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Lavender has long been known for its floral aroma and attractive purple color.

Used at least since the medieval period, the plant and its many variations have commonly been used in perfumes, soaps, and recipes around the globe.

As well as looking and smelling lovely, lavender has a long history of being used in medicine. More recently, the plant is increasingly used to manage symptoms of anxiety.

Lavender is renowned for its ability to create a relaxing atmosphere.

In fact, one of the main benefits of lavender is that it can calm without sedating.

More than simply generating a serene state of mind, lavender can reduce anxiety by affecting the body’s fight-or-flight response.

Lavender essential oil has been found to be effective in reducing:

  • anxiety
  • restlessness
  • agitation
  • disturbed sleep
  • nervousness
  • depressive symptoms

An older 2005 study showed that the aroma of lavender and orange reduced anxiety in dental patients.

Another study showed that aromatherapy administered during labor can reduce anxiety in women. The study also found that inhaling three drops of lavender every 8 hours for 4 weeks prevented stress, anxiety, and depression after childbirth.

Lavender used in aromatherapy massage has been shown to improve the physical and mental state of young mothers, facilitating mother-infant interaction.

While research suggests there are health benefits, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils.

It’s important to talk with your healthcare professional before using essential oils. Be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products.

Some people may have allergic reactions to essential oils. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil and follow dosage and dilution guidelines.

Healthline

Lavender may have several beneficial effects that help ease anxiety, including:

  • improved mood
  • lower heart rate
  • lower adrenaline levels
  • regulated breathing
  • improved sleep quality

Nervous system

Lavender has been shown to affect the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system controls bodily processes associated with anxiety, such as heart rate, breathing rhythm, and hormone secretion.

Lavender can help in regulating these bodily processes by restoring a neutral state. This involves lowering the heart rate, adrenaline levels, and slowing the breath.

Mental health

Research suggests that lavender may be of benefit as a complementary treatment for mild to moderate depression.

An older 2006 study found lavender aromatherapy to have a beneficial effect on insomnia and depression in female college students.

A further study found lavender aroma inhalation to improve sleep quality, depression, and stress levels in older adults.

Another study indicated that lavender has an anti-anxiety and anti-depressive effect. Oral lavender taken for 6 weeks was shown to improve the general mental health and quality of life in 50 patients with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sleep

Lavender has long been considered a natural sleep remedy to improve sleep quality and treat insomnia.

Research from 2010 has shown that orally administrated lavender can assist with symptoms of restlessness and disturbed sleep. This can help with anxiety, as well as improve general well-being and quality of life.

A further study on midlife women with insomnia found that 20 minutes of lavender inhalation through aromatherapy can significantly improve sleep quality.

The majority of research on lavender for anxiety symptoms includes oral administration and aromatherapy, suggesting these as the most effective methods to reduce symptoms.

Clinical trials suggest the best use of lavender for effective treatment of anxiety symptoms is through oral supplements containing lavender essential oil.

Although 100 and 200 milliliters (mL) of lavender oil in capsules has demonstrated to be effective, clinical studies show the most effective dose of lavender oil is suggested to be 80 milligrams (mg) per day. The study emphasizes that the lavender oil must be of high quality and not diluted with additives or synthetic substances.

However, anywhere between 20 and 80 mg is still effective, and there are no reports of adverse side effects at this dosage.

For aromatherapy, research indicates that inhalation through olfaction (sense of smell) should be at a minimum of 3 minutes to be effective.

Research from 2001 indicates that 10 minutes of inhalation has effects on bodily functions associated with anxiety, such as blood pressure and heart rate.

If you’re using a diffuser, make sure it’s on for a minimum of 10 minutes to see benefits.

Bottom line

Oral supplements and aromatherapy are the most effective ways to use lavender for anxiety.

Most commonly, lavender is used as lavender essential oil. Lavender is a versatile essential oil that can be used in a variety of ways.

When finding an oil, it’s important to make sure the label specifies “lavender essential oil” and not just “lavender oil.” Having “essential oil” on the label ensures it’s not just infused with lavender but a pure, concentrated oil from the plant.

Be sure to check all the ingredients on the label to make sure it’s not diluted with synthetic ingredients or fillers. Confirm the quality of the brand you choose with your doctor.

Bath

Essential oils can be a great addition to a bath, helping to calm, soothe, and relax while in a lavish setting.

Add a few drops of essential lavender to a bath and soak away to enjoy its benefits. You can either keep it simply lavender scented or use a combination of oils, such as lemon or orange.

Plus, the hot water can also help relax tired or sore muscles.

Diffuser

Aromatherapy diffusers disperse essential oils into the air. Any essential oils can be used in diffusers, including lavender or a mixture with other oils, such as orange or chamomile.

By diffusing the oils into the air, they’re inhaled by simple breathing, and research has shown that inhalation of lavender can significantly reduce anxiety levels.

Not only do the aromas in the air help deodorize the room, but they also can promote better sleep and ease symptoms of anxiety, particularly helping to relax and calm.

If you’re someone who experiences anxiety symptoms during scary or horror films, try diffusing some lavender while watching. A 2009 study found that lavender can reduce responses to anxiety-provoking film clips.

On body

When topically applied through massage, lavender oil is found to rapidly be absorbed by the skin, resulting in a sedative and relaxing effect.

You can either pat on oil from the bottle or use a rollerball. Apply to wrists, behind ears, and nape of neck throughout the day or as desired.

Oral

Research has shown that oral administration of lavender essential oil is an effective treatment for anxiety symptoms. In this study, 80 grams of Silexan (lavender oil in capsules) were taken for a minimum of 6 weeks.

Oral administration in this regard usually involves one-a-day capsules of lavender oil, such as Seremind.

Capsules

Capsules are a common method of consuming lavender, with studies showing they are effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety.

It’s important to make sure to read dosage and warnings on the bottle before use.

Tinctures

Tinctures are highly concentrated plant or herbal extracts.

Lavender tincture is a concentrated liquid extract made from distilling lavender flowers and buds in alcohol.

Consume by using the dropper to place a few drops under the tongue and swallow.

Lavender essential oil is generally recognized as safe by the FDA, but it must be used according to intended purposes and following dose guidelines on products.

Excessive intake of lavender oil has been reported to cause nausea and drowsiness, making it vital to follow guidelines that come with capsules and not exceed one-a-day dosage.

Research from 2010 has suggested that lavender oil is safe to use for the relief of anxiety. However, one report acknowledges that long-term studies demonstrating safety are lacking, while another suggests the evidence is lacking on lavender essential oil for specific types of anxiety, such as panic and phobic disorders.

It’s important to receive a doctor or healthcare professional’s advice when considering treatments for mental health conditions. Speak to your doctor if you have any concerns.

In addition to its sweet, floral smell, lavender has therapeutic and medical benefits. These include reducing symptoms of anxiety.

Various research indicates that lavender can help reduce anxiety levels and can be used in a variety of ways, including massage, aromatherapy, baths, décor, or in recipes.

Talk to your doctor or a healthcare professional before using lavender for anxiety symptoms.


Marnie Vinall is a freelance writer living in Melbourne, Australia. She’s written extensively for a range of publications, covering everything from politics and mental health to nostalgic sandwiches and the state of her own vagina. You can reach Marnie via Twitter, Instagram, or her website.