There’s a reason that lavender essential oil is considered by many in the community to be one of the most versatile and useful oils available anywhere.
It promotes feelings of calm, improves skin and hair, makes digestion easier, and improves circulation, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.
If you’ve been around for any length of time, you know the old joke… it’s an essential essential oil.
But did you know it can protect your brain?
Benefits like that, and much, much more, which we’ll be exploring in great detail in this post. First, let’s examine what lavender essential oil actually is, where it comes from, and how it finds its way to our essential oil case.
What Exactly IS Lavender Oil?
As you might guess, Lavender essential oil comes from the lavender plant, or Lavandula angustifolia. There are a number of different ways to extract this oil from the lavender plant, such as steam distillation or “expression,” sometimes called cold pressing.
Steam distillation is the process generally used to create most lavender essential oil products, wherein steam is passed through the plant material and the resulting vapors are captured. Once the vapor cools it liquifies, and the oils from within the plant rise to the top of a layer of floral water (called hydrosol). The oil is then collected and bottled, resulting in a very pure, very potent extract.
It’s a fascinating process! The video below is from a segment on the Discovery Channel that shows the process of steam distillation of lavender essential oil, from harvest to extraction:
Lavender has a long and rich history, dating back some 2,500 years and likely far longer than that. It was used in baths to help stay clean, as a perfume and deodorizer, a means to disinfect, and as a curative for a variety of ailments. It is still used for many of these purposes and more today.
In fact, the uses for lavender oil are so expansive that it would be difficult to list them all in one place. Instead, we’re going to try and touch on some of the most important or interesting uses for lavender oil.
Let’s begin with one of lavender oil’s most well known and sought after properties: its ability to promote feelings of calm and relaxation.
Lavender Oil Acts As a Natural Way to Reduce Stress
Lavender essential oil has a host of neurological benefits. This has of course been known for centuries, but it hasn’t been until recently that the modern scientific and medical communities have taken notice. For those of us interested in the essential oil community, this has been very good news indeed—especially if you believe many western countries are unnecessarily overmedicated with synthetic chemical products.
Feelings of stress, depression, and/or anxiety have been treated by lavender extracts for time immemorial, so it’s great that the studies are catching up to this knowledge. For example, this paper published in the US National Library of Medicine¹ is a dense (but excellent) overview of studies showing the therapeutic neurological benefits of lavender essential oil.
This study² involved the use of diffusing lavender essential oil in the homes of women suffering from postpartum depression and found that feelings of depression and anxiety had “significant improvements.”
Lavender Essential Oil Can Improve Mood
As we explored above, lavender oil produces powerful results when used to decrease stress—but what about when used to improve one’s baseline mood state?
According to this study published in 2012³, in which a healthy group of subjects inhaled lavender oil and a control group inhaled base oil, the subjects using lavender oil reported improved mood among other benefits: “[…] the subjects in the lavender oil group categorized themselves as more active, fresher relaxed (sic) than subjects just inhaling base oil.”
If you own a diffuser, you probably know this to be true. We keep a diffuser in the bedroom and in the office, and lavender essential oil is a pretty frequent go-to of mine when I need to reduce any feelings of day-to-day anxiety. It helps me relax, calm down, and center myself.
It’s an excellent way to uplift my mood enough so that I can get the rest I need or have an easier time focusing on work without feeling sleepy. In the following section, we’ll take a look at a study that shows the benefits of lavender oil can be enjoyed without becoming sedated. As a quick aside, this is why lavender is my favorite choice for my car vent diffuser—you get the sense of calm that you need to make it through traffic or long drives without drowsiness.
Lavender Oil Hasn’t Been Shown to be Addictive or Habit Forming
Writing for the Natural Medicine Journal, Jeremy Appleton, ND published an excellent and thorough paper reviewing much of the currently available scientific literature concerning lavender essential oil.
One of the most interesting takeaways from these studies is that lavender essential oil may, in some cases, be a viable alternative to potentially addictive pharmaceutical drugs. When compared to Lorazepam, a benzodiazepine commonly used to treat generalized anxiety disorder, researchers found⁵ that subjects who ingested 80mg capsules containing a high quality lavender extraction called Silexan enjoyed similar benefits to the benzodiazepine without the potential for addiction or abuse. Subjects also didn’t report feelings of lethargy or sedation.
The reason this is so fascinating—and dare I say uplifting—is because the more the medical and scientific community takes note of the beneficial properties of organic plant extracts like lavender essential oil, the more likely it is that a great number of people can benefit from these natural products. It shows that as a society we’re moving toward a more balanced approach to so-called alternative medicines, and in my book, that’s a good thing.
Supporting Neurological Function & Preventing Neurological Damage with Lavender Essential Oil
In a nutshell, there’s research that shows lavender oil is quite beneficial for your noggin!
For example, this 2012 study⁶ resulted in the discovery that lavender oil may offer neuroprotective benefits that could prevent or treat dysfunctions like strokes. The researchers lend this efficacy to the oil’s antioxidant properties.
