Anxiety is a common problem and everyone goes through it from time to time. In fact, anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental illnesses that plague our society.
Anxiety has various types and forms, ranging from slight to severe and debilitating. At its worst, anxiety takes the form of anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder, amongst others.
Increasing research has suggested that lavender oil can play an instrumental role in lowering anxiety levels.
Why Lavender Oil?
The most common medically prescribed drugs to maintain or reduce anxiety are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and benzodiazepines.
Drugs of course aren’t a safe means to cure or maintain any illness in the long run and its best to resort to natural alternatives to reduce anxiety levels. Both SSRI’s and benzodiazepines have been known to cause certain side effects in those who regularly consume them.
The most commonly known side effects of SSRI’s include fati9gue, insomnia, agitation, gastrointestinal dysfunctioning, and a feeling of sedation.
Benzodiazepines have an even greater number of side effects than SSRI’s. These include an inability to drive or operate machinery, blurry vision, dry mouth, memory problems, poor concentration, overall confusion, fatigue, and an inability to perform daily life functions.
Because of the many risks of using pharmaceutical drugs to cure anxiety and depression, researchers have been studying the effects of the lavender flower and its’ extracts in reducing anxiety levels.
All through history, the lavender flower has been grown and its oils have been extracted and used for both medical as well as cosmetic reasons. Lavender is a member of the Labiatae family and is used either in its pure dry form, or for its various oils.
Historically speaking, lavender was popular for its sedative, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and of course, anti-depressant properties.
The most commonly grown variety of lavender is the Lavandula angustifolia Mill. The lavender flower is Lavender is native to Russia, Africa, Arabia and the Mediterranean countries
The lavender flower has a high content of oils. These oils are what give lavender its own distinct fragrance.
Lavender oil is an essential oil that is derived from the lavender flower. Lavender oil can be consumed orally, applied externally to the skin, and breathed in during aromatherapy.
The fragrance of lavender is in fact so soothing, that it is often used as part of aromatherapy to relax the body and mind. In addition to anxiety and depression, lavender is also used to cure gastrointestinal diseases such as an upset stomach, and sleep disorders such as insomnia.
What Do Studies Show?
For centuries now, the lavender flower and its oils have been used to treat mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Recent analytical studies have shown a positive association of lavender oil with treating anxiety. Controlled human trials have documented just how effective lavender oil is for anxiety, along with documenting any risks, if any that the oil may pose for humans using it to treat anxiety.
Research work in Germany led to the creation of a lavender oil extract titled Lavandula angustifolia or SLO. This extract was created to be tested specifically for the purpose of anxiety.
SLO constitutes two of the main aspects of lavender oil – linalyl acetate (34.2%) and linalool (36.8%). SLO is available in the form of over the counter capsules meant for oral administration.
This creation of SLO has made it easier for researchers to study the positive affect of lavender oil on anxiety.
Up until now, the research on SLO appears to have been successful. Apparently, SLO can relax the mind and body without harming it in any way (unlike pharmaceutical drugs). SLO has also not shown any major withdrawal symptoms in the studies conducted up to date.
There are many other studies also that have tested the positive affect lavender oil has on those who currently suffer from any type of anxiety disorder.
One such study that was published in 2005 called Physiology and Behavior, found that breathing in the fragrance of lavender reduced anxiety and improved the mood of 200 people who were waiting to be treated by their dentists.
Similarly, there was another pilot study in 2012 titled Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice that found a positive association of aromatherapy using lavender oil in women that were at high risk of developing post-partum depression.
The experiment involved a total of 28 women, all of whom had given birth about 18 months ago. Each of these women went through aromatherapy sessions that were 15 minutes long each over a period of four weeks.
The results of the study indicated a sharp decline in their anxiety levels.
There are also some studies that have indicated that oral consumption of lavender oil can lead to reduced anxiety levels. There was a report published in 2012 in Phytomedicine, according to which, 15 clinical trials were examined and scientists found any dietary supplements that have traces of lavender oil in them can be beneficial to reducing levels of stress and anxiety.
Does Lavender Oil Have Any Side Effects?
In spite of its many benefits, essential oils can be dangerous if not consumed carefully.
Lavender essential oil too needs to be consumed or used with caution. Some people have been found to have an allergic reaction to lavender oil. These allergic reactions include, difficulty breathing, face swelling up, swelling up of the tongue or lips, and hives. If you suspect any of these reactions, you should contact a medical care provider right away.
Some people have even reported symptoms such as extreme drowsiness, increased appetite and constipation. Make sure therefore to steer clear of lavender oil if you have any driving to do that day or if you have to operate any heavy machinery at work. Some have even experienced irritation of the skin.
