Lavender: 5 Key Benefits, Dosage, & Safety

Lavender is a potent herb with a unique, sweet aroma that’s known for its ability to promote relaxation. Along with its traditional use for sleep, lavender has also been used …

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Written by: Siobhan Mendicino
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Medical Review by: Daniel Powers, MS
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Lavender is a potent herb with a unique, sweet aroma that’s known for its ability to promote relaxation.

Along with its traditional use for sleep, lavender has also been used to support nervous tension, pain relief, and wound healing. 

In this article, we will look at the health benefits of lavender, its safety, and its history.

lavender health benefits

What is Lavender?

Lavender is a perennial plant that is part of the Lamiaceae family, also known as the mint family. The plant has many species and is native to Europe, Africa, Asia, and India. 

The most common species of lavender is Lavandula angustifolia, or English Lavender. Other varieties include Lavandula stoechas (French Lavender), Lavandula multifida (Egyptian Lavender), and many more. 

Although different in appearance and lifespan, both French and English lavender have similar health benefits.   

Lavender has a calming effect on the body. As an infusion, it has been taken to reduce tension and anxiety, promote sleep, and encourage digestion. Lavender has also been used topically and via aromatherapy to reduce pain, promote wound healing, and bring about relaxation.

Modern research shows that lavender’s anxiolytic, vulnerary (wound healing), and sedative effects may be credited to the two primary terpenes present in the plant, linalool and linalyl acetate. 

Lavender is a well-researched plant. Many of its traditional uses have been scientifically tested and confirmed to be effective. 

Health Benefits of Lavender:

There are many purported health benefits of lavender. These benefits include internal use for restlessness, trouble sleeping, and mental health. Topical use and aromatherapy may also be helpful for pain and wound healing.

Below we have listed the top research-backed benefits of lavender and its active constituents. 

1. May Reduce Anxiety and Depression 

Not only has lavender been shown to be useful for relieving anxiety, but is one of the best herbs for depression.

Anxiety and depression fall under the category of mental health disorders. They affect mood and behavior and will often trigger other issues such as trouble sleeping and low energy. 

In a study involving 93 participants with high levels of stress and anxiety, subjects that underwent aromatherapy using lavender essential oil reported improvement in levels of anxiety and mood. It should be noted that the effects, although significant, were not sustained due to the discontinuation of lavender aromatherapy. 

In a similar aromatherapy study involving 14 female subjects with chronic hemodialysis,  researchers compared lavender oil with other oils and found that lavender helped to impact mood and anxiety (via the Hamilton rating scale for anxiety, or HAMA). Lavender proved to have an anxiolytic effect even with the presence of physical complications. 

Researchers that carried out an aromatherapy pilot study in postpartum women found that lavender essential oil administered at 15 minutes/session (2x/week for 4 weeks) helped to bring down anxiety and depression scores. It should be noted that the essential oil used was a blend of both Lavandula angustifolia and rose otto oil. 

In a review of studies spanning thousands of participants, 79% of individuals with anxiety had their levels reduced after lavender inhalation. Researchers used multiple different anxiety scales to measure the anxiety levels of subjects. In addition to the inhalation method, a lavender extract supplement was also shown to help diminish anxiety levels after 6 weeks. 

In a comparative trial that looked at lavender vs. lorazepam (a common anxiety drug), patients with GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) were given either 80mg/day of lavender extract or lorazepam for 10 weeks. Those treated with lavender showed a significant decrease in anxiety scores (HAMA), comparable to those that were given lorazepam.    

Another study compared silexan, a specialized extract of lavender oil, to lorazepam. The results demonstrated a similar decrease in HAMA scores for both the silexan and lorazepam groups.

Summary:

Clinical research shows that lavender aromatherapy may help to reduce stress and anxiety levels. Oral intake of lavender extract may help to decrease anxiety.

2.  May Improve Sleep  

Lavender is classically known as being one of the best herbs for supporting sleep or imparting a calming effect on the body without complete sedation.

Sleep is a key body function that works to repair and restore the body and mind. Low-quality sleep is linked to brain fog, anxiety + depression, and a lowered immune system.

