Health Care Professional Information
Aspic, lavandin, spike lavender
Derived from the flowering tops of the plant, lavender oil is used in aromatherapy, as a topical treatment and as an oral supplement for a wide variety of symptoms.
Lavender exhibits antibacterial (4), antioxidant and neuroprotective (21) effects in vitro. In mice, topical application of lavender oil reduced inflammation and recurrent ulceration (22); and exposure to lavender oil reversed spatial memory loss (23).
Topical application of an herbal formulation that includes lavender was shown effective in reducing otalgia in children with acute otitis media (11) and aromatherapy with lavender improved symptoms in patients with dementia (5) (15). Oral preparations of lavender were effective as adjuvant therapy for mild to moderate depression (7) and for generalized anxiety disorder (16) (18).
Essential oils containing lavender may also be beneficial in treating alopecia areata (10).
Inhalation of lavender oil may reduce the number of migraine headaches (19); and prevent agitation and falls in older individuals (20).
Lavender has been studied for the treatment of cancer related symptoms. Results indicate that it does not reduce anxiety during radiotherapy (6); and topical application of lavender oil does not improve long-term pain, anxiety, or quality of life in patients with advanced cancer (8).
- GI disorders
- Migraine treatment
- Promote urination
- Volatile oil (1-3%): linalool, linalyl acetate chiefly. Also 1,8-cineole, borneol and camphor.
- Tannins (up to 12%)
- Caffeic acid derivatives
Mechanism of Action
The anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of lavender are thought to be due to a compound known as 1,8-cineole or eucalyptol (2). Eucalyptol is also found in Eucalyptus, rosemary and cardamon (9). Lavender oil has broad spectrum antibacterial activity (22). It has been shown to prevent immediate-type allergic reactions by inhibiting mast cell degranulation in vivo and in vitro (25).
Data also indicate that lavender oil has a depressive effect on the central nervous system (3); and displays neuroprotective effects by attenuating neuronal damage, upregulating catalase (CAT), superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px) activities and glutathione (GSH)/glutathione disulfide (GSSG) ratio (21). The anti-epileptic effects of lavender are due to suppression of nitric oxide level in the brain. Lavender has also shown to be superior to Valproate, a major antiepileptic drug (26).
In vitro studies have shown that lavender oil has weak estrogenic and antiandrogenic activities that may alter the estrogen and androgen signaling pathways (14).
Lavender is quickly absorbed through the skin. Components of the essential oil were found in the blood within 5-20 minutes of massage (9) (12).
- Reported (Topical): Allergic contact dermatitis (17) (24)
- Reported (Topical): Repeated application of lavender and tea tree oils resulted in gynecomastia in prepubertal boys (14).
Sedatives: Lavender may potentiate their sleep-inducing effects (3).
Literature Summary and Critique
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- PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics, 1998.
- Hajhashemi V, Ghannadi A, Sharif B. Anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of the leaf extracts and essential oil of Lavandula angustifolia Mill. J Ethnopharmacol. 2003;89:67-71.
- Gyllenhaal C, Merritt SL, Peterson SD, Block KI, Gochenour T. Efficacy and safety of herbal stimulants and sedatives in sleep disorders. Sleep Med Rev. 2000;4:229-51.
- Takarada K, Kimizuka R, Takahashi N, Honma K, Okuda K, Kato T. A comparison of the antibacterial efficacies of essential oils against oral pathogens. Oral Microbiol.Immunol. 2004;19:61-4.
- Holmes C, Hopkins V, Hensford C, MacLaughlin V, Wilkinson D, Rosenvinge H. Lavender oil as a treatment for agitated behaviour in severe dementia: a placebo controlled study. Int J Geriatr.Psychiatry 2002;17:305-8.
- Graham PH, Browne L, Cox H, Graham J. Inhalation Aromatherapy During Radiotherapy: Results of a Placebo-Controlled Double-Blind Randomized Trial. Journal of Clinical Oncology 2003;21:2372-6.
- Akhondzadeh S, Kashani L, Fotouhi A, Jarvandi S, Mobaseri M, Moin M et al. Comparison of Lavandula angustifolia Mill. tincture and imipramine in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized trial. Prog.Neuropsychopharmacol.Biol Psychiatry 2003;27:123-7.
- Soden K, Vincent K, Craske S, Lucas C, Ashley S. A randomized controlled trial of aromatherapy massage in a hospice setting. Palliat.Med 2004;18:87-92.
- Buckle J. Use of aromatherapy as a complementary treatment for chronic pain. Altern.Ther.Health Med 1999;5:42-51.
- Hay IC, Jamieson M, Ormerod AD. Randomized trial of aromatherapy. Successful treatment for alopecia areata. Arch Dermatol 1998;134:1349-52.
- Sarrell EM, Cohen HA, Kahan E. Naturopathic treatment for ear pain in children. Pediatrics 2003;111:e574-e579.
