Botanical name: Lavandula officinalis
© Steven Foster
Eastern European countries, particularly Bulgaria, as well as France, Britain, Australia, and Russia grow large quantities of lavender. The fragrant flowers of lavender are used in the preparation of herbal medicines.
Lavender has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):
|Science Ratings||Health Concerns|
Pregnancy (in bath, for perineal pain after childbirth)
and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.
Traditionally, herbalists used lavender for a variety of conditions of the nervous system, including depression and fatigue.1 It has also been used for headache and rheumatism. Due to its delightful odor, lavender has found wide application in perfumes and cosmetics throughout history.
The volatile oil (also called essential oil) of lavender contains many constituents, including perillyl alcohol and linalool. The oil is thought to be calming2 and thus can be helpful in some cases of insomnia. One study of elderly people with sleeping troubles found that inhaling lavender oil was as effective as some commonly prescribed sleep medications.3 Similar results were seen in another trial that included young and middle-aged people with insomnia.4 A large clinical trial found that lavender oil added to a bath was no more effective than a placebo for relieving perineal discomfort immediately after childbirth.5 However, perineal pain was reduced three to five days afterward. Lavender is recommended by the German Commission E monograph for indigestion and nervous intestinal discomfort.6
The German Commission E monograph suggests 1–2 teaspoons (5–10 grams) of the herb be taken as a tea.7 The tea can be made by steeping 2 teaspoons (10 grams) of leaves in 1 cup (250 ml) of boiling water for fifteen minutes. Three cups (750 ml) can be consumed each day. For internal applications, 1/2–3/4 teaspoon (2–4 ml) of tincture can be taken two or three times per day. Several drops of the oil can be added to a bath or diluted in vegetable oil for topical applications. The concentrated oil is not for internal use, except under medical supervision.
Internal use of the volatile oil can cause severe nausea. Very small amounts should be used only under the supervision of a healthcare professional. Excessive intake (several times more than listed above) may cause drowsiness.8 External use in reasonable amounts is safe during pregnancy and breast-feeding.
In case reports, three young boys developed breast enlargement (gynecomastia) after repeated topical application of products that contained lavender oil and tea tree oil. The problem resolved after they stopped using the oils. While a cause–effect relationship was not conclusively proven, it was suggested by the fact that these oils have been found to have estrogen-like effects in test tube studies.9
At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions with lavender.
1. Hoffmann D. The New Holistic Herbal, 2d ed. Rockport, MA: Element, 1990, 210.
2. Buchbauer G, Jirovetz L, Jager W, et al. Aromatherapy: Evidence for sedative effects of the essential oil of lavender after inhalation. Z Naturforsch [C] 1991;46:1067–72.
3. Hardy M, Kirk-Smith MD, Stretch DD. Replacement of drug therapy for insomnia by ambient odour. Lancet 1995;346:701 [letter].
4. Lewith GT, Godfrey AD, Prescott P. A single-blinded, randomized pilot study evaluating the aroma of Lavandula augustifolia as a treatment for mild insomnia. J Altern Complement Med 2005;11:631–7.
5. Dale A, Cornwell S. The role of lavender oil in relieving perineal discomfort following childbirth: A blind randomized trial. J Adv Nursing 1994;19:89–96.
6. Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 2000, 226–9.
7. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 159–60.
8. Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996, 339–42.
9. Henley DV, Lipson N, Korach KS, Bloch CA. Prepubertal gynecomastia linked to lavender and tea tree oils. N Engl J Med 2007;356:479–85.
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or chemist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications.