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Lavender

Lavender

Common Names

  • Aspic
  • Lavandin
  • Spike lavender

For Patients & Caregivers

How It Works Minus iconIcon indicating subtraction, or that the element can be closed. Plus IconIcon indicating addition, or that the element can be opened. Arrow (down) icon.An arrow icon, usually indicating that the containing element can be opened and closed.

Lavender may be helpful in the treatment of anxiety and depression. It may also improve breathing, relaxation, and sleep. In studies that use massage along with lavender aromatherapy, massage may be more responsible for some of the benefits.

Several studies suggest that lavender may reduce anxiety, depression, and pain, and improve sleep. In other studies where lavender is used with massage, benefits may be due to the massage, rather than the lavender itself.

Only a few studies have evaluated lavender for cancer and related symptoms. In the lab, lavender has several properties that may be helpful against cancer, but human studies are needed.

Lavender can cause allergic skin reactions and may increase sedative effects. It may also cause enlarged breasts in boys. Because it has weak hormonal activities, long-term oral or topical use of lavender should be avoided in patients with hormone-sensitive cancers.

Purported Uses Minus iconIcon indicating subtraction, or that the element can be closed. Plus IconIcon indicating addition, or that the element can be opened. Arrow (down) icon.An arrow icon, usually indicating that the containing element can be opened and closed.
  • Anxiety
    Some oral lavender formulations have been shown to relieve anxiety. Animal studies suggest that inhaled lavender can either enhance calmness or increase nervousness, depending on whether the animal had calm or nervous personalities.
  • Cancer treatment
    Basic studies have identified some properties in lavender that may be helpful against cancer, but no studies have been conducted in humans. A compound called POH that may have come from lavender or other plants was developed as a nasal spray and showed some benefit in palliative care patients with recurrent gliomas.
  • Cancer symptom control
    Lavender did not reduce anxiety during radiation treatment. Two studies that used lavender aromatherapy along with massage did not find an increased benefit because of the use of lavender. A hospital that allowed the use of aromasticks found that lavender was among the most popular, did not disturb others, and improved breathing and relaxation. Because lavender has weak hormonal effects, long-term oral or topical use should be avoided in patients with hormonal cancers.
  • Depression
    Several studies show that lavender can aid in the treatment of depression.
  • Insomnia
    Several studies show that lavender can improve sleep. For one study of lavender aromatherapy with massage in cancer patients, the massage itself was thought to be responsible for the benefits.
  • Migraines
    One study showed that inhaling lavender oil may reduce migraine headaches.
  • Pain
    A few studies show that lavender oil is effective in treating chronic pain, but the effects are not long-lasting. In two studies with children, inhaling lavender lowered heart rate and pain medication use. Other types of pain relieved with the use of lavender include patients in labor and those who have suffered burns.
  • Spasms
    One study showed inhaled lavender relieved menstrual cramps and emotional symptoms, but the effects did not last long.
Do Not Take If Minus iconIcon indicating subtraction, or that the element can be closed. Plus IconIcon indicating addition, or that the element can be opened. Arrow (down) icon.An arrow icon, usually indicating that the containing element can be opened and closed.
  • You are pregnant and nursing: Excessive internal use of lavender should be avoided.
  • You are allergic to lavender: Skin rash has been reported.
  • You have a hormone-sensitive cancer: In laboratory studies, lavender showed very weak estrogenic and antiandrogenic activities, and it is unclear whether this would lead to any positive or negative effects with long-term oral or topical use.
  • You are taking sedatives or hypnotic drugs: Lavender may increase their effects.
  • You are taking CNS depressants, anticonvulsants: Lavender may increase narcotic and sedative effects.
  • You are taking cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins, nicotinic acid, fibric acid derivatives): Lavender may produce additional cholesterol-lowering effects.
Side Effects Minus iconIcon indicating subtraction, or that the element can be closed. Plus IconIcon indicating addition, or that the element can be opened. Arrow (down) icon.An arrow icon, usually indicating that the containing element can be opened and closed.
  • Oral: Nausea, belching, confusion
  • Topical: Allergic skin reactions and sensitivity to sunlight

Although lavender appears to be well tolerated, it may have weak hormonal effects.

Case Reports
Excessive breast development in preteen boys with repeated application of lavender and tea tree oils, as well as perfumes with lavender as a main component.

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For Healthcare Professionals

Scientific Name Minus iconIcon indicating subtraction, or that the element can be closed. Plus IconIcon indicating addition, or that the element can be opened. Arrow (down) icon.An arrow icon, usually indicating that the containing element can be opened and closed.
Lavandula angustifolia
Clinical Summary Minus iconIcon indicating subtraction, or that the element can be closed. Plus IconIcon indicating addition, or that the element can be opened. Arrow (down) icon.An arrow icon, usually indicating that the containing element can be opened and closed.

Derived from the flowering tops of the plant, lavender oil is used in lotions and perfumes, in aromatherapy, as a topical treatment, and as an oral supplement for a wide variety of symptoms.

Laboratory studies suggest that lavender has anxiolytic (30) (31), anticonvulsant (26) (34), neuroprotective (21) (32) (33), cardioprotective (35), antimicrobial (4) (27) (28), anti-inflammatory (22), and antioxidant (29) effects. Lavender oil inhalation reversed spatial memory loss in dementia models (23).

In human studies, benefits have been shown with oral lavender preparations for depression (7) (43) and anxiety (12) (13) (16) (18) (41) (42).

Lavender aromatherapy improved preoperative anxiety (68) (69), and decreased postoperative analgesics (45) and autonomic response to pain (46). It also reduced pain and anxiety in burn patients (70), and pain from labor (71) or renal colic (72). Other studies have found benefit with inhaled lavender to improve sleep quality (36), post-acute-stress memory and physiologic function (73), dysmenorrhea and emotional symptoms (37) (38), and menopause flushing (74). It reduced migraine frequency (19), and agitation and falls in older individuals (20). Inhaled lavender also improved dementia symptoms (5) (15), whereas dermally-applied lavender did not (39). In addition, it was not found to be effective for fatigue in hemodialysis patients (1).

In studies evaluating effects on cancer symptoms, inhaled lavender did not reduce anxiety during radiotherapy (6), or increase benefits of massage (8). In other studies of lavender used in aromatherapy massage, it is unclear whether or not the benefits weren’t fully attributable to massage (44) (52).

Lavender has demonstrated some activity in various cancer cell lines (47) (48) (49). Early animal studies of the monocyclic terpene perillyl alcohol (POH) derived from several herbs including lavender suggest tumor inhibition and regression (50) (51).

Lavender has estrogenic activity. There are reports that prolonged use can cause gynecomastia in prepubertal boys (14) (53).

Purported Uses Minus iconIcon indicating subtraction, or that the element can be closed. Plus IconIcon indicating addition, or that the element can be opened. Arrow (down) icon.An arrow icon, usually indicating that the containing element can be opened and closed.
  • Anxiety
  • Cancer symptom control
  • Cancer treatment
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Migraine treatment
  • Pain
  • Spasms
Mechanism of Action Minus iconIcon indicating subtraction, or that the element can be closed. Plus IconIcon indicating addition, or that the element can be opened. Arrow (down) icon.An arrow icon, usually indicating that the containing element can be opened and closed.

Anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of lavender are attributed to the constituent 1,8-cineole (2). Other dominant constituents include linalool and linalyl acetate, which may relax blood vessels and induce anxiolytic effects (30) (40) (54).

Lavender oil has broad-spectrum antibacterial activity (22). It reversed bacterial resistance to piperacillin in multi-drug-resistant E.coli via alterations of outer membrane permeability and bacterial quorum sensing inhibition (27), and prevented immediate-type allergic reactions by inhibiting mast cell degranulation (25). Antimicrobial activity was synergistic or additive when combined with other essential oils, with the most favorable combinations being cinnamon or sweet orange oil against C. albicans and S. aureus, respectively (28).

Data indicate lavender has depressive effects on the central nervous system (3). In animal models, it displays neuroprotective effects by attenuating neuronal damage, upregulating catalase (CAT), superoxide dismutase (SOD), and glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px) activities, and the glutathione (GSH)/glutathione disulfide (GSSG) ratio (21). Activity in stroke models include increased endogenous antioxidant defense, oxidative stress inhibition, and increased vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression (33). In an Alzheimer’s disease model, lavender extract improved spatial performance by diminishing beta-amyloid production in the hippocampus (32). In mice with anosmia, anxiolytic effects with lavender inhalation were likely due to serotonergic mechanisms rather than olfactory activation (30) (31). However, whether lavender alleviates or exacerbates anxiety may actually be determined by genetic influences on temperament, as these behaviors were respectively amplified after exposure to lavender inhalation in calm versus nervous sheep (56). Antiepileptic effects are due to suppression of nitric oxide level in the brain (26). Cardioprotective effects against myocardial infarction are attributed to its antioxidant properties (35). In wound healing models, lavender oil accelerates reepithelialization and wound closure via enhanced epidermal growth factor (EGF) secretion (55).

In young women with premenstrual syndrome, lavender inhalation increased the high frequency component of heart rate variability, reflecting parasympathetic nervous system activity (37). Although lavender reduced anxiety during urodynamic assessments by increasing c-aminobutyric acid inhibitory effects in the amygdala, blood pressure increases were attributed to potential diuretic activity (40). A positron emission tomography study revealed anxiolytic effects may occur via reduced serotonin-1A receptor binding (41). Effects on preoperative anxiety were attributed to both the use of lavender aroma as well as the placebo effect of added attention to patients (68).

Lavender has a high rate of antiradical activity among essential oils (58). An aqueous lavender extract inhibited lymphocyte proliferation in Hodgkin’s lymphoma cell lines via apoptosis (47). Lavender extracts and essential oil exhibit cytotoxicity to malignant cells, upregulate Bax expression, and induce PARP cleavage in HeLa cells, and cause a sub-G1 peak in treated cells compared with controls (48). Perillyl alcohol (POH) derived from botanicals including lavender, may affect transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta and/or Ras signaling pathways (59) and Na/K-ATPase inhibition (60).

Lavender oil has weak estrogenic and antiandrogenic activities that may alter estrogen and androgen signaling pathways (14).

Contraindications Minus iconIcon indicating subtraction, or that the element can be closed. Plus IconIcon indicating addition, or that the element can be opened. Arrow (down) icon.An arrow icon, usually indicating that the containing element can be opened and closed.
  • Individuals allergic to lavender; dermatitis has been reported (61).
  • Excessive internal use should be avoided by pregnant and nursing women (61).
  • Long-term oral consumption or long-term topical application should be avoided in patients with hormonal cancers (14).
Adverse Reactions Minus iconIcon indicating subtraction, or that the element can be closed. Plus IconIcon indicating addition, or that the element can be opened. Arrow (down) icon.An arrow icon, usually indicating that the containing element can be opened and closed.

Oral: Nausea, confusion (43); belching (12).
Topical: Allergic contact dermatitis (17) (24) and photosensitivity (61).

Although lavender appears to be well tolerated, it may have weak hormonal effects (14).

Case Reports
Prepubertal gynecomastia (topical): With repeated application of lavender and tea tree oils (14). At the same time, there was considerable discourse as to whether or not other co-ingredients could have been the cause of enlarged breasts (62) (63) (64) (65). In 3 additional boys who were chronically exposed to lavender, two used a cologne, one of which was confirmed to contain lavender. Symptoms improved after the exposure was discontinued (53).

Herb-Drug Interactions Minus iconIcon indicating subtraction, or that the element can be closed. Plus IconIcon indicating addition, or that the element can be opened. Arrow (down) icon.An arrow icon, usually indicating that the containing element can be opened and closed.

Sedatives: Lavender may potentiate their sleep-inducing effects (3).
CNS depressants, anticonvulsants: Lavender may increase narcotic and sedative effects (66).
Cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins, nicotinic acid, fibric acid derivatives): Lavender may produce additional cholesterol-lowering effects (61).