Another study⁷ examined one of the active components of lavender oil, linalool. The results of the study showed that lavender oil can be used as a natural way to treat neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease via inhalation. This is again thanks to lavender’s antioxidant properties since it can prevent stress (and thus damage) in the brain.
Even if you don’t have a neurological disorder, the keyword to take note of in these studies is “neuroprotective,” meaning that the lavender oil was serving to protect components of the brain. I can’t speak for everyone, but protecting my brain and the brains of people I love is pretty important to me—it’s why my kids wear bicycle helmets—so diffusing lavender oil for this purpose on top of its many other benefits is… well, a no-brainer!
Diffusion is the easiest way to enjoy these benefits, but simple inhalation from the bottle will work too. Since that’s not really the most elegant way to use your essential oils (though we’ve all done it), I suggest topical application with rollerball bottles. Using one of these bottles, roll lavender oil on the back of your neck and temples once or twice daily. Bonus, it keeps insects away and will help you feel more calm and clear.
Lavender Essential Oil Improves Healing of the Skin After Injury
Thus far we’ve been discussing the neurological benefits of lavender oil—that was unavoidable since there’s so many—but now I’d like to touch on some of the other equally important and just as amazing benefits of this wonderful plant extract.
Since lavender oil has antimicrobial properties (meaning that it fights off germs), it’s been used throughout history as a way to prevent infection, bad bacteria, and fungal growths. These properties were so well known in centuries past that folklore even indicates that lavender was used during the plague in the 1600s, claiming that people would tie sprigs of the plant to their wrists. (Note: Lavender will probably not protect you from the Black Death. Still interesting though.)
In modern times, we now know that these antimicrobial properties can serve us as a way to soothe and speed healing of minor cuts and burns. This is especially true if applied quickly after the minor injury has taken place. In a study that monitored the rate of tissue healing in rats⁸, researchers discovered that both surface tissue and collagen generation was greatly improved through the application of lavender oil.
When combined with other essential oils, the antimicrobial properties of lavender oil has been shown to enhance the efficacy of other essential oils in treating a number of fungal or bacterial infections. This study⁹ compared the results of combining lavender oil with 45 other essential oils in order to learn about how lavender could improve the known properties of the others. It was found that a 1:1 ratio (half lavender, half something else) had the most noticeable effects in fighting infectious diseases.
This is all very interesting, but how do we apply it in our daily lives the next time we accidentally cut ourselves or we’re helping a crying child who just scraped his or her knee in the yard?
Direct application of lavender works, but if you want to make the process a little easier, you can quickly put together a DIY essential oil salve that will almost instantly soothe minor cuts and burns.
Here’s what I do. First, gather a handful of ingredients:
- ¼ cup natural shea butter
- 1 tablespoon beeswax
- 1 tablespoon organic coconut oil
- ½ teaspoon (or 1 capsule) vitamin E oil
- 10 drops of lavender
Carefully melt the shea butter, beeswax, and coconut oil over low heat in a safe container. Once melted, remove from heat and add the vitamin E and lavender essential oil. Pour the salve into a glass container (4oz should be perfect).
After fully cooling, you’ll have a creamy, thick salve that you can immediately apply to small cuts and burns to enjoy the benefits of lavender oil discussed above. This salve also doubles as a fantastic way to soothe bee stings and insect bites. If you’re ever in a pinch (for example, while camping) a single drop of lavender essential oil by itself will soothe a sting or bite.
The Profound Skin & Hair Benefits of Lavender Essential Oil
If lavender essential oil can help speed the healing process of minor cuts and burns, it makes a lot of sense that it would help to enhance already-healthy skin and hair. If you like the idea of reducing the appearance of acne, age spots, and wrinkles, you don’t have to wait until you scrape a knee to start applying lavender topically.
For most, lavender oil is quite gentle on their skin even if it’s otherwise sensitive, making it a smart alternative to harsher lotions and synthetic oils. Thanks to its antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, skin conditions like acne or canker sores have shown improvement in studies¹⁰. These properties of lavender oil will also help to enhance the health and vibrancy of skin, with many users reporting the reversal of natural signs of aging.
The fastest, easiest way to start enjoying these benefits for your skin is to simply mix lavender oil with your carrier oil of choice. Jojoba oil and coconut oil are ideal choices as these oils also have skin-rejuvenating properties, and lavender just makes them that much more effective—simply mix together and gently massage into the scalp.
Pain Relief, PMS, and Lavender Oil
The topical application of lavender essential oil doesn’t just help speed the mending process of the skin after a minor cut or burn. It has properties that actually soothe the injury and make you feel better—in effect, it’s an all-natural painkiller.
In 2015, a study was conducted that tested the levels of pain experienced¹¹ by recipients of dialysis during needle insertion. Researchers found that the pain experienced from the needle was substantially reduced for a majority of patients. This had the added benefit of reducing fear and anxiety for patients the next time they needed a treatment.
Research has also indicated¹² that lavender essential oil, when gently massaged into the abdomen, can significantly reduce the pain associated with menstrual pain. Translation? Lavender oil helps PMS.
