Science and the Benefits of Lavender Essential Oil

Sedative herbal and natural supplements have been used since the middle ages to improve quality of life. (1) Essential oils of lavender have been used in alternative medicine for several centuries with the compounds that comprise these oils, especially linalool and linalyl acetate, having therapeutic qualities possessing calming and sedative effects making them popular in aroma-therapeutic practices. Science has reported several of the one-hundred plus compounds of lavender essential oil possess anticancer and anti-mutagenic properties.(2) There is mounting international evidence supporting the use of plant-derived essential oils against pathogenic microorganisms. (3)

“…promoting a product with claims that it treats or prevents disease or otherwise affects the structure or any function of the body may cause the product to be considered a drug.”(4) That does not mean, however, lavender doesn’t have a place in alternative medicine, just that Lavender has not gone through the registration process to be labeled as such. Here are a few of the hundreds of research papers focusing on the benefits of Lavender:

Antiseptic Qualities

  • Essential oils represent a cheap and effective antiseptic topical treatment option even for antibiotic-resistant strains such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and antimycotic-resistant Candida species. (5) (Candida is a fungus thus the term antibiotic would not be correct. Antibiotic relates to bacteria.)

    Grosso with Bee

    Main floral stems of ‘Grosso’ lavender with a bee. Science

Anxiety

  • The use of lavender essential oils and aroma therapeutic practices reduced anxiety in intensive care unit patients.(6)
  • Dental patients exposed to lavender essential oil had significantly reduced anxiety (7) and improved mood in a dental office. (8)
  • The reduction of anxiety (anxiolytic effects) has been linked to the activity of linalool. (9)

Cancer

  • The antimutagenic properties of lavender make it a promising candidate for new applications in human health care, potential as a topical application to protect skin from cancer. (10)
  • Compounds found in trace amounts in lavender oils have potentially significant anticancer activity. (11)

Dementia

  • Inhalation of the scent of lavender has been shown to decrease agitation in dementia patients. (12)
  • In combination with massage therapy, exposure to lavender aromatics has been shown to significantly decrease excessive motor behavior in subjects diagnosed with dementia. (13)
  • Lavender essential oil applied in skin cream supports the hypothesis that absorption of lavender essential oils through the nose and skin may assist in promoting mental health and reduce cognitive impairment of dementia patients. (14)

Depression

  • Lavender essential oil absorption into the bloodstream, either by inhalation or contact with the skin, has pharmacological effects in treating pain, anxiety, sleep disorders, and depression. (15)

Elderly Patients

  • Lavender aromatherapy has been found to reduce falls in elder nursery home residents (16) and improving stability. (17)

References

• 1 Chandwani, KD, Ryan, JL, Peppone, LJ,  Janelsins, MM,  Sprod, LK, Devine, K, Trevino, L,  Gewandter, J,  Morrow, GR, and Mustian, KM. 2012. Cancer-Related Stress and Complementary and Alternative Medicine: A Review. Hindawi Publishing Corporation, Article ID 979213, 15 pages.

• 2 Woronuk G, Demissie Z, Rheault M, Mahmoud S. 2010. Biosynthesis and Therapeutic Properties of Lavandula Essential Oil Constituents. Planta Med 77: 7-15.

• 3 Shapiro S, Meier A, Guggenheim B. 1994. The antimicrobial activity of essential oils and essential oil com[pounents towards oral bacteria. Oral Microbiol Immunol 9:202-208.

• 5 Warnke PH, Becker ST, Podschun R, Sivananthan S, Springer IN, Russo AJ, Wiltfang J, Fickensher H, Sherry E. 2009. The battle against multi-resistant strains: Renaissance of antimicrobial essential oils as a promising force to fight hospital-acquired infections. Journal of Cranio-Maxillofacial Surgery. 37: 392-397.

• 6 Dunn C, Sleep J, Collett D. 1995. Sensing an improvement: an experimental study to evaluate the use of aromatherapy, massage and periods of rest in an intensive care unit. J Adv Nurs 21:34-40.

• 7 Kritsidima M., Newton T., Asimakopoulou K. 2009. The effects of Lavender scent on dental patient anxiety levels: a cluster randomized controlled trial. Community Dent Oral Epidemiol. 38: 83-87.

• 8 Lehrner J, Marwinski G, Lehr S, Johren P, Deecke L. 2005. Ambient odors of orange and lavender reduce anxiety and improve mood in a dental office.Physiol Behav 86(1-2):92-95.

• 9 Sugawara Y, Hara C, Tamura K, Jujii T, Nakamura K, Masujima M, Aoki T. 1998. Sedative effect on humans of inhalation of essential oil of linalool: sensory evaluation and physiological measurements using optically active linalools. Anal Chim Acta 365: 293-299.

• 10 Evandri MG, Battinetlli L, Daniele C, Mastrangelo S, Bolle P, Mazzanti G. 2005. The antimutagenic activity of Lavandula angustifolia (Lavender) essential oil in the bacterial reverse mutation assay. Food Chem Toxicol 43:1381-1387.

• 11 Buchbauer G, Jager W, Jirovetz I, Ilmberger J, Dietrich H. 1993. Therapeutic properties of essential oils and fragrances. Bioactive volatile compounds from plants. Washing DC: American Chemical Society.7: 159-165.

• 12 Smallwood J, Brown R, Coulter F, Irvine E, Copeland C. 2001. Aromatherapy and behavior disturbances in dementia: a randomized controlled trial. Int. J. Geratr. Psychiatry 16:1010-1013.

• 13 Holmes C, Hopkins V, Hensford C, Maclauglin V, Wilkinson D, Rosenvinge H. 2002. Lavender oil as a treatment for agitated behaviors in severe dementia: a placebo-controlled study. Int Geriatr Psychiatry 17:305-308.

• 14 Bowles EJ, Griffiths DM, Quirk L, Brownrigg A, Croot K. 2002. Effects of essential oils and touch on resistance to nursing care procedures and other dementia-related behaviors in a residential care facility.  Inc J Aromather 12:1-8.

• 15 Heuberger E, Hongratawanaworakit T, Bohm C, Weber R, Buchbauer G. 2001. Effects of chiral fragrances on human autonomic nervous system parameters and self-evaluation. Chem Senses 26:281-292.

• 16 Sakamoto Y, Ebihara S, Ebihara T, Tomita N, Toba K, Freeman S, Arai H and Kohzuki M. 2012. Fall Prevention Using Olfactory Stimulation with Lavender Odor in Elderly Nursing Home Residents: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 60: 1005–1011.

• 17 Shannon F, Satoru E, Takae E, Kaijun N, Masahiro K, Hiroyuki A, James PB. 2009. Olfactory stimuli and enhanced postural stability in older adults. 29:658–660.