Hands-down the most popular of the essential oils used today, the health benefits and healing properties of lavender were discovered more than 2,500 years ago. A powerful antioxidant with antimicrobial and sedative properties, it’s easy to see why this natural remedy has been used for so much of human history.
The History of Lavender
A purple flower from the mint family known for its beauty and sweet aroma, it didn’t take long for humans to realize the benefits of lavender.
The Bible contains many references to lavender, particularly in the “Song of Solomon.” Additionally, lavender is one of the “holy herbs” required for preparation of the Holy Essence—a blend of extracts from a range of essential oils.
The ancient Greeks were some of the first to experiment with lavender as a natural remedy. In fact, it was such a large part of their culture that cities were named after it. The Greeks called lavender “nardus,” and gave its name to the city of Naarda in modern-day Syria because of its plentiful lavender supply.1 Lavender was also a major part of the ancient Roman economy and lifestyle; they used it to clean their beds, baths, clothes, and hair, while also using it in medicine.
Ancient Egyptians used lavender in embalming practices as well as cosmetics, and researchers have discovered large amounts of lavender incorporated into King Tut’s tomb. Egyptian high priests and members of the royal family used lavender in massage oil and medicine, making it one of the most sought-after plants in Ancient Egypt.
In Europe, Queen Elizabeth I was known to use lavender frequently, steeping it in her tea for migraine relief or regularly adding it to her baths. Queen Elizabeth was so fond of lavender, in fact, that she instructed English farmers to grow fields of lavender, many of which still dot the English landscape today. Henrietta Maria of France, the wife of King Charles I was the first queen to bring cosmetics to England royalty, incorporating lavender into many of these cosmetic products, while King Charles VI of France had the cushion of his throne stuffed with lavender.2
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Later in history, Queen Victoria made lavender fashionable during her reign, with vendors throughout England selling it on the street. Fresh lavender was cut and dried, used to wash walls and furniture, and even used to repel insects.3 A Victorian-era suburb of London called Mitchell became a hub for lavender sale and production at this time, and lavender products produced in Mitchell became famous around the world.
It is lavender’s underlying chemistry that allows for the diversity in its uses. A range of biochemicals, terpenes, and acetates account for the healing properties of lavender. Though dozens of compounds make up lavender essential oil, the most important ones include:
- Linalyl acetate
- Lavandulyl acetate4
These terpene agents work together to provide the antiseptic, analgesic, anticonvulsant, antistatic, antiviral, antibacterial, and decongestant properties that lavender essential oils offer.5 Each of the biochemical agents is beneficial on its own, but when combined together they result in the unique chemistry of lavender essential oil, making it more potent and powerful.
Uses for Lavender Essential Oil
Right off of the bat, the benefits of lavender essential oil include, but aren’t limited to alleviating stress and anxiety, improving cognitive function and memory, speeding up the recovery of burns and wounds, improving sleep quality, clearing up the skin, and eliminating pain or tension.6 Lavender essential oil is best used topically—with the help of a carrier cream—or inhaled through a diffuser.
You’d be surprised at just how versatile lavender essential oil is as an all-natural healing agent. Some of its most important properties are highlighted below.
Protection Against Toxins
One of the most impactful benefits of lavender essential oil is its ability to fight free radicals, dangerous toxins and chemicals, and bacterial and viral infections in the body. Studies have shown that lavender is a powerful antioxidant that fights against harmful agents in the body.
Free radicals are responsible for everything from aches and pains to central nervous system disorders. The body’s natural response to free radicals is the release of powerful antioxidants, a response mimicked by lavender essential oil when it produces similar antioxidants, such as glutathione, working to destroy free radicals as well as repair the pre-existing damage.
In terms of fighting infection, the antibacterial and antiviral properties in lavender essential oil make it useful in protecting the body against disease or speeding up recovery.
Stress and Anxiety Relief
We live in the middle of a fast-paced society, with new stressors popping up daily. However, the relaxing properties of lavender essential oil alleviate that pressure and provide an opportunity to reset and unwind. Studies have proven that lavender essential oil alleviates anxiety, balances sleep schedule, and improves mental clarity, cognitive function, and memory.
Lavender essential oil can be used for its stress relieving properties by adding a few drops to a room essential oil diffuser. You’ll find yourself falling asleep faster, staying asleep, and waking up each morning feeling rested and refreshed. A 2014 study found that lavender essential oil was almost 1.5 times more effective at helping people fall asleep and stay asleep than three of the more popular prescription medications available on the market at that time.8
Furthermore, a 2008 study looking at the relaxation effects of lavender essential oil found that lavender oil aromatherapy reduces cortisol levels in healthy men, as well as potentially improving coronary circulation.
Improvement of Cognitive Function
As we have already highlighted, lavender has a variety of neurological benefits.
New research shows that lavender essential oils may help in finding a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. The study indicates that inhaling lavender oil with the help of a vaporizer or diffuser may prevent oxidation in the brain, reduce cognitive impairment, and help repair the myelin that is typically broken down in individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia.9
Swiss researchers have also conducted research into lavender essential oil acts as a preventative measure against strokes, due to the antioxidants it contains.
Improvement of Respiratory Function
The stimulating characters of lavender essential oil make it an ideal choice for alleviating the symptoms of respiratory issues such as the flu, coughs, colds, and sinus congestion. The oil can either be used as vapor inhaled through a diffuser or applied to the skin of the neck, chest and back after being diluted with a carrier oil or lotion. This can loosen up phlegm, relieving congestion and speeding up overall recovery.
Skincare and Haircare
Because lavender essential oil has antiseptic properties, it is known to support healthier-looking skin. In the past, lavender baths were popular among the royalty in Persia, Greece, and Rome, and now, it continues to be a popular spa ingredient. For use on skin, a few drops of lavender essential oil can be diluted with a carrier oil of choice and applied to the selected area, focusing on patches of skin that may be dry. Additionally, just like in the past, a few drops of lavender essential oil can be added to a warm bath or used in a bath salt or bath oil.
In addition to its efficacy in removing lice, lice eggs, or nits, lavender essential oil has also proved helpful for individuals who experience hair loss, presenting a 40% increase in hair growth in some cases if rubbed regularly on the scalp.
Safety and Precautions
Lavender is considered to be one of the safest essential oils today, however, it is still critical to be mindful when using it.10
As with all essential oils, lavender essential oil is not recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing.
It is not recommended that lavender essential oil is combined with sedative medications. Because lavender oil is a powerful all-natural sedative, when combined with other sedatives, it can lead to excessive drowsiness, which is particularly dangerous for driving or operating heavy machinery.11
Lavender essential oil should not be digested, but rather applied topically when mixed with a carrier oil or lotion or inhaled as part of aromatherapy. Lavender essential oil is considered toxic if it is ingested, and may lead to side effects such as abdominal pain and cramps, nausea and vomiting, difficulty seeing or blurred vision, difficulty breathing, rashes, or burning sensations in the intestines.12 In the case that lavender essential oil is ingested, it is advisable to contact a poison control center as soon as possible.
Some research has indicated that use of too-high amounts of lavender essential oil in young boys may put them at risk for gynecomastia, the enlargement of male breasts. However, these effects go away a few weeks after discontinuing use.
Final Thoughts About Lavender Essential Oil
From its anti-aging properties to its role in alleviating stress or improving cognition, the benefits of lavender essential oil really do highlight why it has become so popular in society throughout the years. Incorporate the use of lavender essential oil into your daily routine topically when mixed with another oil or lotion, or try it as part of an aromatherapy through a room diffuser or personal essential oil diffuser, like Happy, Sexy, and Ocean MONQ.