A 12-week study involving women with insomnia showed that those who received lavender aromatherapy experienced an increase in sleepy quality. This short-term effect may have been attributed to lavender’s potential to module the body’s parasympathetic system. 

A small, 4-week pilot study showed that lavender aromatherapy improved sleep quality, especially in women and younger volunteers with mild insomnia. Sleep quality was measured using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index.

Research involving students found that exposure to lavender aroma before bedtime decreased the levels of sleepiness and grogginess when the students woke up. Although the participants felt refreshed upon waking, researchers did not collect data on factors that might have affected sleep quality such as coffee intake and stress levels. 

Commission E, a health advisory board in Germany, approved the use of lavender tea for sleep disorders.

Summary:

Clinical research shows that lavender tea and aromatherapy seem to be effective for increasing sleep quality.

3. May Have Wound Healing Properties 

Lavender has proven to be helpful in reducing inflammation and redness in healing wounds.

Wounds need proper care so they can heal properly and avoid infection. 

In a trial involving episiotomy healing (surgical cut during childbirth), researchers discovered that topical aromatherapy using lavender essential oil was highly effective for wound care. The healing was evaluated using the Redness, Edema, Ecchymosis, Discharge, and Approximation (REEDA) scale. The lavender topical therapy was able to reduce the REEDA score implying productive healing. It should be noted that the oil used was a combination of lavender and thymol – an active constituent in the herb thyme. 

Another episiotomy clinical trial compared the topical application of lavender oil (1.5% essential oils in carrier olive oil) to povidone-iodine, a standard clinical-grade wound ointment. The researchers found that redness in the lavender group was far less than redness in the povidone-iodine group.

A study involving ulcer wounds in older patients found that 6% lavender oil and German chamomile oil mixed with the carrier grapeseed oil was more effective in healing the wounds than conventional therapy (Granulex spray). Researchers mentioned that trials involving a larger sample of participants are needed for further proof of effectiveness.  

Summary:

A variety of clinical trials support the use of lavender for wound healing. Larger scale clinical trials are needed to verify the best format (aromatherapy, topical balm, etc..) for promoting wound healing.

4. May Provide Pain Relief 

Research shows that lavender is one of the best herbs for reducing pain.

Pain management is an important and complicated issue that plagues millions of people worldwide. Conventional therapies, such as opioids, are known to cause addiction problems. Thus, researchers are looking for natural alternatives.

A study involving women undergoing Cesarean sections discovered that lavender essence aromatherapy is safe and effective in reducing labor pain. In every documented stage, those who received the lavender essence reported a significant reduction in pain.

In an episiotomy trial, topical use of lavender oil essence was used to reduce pain. Researchers discovered that lavender essence was significantly more effective in reducing discomfort 4-hours post-episiotomy than the control. 

A clinical trial using an aromatic oil massage found that it worked to relieve pain in patients with primary dysmenorrhea. The aromatic oil blend included lavender, clary sage, and marjoram and was diluted in an unscented cream. Researchers discovered that the analgesic effects (pain relief) may be due to active constituents, linalyl acetate, linalool, eucalyptol, and β-caryophyllene, present in the oil blend.

Summary:

Clinical trials show that lavender essential oil may help to reduce pain perception.

5. Other Benefits 

Other purported lavender health benefits include: 

  • May have anti-spasmodic effects: In a 3-week study where patients with lower back pain (LBP) received acupressure with aromatic lavender oil, subjects experienced a reduction in pain and relaxation of lower back muscles. The 8 acupressure sessions involving lavender resulted in improvement in physical functional performance and walking time. 
  • May have anti-colic effects: A study found that there was a reduction of colic in infants who had lavender oil (1 drop of lavender essential oil in 20ml of almond oil) rubbed on their chests.
  • May support nervous stomach: Lavender is provided and licensed as a standard medicinal tea for nervous stomach in Germany. 

Although there are a few human clinical trials that report evidence of these effects, more need to be carried out in order to solidify these findings.  

Summary:

Lavender has been tied to a wide variety of health benefits. Large-scale human clinical trials are needed to verify these findings.

Lavender Herb Safety:

Safety Class: 1

Interaction Class: A

The Botanical Safety Handbook classifies lavender in the safety class of 1, meaning it can be safely used when appropriately consumed.

It has an interaction class of “A” which suggests that no clinically relevant adverse reactions are expected to occur.

Lavender is also generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA.

In general, this herb is well tolerated and safe to take for most individuals. 

One problem that can arise is if high doses of lavender essential oil are ingested.

Pregnancy & Lactation:

In general, lavender is well-tolerated, but no data exist on the safety and efficacy of lavender in nursing mothers or infants. However researchers note that lavender oil has estrogenic and antiandrogenic activity, so topical application around the breast should be avoided.

Dosing:

Standard dosing for lavender is as follows:

Infusion (tea): Add 1 cup of boiling water to 1 tsp of dried herb and allow to infuse for 10 mins in a covered cup (in order to capture the beneficial essential oils). Drink 1 cup 3x per/day.

Topically or for Aromatherapy (Essential Oil) (1:5): 1-4 drops (~20-80mg)*

*Due to the high concentration of active constituents in essential oils, ingestion of essential oils should be considered with caution*

Bath Additive: 20-100g for a 20L bath

Supplement: Silexan is a German-developed lavender oil supplement formula. Take one 80mg capsule per day.

Constituents:

Lavender oil, obtained from the flowers by steam distillation, is chiefly composed of:

  • linalyl acetate (3,7-dimethyl-1,6-octadien-3yl acetate)
  • linalool (3,7-dimethylocta-1,6-dien-3-ol)
  • lavandulol
  • 1,8-cineole
  • lavandulyl acetate
  • and camphor. 

Sustainability:

Lavender is not on the United Plant Saver’s “at-risk” list (sensitive to the impact of human activities). 

Lavender is cultivated across the globe for medicinal, culinary, and cosmetic purposes with a focus mainly on essential oil content.

Naming & Taxonomy:

English lavender’s scientific name Lavadula angustifolia, French lavender binomial is Lavandula stoechas.

The English lavender plant is smaller and more compact than French lavender. While English lavender can handle cooler temperatures and has a longer lifespan, French lavender is shorter-lived and prefers a warmer climate. 

Due to the warmer climates, French lavender blooms around May and will sometimes flower through to early fall. English lavender’s bloom period is only around 4 weeks starting in mid-June. 

Their flower blooms also differ slightly. English lavender has a long, cone-shaped flower cluster at the top and the flowers are all a similar size. French lavender has an oval-shaped ring of flowers at the top with long petals protruding from the top.   

The lavender species are all interchangeable in regards to their various health benefits. 

Other common names include common Lavender, English Lavender, French Lavender, garden Lavender, lavanda, and true lavender.

Lavender belongs to the Lamiaceae family and is considered a perennial, although the species vary in how many years it will grow. The herb can be propagated from the root or grown from seed.

If cultivating, it is recommended that during the first year the plant should be trimmed back before it blooms so that all the energy goes into strengthening the shoots and roots of the herb. 

Light soil with lots of sunlight is best for all species. Soil with good drainage is best. 

History & Traditional Use:

Lavender has been a herb of great value all throughout its medicinal history.

The plant is native to the Mediterranean and was documented as an antiseptic in Ancient Rome, Greece, and Arabia.

Traditionally, lavender was used to improve appetite, help with bruises and bites, relieve headaches, and support pain relief. It is also mentioned that lavender helped with palpitations of a nervous sort.  

During the time of the naturalist, Pliny the Elder (2379 B.C.E.), lavender was very expensive. He noted that it was so popular and effective that word spread all the way to India and Tibet. 

Lavender vs. Other Herbs:

Lavender is an herb that is often compared with other types of herbs. We have put together helpful articles going over the most common comparisons.

Lavender vs. Rosemary

Conclusion:

Lavender has been known to support health ailments ranging from gastrointestinal issues to anxiety. It has a specific action on nervous tension, especially when it goes along with sleep problems. 

This herb is safe to consume as tea but is most commonly used for aromatherapy and bathing purposes. 

If you are experiencing any of the above indications, it would be worth checking out either English or French lavender. As always, make sure to consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or adding a new supplement.

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About Siobhan Mendicino

Siobhan is a herbal researcher and writer. She has a bachelor of science in communications as well as having completed a post-baccalaureate certificate in herbal studies.

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