pharmaco-EEG fingerprint and sleep-wake profiles of Lavandula angustifolia Mill. essential oil inhalation and diazepam administration in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2021 Aug 10;276:114193.
  12. Donatello NN, Emer AA, Salm DC, Ludtke DD, Bordignon SASR, Ferreira JK, et al. Lavandula angustifolia essential oil inhalation reduces mechanical hyperalgesia in a model of inflammatory and neuropathic pain: The involvement of opioid and cannabinoid receptors. J Neuroimmunol. 2020 Mar 15;340:577145.
  13. Usta C, Tanyeri-Bayraktar B, Bayraktar S. Pain Control with Lavender Oil in Premature Infants: A Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Study. J Altern Complement Med. 2021 Feb;27(2):136–41.
  14. Miastkowska M, Kantyka T, Bielecka E, Kałucka U, Kamińska M, Kucharska M, et al. Enhanced Biological Activity of a Novel Preparation of Lavandula angustifolia Essential Oil. Molecules. 2021 Apr 23;26(9):2458.
  15. Felšöciová S, Vukovic N, Jeżowski P, Kačániová M. Antifungal activity of selected volatile essential oils against Penicillium sp. Open Life Sci. 2020 Jul 19;15(1):511–21.
  16. Puvača N, Milenković J, Galonja Coghill T, Bursić V, Petrović A, Tanasković S, et al. Antimicrobial Activity of Selected Essential Oils against Selected Pathogenic Bacteria: In Vitro Study. Antibiotics (Basel). 2021 May 8;10(5):546.
  17. Raisi Dehkordi Z, Hosseini Baharanchi FS, Bekhradi R. Effect of lavender inhalation on the symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea and the amount of menstrual bleeding: A randomized clinical trial. Complement Ther Med. 2014 Apr;22(2):212–9.
  18. Kao Y-H, Huang Y-C, Chung U-L, Hsu W-N, Tang Y-T, Liao Y-H. Comparisons for Effectiveness of Aromatherapy and Acupressure Massage on Quality of Life in Career Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2017 Jun;23(6):451–60.
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  20. Velasco-Rodríguez R, Pérez-Hernández MG, Maturano-Melgoza JA, Hilerio-López ÁG, Monroy-Rojas A, Arana-Gómez B, et al. The effect of aromatherapy with lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) on serum melatonin levels. Complement Ther Med. 2019 Dec;47:102208.