Dosage (OneMSK Only) Minus iconIcon indicating subtraction, or that the element can be closed. Plus IconIcon indicating addition, or that the element can be opened. Arrow (down) icon.An arrow icon, usually indicating that the containing element can be opened and closed.
References Minus iconIcon indicating subtraction, or that the element can be closed. Plus IconIcon indicating addition, or that the element can be opened. Arrow (down) icon.An arrow icon, usually indicating that the containing element can be opened and closed.

  1. Bagheri-Nesami M, Shorofi SA, Nikkhah A, et al. The effects of aromatherapy with lavender essential oil on fatigue levels in haemodialysis patients: A randomized clinical trial. Complement Ther Clin Pract. Feb 2016;22:33-37.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  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.

  5. Graham PH, Browne L, Cox H, Graham J. Inhalation Aromatherapy During Radiotherapy: Results of a Placebo-Controlled Double-Blind Randomized Trial. J Clin Oncol. 2003;21:2372-6.

  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.

  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.

  8. Buckle J. Use of aromatherapy as a complementary treatment for chronic pain. Altern.Ther.Health Med 1999;5:42-51.

  9. Hay IC, Jamieson M, Ormerod AD. Randomized trial of aromatherapy. Successful treatment for alopecia areata. Arch Dermatol. 1998;134:1349-52.

  10. Sarrell EM, Cohen HA, Kahan E. Naturopathic treatment for ear pain in children. Pediatrics. 2003;111:e574-e579.

  11. Kasper S, Volz HP, Dienel A, et al. Efficacy of Silexan in mixed anxiety-depression—A randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. Feb 2016;26(2):331-340.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. Kim HM, Cho SH. Lavender oil inhibits immediate-type allergic reaction in mice and rats. J Pharm Pharmacol. 1999 Feb;51(2):221-6.

  21. de Rapper S, Kamatou G, Viljoen A, et al. The In Vitro Antimicrobial Activity of Lavandula angustifolia Essential Oil in Combination with Other Aroma-Therapeutic Oils. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:852049.

  22. Chioca LR, Antunes VD, Ferro MM, et al. Anosmia does not impair the anxiolytic-like effect of lavender essential oil inhalation in mice. Life Sci. May 30 2013;92(20-21):971-975.

  23. Zali H, Zamanian-Azodi M, Rezaei Tavirani M, et al. Protein Drug Targets of Lavandula angustifolia on treatment of Rat Alzheimer’s Disease. Iran J Pharm Res. Winter 2015;14(1):291-302.

  24. Koutroumanidou E, Kimbaris A, Kortsaris A, et al. Increased seizure latency and decreased severity of pentylenetetrazol-induced seizures in mice after essential oil administration. Epilepsy Res Treat. 2013;2013:532657.

  25. Ziaee M, Khorrami A, Ebrahimi M, et al. Cardioprotective Effects of Essential Oil of Lavandula angustifolia on Isoproterenol-induced Acute Myocardial Infarction in Rat. Iran J Pharm Res. Winter 2015;14(1):279-289.

  26. Lillehei AS, Halcon LL, Savik K, et al. Effect of Inhaled Lavender and Sleep Hygiene on Self-Reported Sleep Issues: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Altern Complement Med. Jul 2015;21(7):430-438.

  27. Raisi Dehkordi Z, Hosseini Baharanchi FS, Bekhradi R. Effect of lavender inhalation on the symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea and the amount of menstrual bleeding: A randomized clinical trial. Complement Ther Med. Apr 2014;22(2):212-219.

  28. Nikfarjam M, Parvin N, Assarzadegan N, et al. The Effects of Lavandula Angustifolia Mill Infusion on Depression in Patients Using Citalopram: A comparison Study. Iran Red Crescent Med J. Aug 2013;15(8):734-739.

  29. Soltani R, Soheilipour S, Hajhashemi V, et al. Evaluation of the effect of aromatherapy with lavender essential oil on post-tonsillectomy pain in pediatric patients: a randomized controlled trial. Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. Sep 2013;77(9):1579-1581.