More severe side effects to lavender oil use include headaches, nausea, and vomiting. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should discontinue use with immediate effect.
Although lavender oil has certain side effects, it is considered safe for human use and consumption for the most part.
To be safe, it’s always best to contact a professional before consuming or using lavender oil, because of its possible toxic side effects.
Can Lavender React With Other Drugs?
Because lavender oil causes extreme drowsiness, you should completely avoid using it if you are already using herbal supplements that can cause you to be drowsy. Otherwise, you pose a health risk to yourself and to those around you. These herbal supplements include California poppy, catnip, Jamaican dogwood, calamus, hops, valerian, skullcap, kava, St. John's Wort and yerba mansa.
Similarly, you should avoid using lavender oil if you are using any health supplements that can reduce your blood pressure. These include cat’s claw, theanine, lyceum, fish oil, casein peptides, and rographis, casein coenzyme Q-10, L-arginine, and stinging nettle, among others.
Certain over-the-counter drugs may also interact negatively with lavender oil. These include certain vitamins, herbal products and pharmaceutical drugs.
If you are taking any of the following medication, you should avoid lavender oil at all cost:
Benzodiazepines including chloral hydrate, amobarbital, chloral hydrate , alprazolam, butabarbital, pentobarbital, mephobarbital, phenobarbital, lorazepam, zolpidem, secobarbital, lorazepam, diazepam (Valium), midazolam), clonazepam ,lorazepam, phenobarbital, zolpidem, among others, barbiturates and sedatives.
You should also avoid certain medicines that are meant to lower high blood pressure. These include losartan, enalapril, captopril, Amlodipine, diltiazem, Amlodipine, furosemide and hydrochlorothiazide among others.
This isn’t a comprehensive list. There are other drugs, herbal products and off-the-counter medications that can also interact negatively with lavender oil.
So, make sure to contact a doctor or a medical care provider before you start to use lavender oil while consuming or using some other medication.
How Should I Consume Lavender Oil?
There are many different options of how lavender oil can be used.
As part of aromatherapy, some people simply choose to breathe in the fragrance of lavender. The fragrance itself is supposed to be relaxing and soothing for the mind and body.
Others use lavender oil by applying it to certain limbs of the body. It is often prescribed to rub some oil on each of your wrists before you go to bed at night. This is particularly recommended for those who suffer from insomnia and have difficulty falling asleep at night. This is also beneficial for those who suffer from an anxiety disorder and have breathing problems as a result.
Slowly breathing in the scent of lavender as they fall asleep can be both refreshing to the nerves and calming to the mind. Once you apply lavender oil to your skin, a message is sent to your central nervous system, via the brain, asking it to calm down and get out of flight and fight mode.
When being applied directly to the skin, it is always best to mix lavender oil with carrier oil. This carrier oil can be any such as almond or jojoba. Make sure the carrier oil you choose is one that is suitable for your skin and does not somehow negatively react to it.
Once you have mixed lavender oil with carrier oil, it is safe to be massaged directly onto your skin, or even used in your bath.
Yet other people use lavender oil as part of an aroma diffuser or vaporizer. This technique is pretty simple too. All you have to do is sprinkle just a few drops of lavender oil onto your vaporizer or diffuser. As the vaporizer works, the scent of lavender will slowly start to pervade your room.
Lastly, you can even sprinkle lavender oil onto a cloth and inhale it in, if you don’t want to opt for any of the above methods. You can even sprinkle some oil onto your pillow and slowly inhale it all night while you fall asleep.
Important Things to Remember
Although there is no particular recommended dosage of lavender oil, you should usually use it in an amount that is recommended by your medical care provider. You should make sure to never use lavender oil in the excess of what is recommended either by your doctor, or on the label.
You need to be careful to not consume or use different variations of lavender altogether. For example, if you are already consuming lavender oil capsules, don’t also externally use the oil. Too much lavender oil consumption at one time poses the risk of a potential overdose.
If your medical care provider has specifically prescribed lavender oil for, but it is exacerbating your condition, you should contact your doctor straight away.
Keep in mind that lavender can affect your central nervous system, along with your blood pressure and should be taken with caution, keeping in mind these things.
Certain precautions can be taken with regards to lavender consumption. For example, if you need to get a dental procedure or any type of surgery done, make sure to stop using lavender oil at least two weeks in advance of this.
Lavender oil, similar to most other essential oils, needs to be stored at room temperature, well away from any sort of heat or moisture.
If you accidently miss a dose of lavender oil, do not ever try to cover up for that by consuming extra lavender oil.
All the research and findings have clearly concluded that lavender oil can be extremely beneficial for those suffering from routine anxiety or even an anxiety disorder. Just as everything else, you should take precautions when using or consuming lavender oil.