Since I discovered essential oils, I’ve been using lavender oil for so many reasons I can’t count them all, but these pain-soothing properties are definitely among my favorites.
If I prick my finger sewing or accidentally scrape myself doing something around the house (I have kids, it happens), a little dab of lavender oil goes a long way. I can’t even remember the last time I kept a product like Neosporin in the house. It’s really one of those things you have to try for yourself—and I suggest you do.
Lavender as a Potential Treatment for Diabetes
Did you know that in 2015, 9.4% of the population in the United States was reported as being afflicted with a form of diabetes?
The condition, caused by too much glucose (sugar) in the blood, has a variety of unpleasant effects on the patient, including weight gain and problems with the liver and kidneys.
In 2014, a study was conducted to understand the effects of lavender oil on the symptoms of diabetes. Researchers found that blood glucose levels were reduced¹³ and other positive metabolic benefits were observed.
More research is expected to be in the pipeline for the medical and scientific community—hopefully, the unexpectedly positive results of preliminary studies will be enough motivation.
Lavender Essential Oil for Headache Relief
Do you get headaches?
Yeah, me too. It’s one of the big reasons I love having a diffuser. Whether you’re like me and you occasionally struggle with the occasional tension headache or you get migraines, lavender is perhaps the best natural solution I’ve ever found.
Before I started digging into the science behind essential oils, I had read about lavender essential oil reducing the pain of a headache. I’ve never been a big fan of constantly popping aspirin, so I tried it, and of course, it worked. These days I like combining lavender with a single drop of peppermint if I’m applying it topically, or just going all-out with the lavender in my diffuser if I’m at my desk or in bed.
As it turns out, there’s plenty of scientific evidence to support why lavender is one of the most effective essential oils for headaches. This study¹⁴ found that inhalation of lavender oil for only 15 minutes caused a substantial reduction in headache pain for migraine sufferers.
Lavender Essential Oil for Sleep
The final lavender benefit I’d like to discuss is a big one. No, it’s huge. Sleep is such a vital part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but unfortunately, a great deal of us don’t get anywhere near enough of it.
(It’s gotten so bad that apparently, sleep shaming is a thing now.)
While I don’t have insomnia, studies exist¹⁵ that indicate lavender oil helps improve the quality of sleep for insomniacs.
Whether you have kids, a demanding job, or just have trouble counting sheep, lavender essential oil could be the answer for you. All you have to do is diffuse it in your bedroom like I do and reap the blissfully relaxing rewards.
Alternatively, you can apply it topically for a quick fix before bed. Take three or so drops and rub them on the back of your neck and temples. If you’re really having trouble sleeping, check out my guide to taking an essential oil infused bath and use lavender as your essential oil of choice.
Bottom Line? You Need Lavender in Your Life
If I can help it, I try to never run out of lavender essential oil. I have plenty of it at home, and it’s always a member of the oils in my essential oil carrying case whenever I leave the house. As you’ve seen in this post, lavender oil isn’t just a “wonky alternative hippie thing,” instead having countless proven benefits being discovered by the medical and scientific community.
I suspect that in years to come, lavender oil and its components will be scientifically proven to have many of the benefits those of us in the essential oil community and herbalists and healers throughout the ages have known about for centuries.
I would deeply encourage you to try using this wonderful, all-natural plant extract in your day-to-day life if you want to start seeing real improvements immediately.
Sources & References
¹ Lavender and the Nervous System
² The effects of clinical aromatherapy for anxiety and depression in the high risk postpartum woman – a pilot study
³ The effects of lavender oil inhalation on emotional states, autonomic nervous system, and brain electrical activity
⁴ Lavender Oil for Anxiety and Depression
⁵ A multi-center, double-blind, randomised study of the Lavender oil preparation Silexan in comparison to Lorazepam for generalized anxiety disorder
⁶ Neuroprotective activity of lavender oil on transient focal cerebral ischemia in mice
⁷ Neuroprotective effects of inhaled lavender oil on scopolamine-induced dementia via anti-oxidative activities in rats
⁸ Wound healing potential of lavender oil by acceleration of granulation and wound contraction through induction of TGF-β in a rat model
⁹ The In Vitro Antimicrobial Activity of Lavandula angustifolia Essential Oil in Combination with Other Aroma-Therapeutic Oils
¹⁰ Plants used to treat skin diseases
¹¹ The effect of topical application of lavender essential oil on the intensity of pain caused by the insertion of dialysis needles in hemodialysis patients: A randomized clinical trial.
¹² The effect of aromatherapy massage with lavender oil on severity of primary dysmenorrhea in Arsanjan students
¹³ Lavender (Lavandula stoechas L.) essential oils attenuate hyperglycemia and protect against oxidative stress in alloxan-induced diabetic rats
¹⁴ Lavender essential oil in the treatment of migraine headache: a placebo-controlled clinical trial
¹⁵ Lavender Fragrance Essential Oil and the Quality of Sleep in Postpartum Women
Disclaimer: the information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. The information is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease, nor has it been reviewed by the FDA.