What Lavender Can Do for You

Medically reviewed by Deborah Weatherspoon, Ph.D, MSN, RN, CRNA on June 6, 2016Written by Joe Bowman

lavender

The health potential of lavender

People usually associate lavender with two specific traits: its fragrance and its color. But you may not know that the lavender flower and the oil derived from it have long histories in herbal medicine.

Read on to learn more about the health potential of lavender in aromatherapy and as a tea.

The history of lavender

Its name derives from the Latin root “lavare,” which literally means “to wash.” The earliest recorded use of lavender dates back to ancient Egypt. There, lavender oil played a role in the mummification process.

During later times, lavender became a bath additive in several regions, including Persia, ancient Greece, and Rome. These cultures believed that lavender helped purify the body and mind.

Since ancient times, lavender has been used to treat many different ailments, including:

  • mental health issues
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • depression
  • headaches
  • hair loss
  • nausea
  • acne
  • toothaches
  • skin irritations
  • cancer

The many uses of lavender

Lavender is a multipurpose plant. People use lavender in many ways to promote good health and well-being.

Aromatherapy

Lavender is most commonly used in aromatherapy. The fragrance from the oils of the lavender plant is believed to help promote calmness and wellness. It’s also said to help reduce stress, anxiety, and possibly even mild pain. A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that topically applying lavender, plus sage and rose, could reduce the severity of menstrual cramps.

Potential cancer and dementia help

According to the National Cancer Institute, aromatherapy can help patients manage the side effects of cancer treatment. Smell receptors send messages to the brain that can affect mood. Aromatherapy may also help adults who suffer from dementia.

While many people swear by its aromatic healing powers, the scientific community is not so sure. Many of the tests conducted around lavender have had conflicting results.

Sleep aid

Once upon a time, lavender was recommended for people suffering from insomnia or other sleep disorders. People stuffed their pillows with lavender flowers to help them fall asleep and get a better night’s rest.

Today, aromatherapists use lavender to treat headaches and nervousness or restlessness. Massage therapists sometimes apply lavender oil to the skin, which might function both as a calming agent and a sleep aid. In Germany, lavender tea has been approved as a supplement to treat sleep disruptions, restlessness, and stomach irritation.

Skin and hair conditions

Topical use of lavender oil might help to treat a disease called alopecia aerate, which causes a person’s hair to fall out in patches. In one study, published in the Archives of Dermatology, people rubbed the essential oils of lavender, thyme, rosemary, and cedarwood on the areas where hair had fallen out. Some people experienced hair regrowth over the course of seven months. However, there was no way for the researchers to determine which of the oils was responsible.

When applied to the skin, lavender oils have shown positive results in helping with eczema, acne, sunburns, and diaper rash. Consider trying this chamomile-lavender body cream home remedy to help soothe irritated skin from sunburns and diaper rash.

Lavender and you

Many people have enjoyed the pleasing fragrance of lavender and used it to treat a variety of conditions. People say its uses range from helping them calm down and get a good night’s sleep to managing sleeplessness, anxiety, and menstrual cramps. Though reports from the medical experts are mixed, lavender does have many potential benefits that you might want to try.

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