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Mental Wellness

The Sweet Smell of De-Stress: How to Use Lavender for Anxiety

Photo by Amy Treasure on Unsplash

In scents, oils, and creams it’s a resounding “yes!” for lavender as a safe and effective anxiety reliever. Interest in its benefits as an oral supplement is also growing fast.

Although we cannot run from anxiety or eliminate it completely, there are small ways we can create more calm in our day-to-day lives.

The appeal of natural or plant-based anxiety-relieving solutions is not hard to fathom. As well as dodging nasty synthetic chemicals, plant-based essential oils are a relatively cheap and accessible way to indulge in some self-care and soothe a stressed-out nervous system.

Lavender for Anxiety

Lavender is one of the more heavily researched and natural anxiety-reducing remedies. Picked straight from mother nature’s pharmacy, this modest herb is well-known for its sleep-enhancing properties and has been manufactured into oils, candles, and topical creams for years.

Lavender belongs to the Lamiaceae species and is a cousin of other flowering herbs like sage and mint. Lavender has been celebrated for its medicinal qualities for thousands of years, long before we discovered its mysterious calming effects.

There are over 40 different types of lavender, all with a slightly different chemical make-up.

The key active ingredients are linalool and linalyl acetate, which provide anxiety-reducing effects. You can take lavender essential oil orally, breathe it in through aromatherapy, soak it up in a bath, or apply lavender gels and creams onto the skin.

What Does Science Say about Lavender for Anxiety?

Overall, it’s a resounding “yes!” for lavender as a safe and effective way to take the edge off anxiety.

Sense of smell is often underrated as a gateway to anxiety relief, but inhaling lavender could be a simple way to reap the rewards of this perfumed relaxant. A large review study concluded lavender oil aromatherapy has encouraging anxiety-relieving benefits, which may be valuable to help ease peoples’ anxiety in healthcare settings.

The idea of using lavender to create a more calming ambiance in clinical environments is not to be sniffed at. Another study found that wafting a lavender aroma in a dentist's waiting room using just a candle and some essential oil reduced patients’ anxiety levels.

In 2019 a weighty review study combining data from over 13,000 people in more than 120 studies, found oral consumption of lavender oil showed the most promise as an effective treatment for anxiety. Aromatherapy and massage with lavender oil also showed benefits for reducing anxiety, but the available evidence was less strong.

A Lavender Pill?

Although lavender has shown promising anxiety-relieving effects, it is classed as a dietary supplement, not a medication, and cannot replace standard psychological or psychiatric treatments.

That said, a type of lavender essential oil capsule, Silexan is prescribed in Germany as a treatment for restlessness associated with anxiety. It’s made by steam-distillation of lavender flowers and contains around 35 percent of both the active ingredients linalool and linalyl acetate. A review published in Phytomedicine, which combined data from five clinical trials, found Silexan successfully reduced anxiety for people who took it daily for longer than two months.

Some side-effects have been reported from taking the lavender oil capsules, such as nausea and an upset stomach. However, a wonderful advantage of Silexan is that, so far, it has shown no substance-abuse risks, unlike other anti-anxiety medications that are often prescribed for short-term use for this very reason.

Lean Into Lavender for Anxiety

If you’re spending money on lavender products, it’s important to examine what’s actually in it and how it was made. As with all essential oils, the growing conditions of lavender plants and the processes used to extract the essential oil will impact the quality.

Lavender research is growing, and there is still much to learn about this enchanting herb. It remains to be seen whether high-potency oral capsules will reach medication status in more countries. In the meantime, lavender provides a natural and highly popular essential oil that shows much anxiety-relieving promise.

Although we may not find the solutions to our stresses in a calming lavender candle, aromatic bath bomb, or pot of lavender tea, this relaxing herb could help us capitalize on those precious moments of calm in an unpredictable, post-pandemic world.

Visit the healing lavender fields of Hawaii in this 5-minute video.