The Ultimate Guide to Lavender Oil Benefits: The Science Behind the Claims
Known for its delicate scent and soothing properties, pure lavender essential oil has long been touted as a natural remedy for the mind and body.
Used in everything from aromatherapy massages to treating skin conditions, it’s been said to have many versatile health benefits. But what does the scientific evidence say?
In this article, we will delve into the research and assess the evidence behind the claims of lavender oil benefits.
By examining studies, we’ll provide you with the knowledge you need to decide whether lavender essential oil is the right choice for you.
What is Lavender essential oil?
Pure lavender essential oil (Lavandula Angustifolia Oil), is steam distilled from the flowers of the lavender plant. The essential oil has a distinct floral scent.
It has a rich history with ancient civilizations, such as the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. It was used in rituals and as a natural remedy for various ailments.
Lavender essential oil benefits
Lavender essential oil is one of the most popular essential oils used and there are many claimed benefits.
We'll be looking at a range of claims from the more common like stress, sleep and anxiety, to the more far-fetched, like treating mouth ulcers and diabetes.
Some areas are better researched than others, but it’s exciting to see how science is catching up to claims.
Let’s explore the claimed benefits of lavender essential oil!
Lavender essential oil for sleep and relaxation
You’re likely familiar with lavender’s use in treating insomnia; from herbal teas to pillow mists, it’s present in pretty much every sleep product on the market.
There’s a lot of research on lavender oil to improve sleep, and one particularly interesting study found that lavender oil can even improve the sleep quality and reduce sleep disturbances of patients in palliative care.
But you don’t need to dive too deep into the science to back up lavender oil’s sleep-inducing potential - just ask anyone who used it! It’s not hard to believe that an evening aromatherapy massage with lavender oil will help you relax and sleep better.
Bottom line: Lavender oil is best known for its sleep-inducing potential and may help provide a better night's sleep.
Lavender essential oil for stress and anxiety
Another popular use of lavender oil is easing anxiety and calming a worried mind. Inhaling lavender oil is known to have a calming effect.
There’s a lot of research on lavender oil for anxiety, which we’ll dive into in a future post. But again, it’s not hard to see why an lavender aromatherapy massage would help with anxiety.
Although the studies on anxiety and lavender usually explore its fragrance, one study looked at Silexan (a medicine made from lavender oil), to help treat PTSD. Perhaps Lavender oil’s relaxing properties extend beyond its aroma?
Bottom line: Lavender oil has a natural calming scent and is helps to ease anxiety levels and relieve stress.
Lavender essential oil as an antimicrobial
There’s some suggestion that Lavender oil is antimicrobial, however, the varieties used in the studies are not the ones you’ll find in the shops (UK shops at least!).
This Phytotherapy Research paper by Cavanagh and Wilkinson, found lavender oil to be effective against the microorganisms S.aureus and E.coli. Where common varieties of Lavender oil are made up of both linalool and linalyl acetate, linalyl acetate was completely missing from their oil and there were only traces of linalool.
Similarly, this study found that lavender oil was effective against gram-negative bacteria, but it’s not like any lavender we’ve seen before. The variety they used had high Carvacrol content, which makes it more similar to oregano or thyme essential oil than the lavender oil you’ll find in shops.
Bottom line: There’s some evidence that less common varieties of Lavender oil have antimicrobial properties, but not the varieties you’ll find in most shops.
Lavender essential oil for pain relief
Due to its claimed anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, it’s thought that Lavender oil can be used for pain relief.
This was put to the test in a study on children, where they applied 100% pure lavender oil to children’s gums before they had teeth extracted.
They did find that lavender oil was more effective than benzocaine, a pain relief gel, but we don’t recommend trying this at home.
Like other essential oils, pure lavender essential oils should never be applied directly to the skin unless they’re diluted – we’re surprised they got permission for this study! Applying lavender oil directly to the skin may affect skin health and cause skin irritation or inflamed skin.
Essential oils should always be diluted in a carrier oil before applying to the skin. Simply add a few drops of lavender essential oil to any carrier oil like sweet almond oil, fractionated coconut oil or jojoba oil.
Other studies on lavender oil for pain include this one, which the research suggests the topical application of lavender oil may help with the pain of inserting needles.
This study found that a combination of lavender, marjoram, peppermint, and black pepper essential oils can improve neck pain. It’s also been found that the essential oil has also been found post to help with post-natal discomfort.
It should be noted, however, that the studies on lavender oil for pain are usually small, uncontrolled, or lacking in scientific rigour. As Cavanagh and Wilkinson say in their Phytotherapy Research paper,
“There does seem to be […] considerable anecdotal and case report data for a beneficial effect of lavender in pain. The lack of detail in describing the oils used in many of these studies is, however, common and completely confounds comparisons between work from different groups, many of whom may be using different Lavandula oils.”
We agree. It’s hard to know which varieties are being discussed, and whether the results can be replicated at home.
Bottom line: There’s considerable evidence that lavender essential oil may be able to relieve pain. However, it needs to be taken with a pinch of salt as it’s not always reliable.
Lavender essential oil as an antioxidant
Here’s another study that involves using lavender essential oil in people’s mouths, but fortunately they diluted it this time! The researchers found that lavender oil diluted in glycerine had an antioxidant effect which helped the healing process of oral ulcers.
We do not recommend using the essential oil internally at risk of ingesting lavender oil.
The antioxidant properties of Lavender oil have also been investigated with regard to protecting the brain. A study on rats, concluded that the antioxidant activities of lavender oil can protect against oxidative stress on the brain.
Although there’s evidence to show that lavender oil has neuroprotective properties in rodents, whether the results apply to humans, we can’t know.
Bottom line: There’s some evidence that lavender oil has antioxidant properties and some research to see whether Lavender oil can protect the brain from oxidative stress. We need more studies on humans to see whether it works with people.
Lavender essential oil to treat diabetes
There are some claims that Lavender oil is a natural diabetes treatment, which often refers to this study. During the 15-day animal study, they observed multiple positive effects of the oil on various symptoms of diabetes, such as blood glucose levels.
There are two main problems with this evidence: it uses a type of Lavender oil that you’re unlikely to find in the UK, and they did the study on rats, not people.
Bottom line: One study shows a positive effect of lavender oil on diabetes symptoms, but it’s not a common variety, and there’s no human evidence.
Lavender essential oil for hair
There’s evidence to suggest that lavender oil could do some good for the health of your scalp. That said, like a lot of hair oil fads, the claims are much greater than the proof.
Despite what the internet might tell you, there’s no evidence that it can promote hair growth. Other essential oils like rosemary oil might be a better option if that’s what you’re looking for.
Bottom line: There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence – and some scientific suggestion – that lavender oil can help with hair growth or overall hair health.
Final thoughts: What are the benefits of Lavender essential oil?
As you can see from the studies above, there’s promising evidence for lavender oil’s effects on sleep, skincare, and pain relief. However, more high-quality research is needed on human participants.
We hope this article has shed some light on the health benefits of lavender oil, so you can feel confident it’s fit for your purpose.
Now that you've learned about lavender oil benefits, why not continue reading?
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Let us know in the comments your favourite use of Lavender essential oil!