- DerMarderosian A. The Review of Natural Products. St. Louis: Facts and Comparisons, 1999.
- MICROMEDEX(R) Healthcare Series. 120. 2004. Thomson MICROMEDEX.
- Henley DV, Lipson N, Korach KS, et al. Prepubertal gynecomastia linked to lavender and tea tree oils. N Engl J Med 2007;356(5):479-85.
- Jimbo D, Kimura Y, Taniguchi M, Inoue M, Urakami K. Effect of aromatherapy on patients with Alzheimer's disease. Psychogeriatrics. 2009 Dec;9(4):173-9.
- Woelk H, Schläfke S. A multi-center, double-blind, randomised study of the Lavender oil preparation Silexan in comparison to Lorazepam for generalized anxiety disorder. Phytomedicine. 2010 Feb;17(2):94-9.
- Goiriz R, Delgado-Jiménez Y, Sánchez-Pérez J, García-Diez A. Photoallergic contact dermatitis from lavender oil in topical ketoprofen. Contact Dermatitis. 2007 Dec;57(6):381-2.
- Kasper S, Gastpar M, Müller WE, et al. Efficacy and safety of silexan, a new, orally administered lavender oil preparation, in subthreshold anxiety disorder - evidence from clinical trials. Wien Med Wochenschr. 2010 Dec;160(21-22):547-56.
- Sasannejad P, Saeedi M, Shoeibi A, Gorji A, Abbasi M, Foroughipour M. Lavender essential oil in the treatment of migraine headache: a placebo-controlled clinical trial.Eur Neurol. 2012;67(5):288-91.
- Sakamoto Y, Ebihara S, Ebihara T, et al. Fall prevention using olfactory stimulation with lavender odor in elderly nursing home residents: a randomized controlled trial.J Am Geriatr Soc. 2012 Jun;60(6):1005-11.
- Wang D, Yuan X, Liu T, et al. Neuroprotective activity of lavender oil on transient focal cerebral ischemia in mice. Molecules. 2012 Aug 15;17(8):9803-17.
- Altaei DT. Topical lavender oil for the treatment of recurrent aphthous ulceration. Am J Dent. 2012 Feb;25(1):39-43.
- Hritcu L, Cioanca O, Hancianu M. Effects of lavender oil inhalation on improving scopolamine-induced spatial memory impairment in laboratory rats. Phytomedicine. 2012 Apr 15;19(6):529-34.
- Posadzki P, Alotaibi A, Ernst E. Adverse effects of aromatherapy: a systematic review of case reports and case series. Int J Risk Saf Med. 2012 Jan 1;24(3):147-61.
- Kim HM, Cho SH. Lavender oil inhibits immediate-type allergic reaction in mice and rats. J Pharm Pharmacol. 1999 Feb;51(2):221-6.
- Rahmati B, Khalili M, Roghani M, Ahghari P. Anti-epileptogenic and antioxidant effect of Lavandula officinalis aerial part extract against pentylenetetrazol-induced kindling in male mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Apr 17. [Epub ahead of print]
How It Works
Bottom Line: Lavender has not been shown to prevent or treat cancer.
Laboratory studies show that lavender oil can kill the bacteria present in the mouth. Studies in humans indicate that massage with lavender oil is beneficial in treating mild to moderate depression and in the treatment of baldness. A formula that contains lavender and other herbs was shown to be effective in reducing ear pain in children with inflammation of the middle ear. However, it is unclear from the study if lavender alone would have a similar effect.
Lavender can cause allergic contact dermatitis and may increase the effect of sedatives.
This use is not supported by research.
- Alopecia (Baldness)
A few studies have shown that lavender oil when combined with other herbs can help in the treatment of alopecia.
No scientific evidence supports this use.
Studies have demonstrated that lavender tincture can be used to aid in the treatment of depression.
- Gastrointestinal disorders
This claim is not backed by research.
There are no data that support this use.
One clinical trial showed that lavender improves sleep pattern in cancer patients.
- Migraine treatment
One study showed that inhaling lavender oil may reduce migraine headaches.
A few studies have shown that lavender oil is effective in treating chronic pain although the effects are short term.
- Promote urination
This claim is not backed by research.
There are no data to support this use.
Forty-seven patients with migraine headaches were randomized to the intervention group that inhaled lavender essential oil, and a control group that used liquid paraffin, for 15 minutes. Patients recorded severity of their headache and associated symptoms in 30-minute intervals over a period of two hours. Based on the Visual Analogue Scale, the average reduction of severity of headache was significantly greater in the lavender group compared to those in the control group. Inhalation of lavender oil may be an effective and safe treatment in controlling migraine headaches.
Do Not Take If
- You are taking sedatives or hypnotic drugs (Lavender may increase the depressant effects of such drugs).
- Allergic contact dermatitis
- Repeated application of lavender and tea tree oils resulted in gynecomastia (excessive development of breasts) in prepubertal boys.
Last updated: April 26, 2013