  30. Malachowska B, Fendler W, Pomykala A, et al. Essential oils reduce autonomous response to pain sensation during self-monitoring of blood glucose among children with diabetes. J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. Aug 15 2015.

  31. Dalilan S, Rezaei-Tavirani M, Nabiuni M, et al. Aqueous Extract of Lavender Angustifolia Inhibits Lymphocytes Proliferation of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Patients. Iran J Cancer Prev. Fall 2013;6(4):201-208.

  32. Zhao J, Xu F, Huang H, et al. Evaluation on bioactivities of total flavonoids from Lavandula angustifolia. Pak J Pharm Sci. Jul 2015;28(4):1245-1251.

  33. Ziegler J. Raloxifene, retinoids, and lavender: “me too” tamoxifen alternatives under study. J Natl Cancer Inst. Aug 21 1996;88(16):1100-1102.

  34. Soden K, Vincent K, Craske S, et al. A randomized controlled trial of aromatherapy massage in a hospice setting. Palliat Med. Mar 2004;18(2):87-92.

  35. Diaz A, Luque L, Badar Z, et al. Prepubertal gynecomastia and chronic lavender exposure: report of three cases. J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. Sep 3 2015.

  36. Lakusic B, Lakusic D, Ristic M, et al. Seasonal variations in the composition of the essential oils of Lavandula angustifolia (Lamiacae). Nat Prod Commun. Jun 2014;9(6):859-862.

  37. Hawken PA, Fiol C, Blache D. Genetic differences in temperament determine whether lavender oil alleviates or exacerbates anxiety in sheep. Physiol Behav. Mar 20 2012;105(5):1117-1123.

  38. Dyer J, Cleary L, Ragsdale-Lowe M, et al. The use of aromasticks at a cancer centre: a retrospective audit. Complement Ther Clin Pract. Nov 2014;20(4):203-206.

  39. Kacaniova M, Vukovic N, Horska E, et al. Antibacterial activity against Clostridium genus and antiradical activity of the essential oils from different origin. J Environ Sci Health B. 2014;49(7):505-512.

  40. da Fonseca CO, Schwartsmann G, Fischer J, et al. Preliminary results from a phase I/II study of perillyl alcohol intranasal administration in adults with recurrent malignant gliomas. Surg Neurol. Sep 2008;70(3):259-266; discussion 266-257.

  41. Garcia DG, Amorim LM, de Castro Faria MV, et al. The anticancer drug perillyl alcohol is a Na/K-ATPase inhibitor. Mol Cell Biochem. Dec 2010;345(1-2):29-34.

  42. Basch E, Foppa I, Liebowitz R, et al. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia Miller). J Herb Pharmacother. 2004;4(2):63-78.

  43. Kemper KJ, Romm AJ, Gardiner P. Prepubertal gynecomastia linked to lavender and tea tree oils. N Engl J Med. Jun 14 2007;356(24):2541-2542; author reply 2543-2544.

  44. Kalyan S. Prepubertal gynecomastia linked to lavender and tea tree oils. N Engl J Med. Jun 14 2007;356(24):2542; author reply 2543-2544.

  45. Kurtz JL. Prepubertal gynecomastia linked to lavender and tea tree oils. N Engl J Med. Jun 14 2007;356(24):2542-2543; author reply 2543-2544.

  46. Dean CJ. Prepubertal gynecomastia linked to lavender and tea tree oils. N Engl J Med. Jun 14 2007;356(24):2543; author reply 2543-2544.

  47. Denner SS. Lavandula angustifolia Miller: English lavender. Holist Nurs Pract. Jan-Feb 2009;23(1):57-64.

  48. Chamine I, Oken BS. Aroma Effects on Physiologic and Cognitive Function Following Acute Stress: A Mechanism Investigation. J Altern Complement Med. Sep 2016;22(9):713-721.

  49. Kazemzadeh R, Nikjou R, Rostamnegad M, et al. Effect of lavender aromatherapy on menopause hot flushing: A crossover randomized clinical trial. J Chin Med Assoc. Sep 2016;79(9):489-492.

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