While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with your healthcare provider before you begin using essential oils and be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.
“Have you tried lavender oil?” You’ve probably heard this phrase a lot — and for good reason. This herbaceous floral scent is a fan favorite with both anecdotal evidence and research.
Studies have shown that lavender essential oil does in fact benefit anxiety symptoms, specifically for folks with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
It all boils down to how lavender sends messages to the brain. Scientists believe that inhaling lavender activates the limbic system.
The limbic system helps us deal with emotions, and it includes the hypothalamus, where anxiety signals are sent, and the hippocampus, which helps regulate anxiety.
Lavender is no one-trick pony, however (in both benefits and application!). Here’s how it can benefit you, your anxiety symptoms, and your environment.
While lavender oil doesn’t treat or get rid of your anxiety, it can help relieve some symptoms of anxiety such as worry, feeling on edge, insomnia, hyperventilation, shakiness, and muscle tension, to name a few. Here are some more benefits of lavender essential oil.
Can be physically calming
Lavender oil may activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the part of our nervous system responsible for relaxation. By doing so, it can calm you down and also decrease somatic (physical) symptoms of anxiety.
Reduces anxiety symptoms in people with GAD
Reminder: As tempting as it sounds, never swallow any essential oil directly. The capsule mentioned above is a special formulation that can’t and should not be attempted at home.
Improves sleep quality
Eases anticipatory anxiety
Studies show that aromatherapy with lavender essential oil can calm anxiety leading up to a specific event.
One study gave breast surgery patients either lavender oil or unscented oil aromatherapy leading up to surgery. The oil that worked slightly better to reduce anxiety? Lavender.
Another similar study had the same results, determining that aromatherapy with lavender essential oil made a positive difference in self-reported anxiety levels.
Benefits depression and stress
Depression, stress, and anxiety commonly exist alongside one another. One study followed 140 women who either received lavender aromatherapy or a phone follow-up after birth. After multiple check-ins over 3 months, those who used lavender reported less depression, stress, and anxiety.
Tolerable for external use
Researchers have determined that lavender oil is tolerated well by users for aromatherapy. In these cases, toxicity is low, and poisoning by lavender oil is rare. Plus, it has the FDA’s seal of approval, which, to us, has an anxiety-relieving name: Generally Recognized as Safe.
Approved over-the-counter option won’t cause dependency or withdrawal
In one of the research pieces we linked earlier, it summarized a study that monitored participants for a week after they discontinued Silexan (also known as Calm Aid). The participants did not report any withdrawal symptoms.
If we’re honing in on benefits, a meta-analysis of various lavender oil studies determined that taking lavender orally might work better than inhalation. However essential oils are not meant to be swallowed. The oral version of the herb is a manufactured product that can’t be replicated at home.
Silexan is the preparation that has been studied and touted by researchers at dosages of 80 milligrams and 160 milligrams. Silexan can be found in products such as Nature’s Way CalmAid.
Studies show that 80 milligrams can produce results in as little as 6 weeks, and 160 milligrams can produce results in 4 weeks.
And because it bears repeating: Do not swallow your own essential oil preparation at home!
To get beneficial results, massage for 10 to 15 minutes. You can use lavender essential oil diluted in a carrier oil such as olive oil or almond oil. Or, you can try a pre-mixed lavender-infused massage oil such as the Majestic Pure 100% Natural Lavender Massage Oil.
Do not apply undiluted lavender oil to the skin.
If you don’t have a diffuser, put a couple drops of essential oil on a cotton pad, leave it lying nearby you, and allow it to diffuse from there. Inhale the aroma for 15 to 30 minutes. Just make sure it’s not in reach of your pets!
Lavender oil is generally safe, but there are a few things you should consider.
- Potential endocrine disruption: For lavender oil, “persistent exposure” has been associated with hormonal interference in young children. Remember toxicity is about dosage.
- Potential stomach side effects: Taking lavender essential oil orally is not advised by practitioners as essential oils can be toxic. Doing so may cause gastrointestinal side effects.
- Overpromising of marketing: Marketing claims on products are often lofty, so remember to use lavender with realistic expectations and remember that it will not cure your anxiety.
- Skin sensitivities: If you have eczema, be wary of usinglavenderproducts, since a compound in lavender can cause a contact allergy. Additionally, using essential oils, including lavender oil, may result in sun sensitivity, so use caution. General skin sensitivities may occur, too. It may be hard to determine if you’re reacting to lavender itself, the dilution ratio (too much lavender, not enough carrier oil), or other ingredients in a store-bought product.
If you’re experiencing a skin reaction such as irritation, redness, or hives, contact your doctor for further assistance. If you’re having trouble breathing and experiencing swelling, seek emergency care, as you could be experiencing anaphylaxis.
Additionally, if anxiety is getting in the way of your daily functioning or your symptoms are debilitating, you may need more than lavender oil. Contact your healthcare provider who can help you find a therapist to work on your anxiety.
If lavender isn’t your favorite scent, there are many other essential oils that you can use to naturally reduce anxiety.
- Jasmine: Aromatherapy with jasmine has been shown to promote feelings of well being.
- Bergamot: Studies show that the citrus bergamot can reduce anxiety and stress as well as boost mood.
- Clary sage: A systematic review found that this herb can reduce stress levels by lowering levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
- Rose: Rose aromatherapy may reduce anxiety levels, a study found.
Lavender oil, or other essential oils for that matter, can’t treat or cure anxiety itself. And how well lavender oil works for you will depend on the source and causes of your anxiety, in addition to the severity of it.
If you’re looking for a gentle way to calm down and ground yourself though, lavender oil can be a great tool. Put it on your list of ways to self-care or create a calming routine for winding down at night.