Lavender for Sleep and Anxiety Disorders

The essential oil of lavender has anti-anxiety, mood-enhancing, and stress-relieving properties. It can aid relaxation and help you to sleep well.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is an ornamental, aromatic shrub with pinkish-purple flowers. It is popularly grown in gardens almost all over the world. It is native to the Mediterranean region (especially Spain), Russia, Africa, Arabian Peninsula, India, Canary Islands, etc. Lavender oil is commonly used in perfumes, essences, cosmetics, balms, aromatherapy, massage therapy, etc.

The ancient Romans used lavender to scent water for baths. It was the ancient Greeks who discovered the relaxing properties of lavender. Thousands of years later, lavender aromatherapy is still used to relax a person. It relieves insomnia, anxiety, and agitated behavior.

A number of scientific studies have been carried out to investigate the effectiveness of using lavender for sleep and anxiety disorders. The studies lend support to the belief that it can improve mood, relieve sleeplessness, anxiety, stress, and other stress related disorders. A study indicated that lavender oil taken orally may be an effective and well tolerated alternative to benzodiazepines (synthetic anti-anxiety medications) for the amelioration of generalized anxiety disorder. Another study indicated that lavender scent may reduce state anxiety in dental patients. Yet another study indicated that lavender fragrance may have a beneficial effect on insomnia and depression.

Lavender is one of the best herbal remedies for anxiety. It is also effective for sleeplessness. Its fragrance can aid relaxation and sleep. Lavender for sleep, anxiety, and mood disorders is available as an aromatic oil or dietary supplement in stores. It is also an ingredient of some of the best supplements for anxiety. When combined with other herbs for anxiety, it may have synergistic effects.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Botanical Name

Lavandula angustifolia.

Common Names

Lavender, common lavender, English lavender, true lavender, garden lavender, spike lavender, nard, aspic, lavandin, alhucema.

Uses of Lavender

Lavender is used as a herbal remedy for insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, stress, restlessness, depression, feelings of exhaustion, various kinds of pain (e.g. lower back pain, earache, neck pain, rheumatoid arthritis pain, nerve pain), migraine, colic, abdominal swelling from gas/flatulence, childhood atopic eczema, acne, alopecia areata (a type of hair loss due to an autoimmune disorder in which the hair usually falls out in patches), dementia, etc. It also appears to have some antibacterial, muscle relaxant, and mood enhancing properties. The essential oil of lavender is used in nerve tonics, fragrances, flavoring agents for foods and beverages, cosmetics, perfumes, moth repellants, balms, expectorants, massage and aromatherapy for sleep and relaxation. The flowers and leaves are used in potpourris, herbal teas, and in pillows to aid relaxation and sleep.

Supplements - Lavender for Sleep or Anxiety

Lavender is readily available in the form of herbal supplements and essential oils. Pure essential-oil of lavender is used in aromatherapy, massages, and baths as a natural relaxation aid. It uplifts mood and helps relieve stess, anxiety and sleeplessness.

Active Substances - What Does Lavender Oil Contain?

The essential oil of lavender contains linalool, limonene, linalyl acetate, perillyl alcohol, borneol, camphor, cineole, flavonoids, coumarins, tannins, triterpenes, etc.

Mechanism of Action - How Does Lavender Work?

Linalool has an inhibitory effect on the neuronal binding of glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter. A relaxed state in brain activity is noticed after therapy with lavender. Aromatherapy with lavender oil decreases rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and increases slow wave or deep sleep. In a study involving exposure of gerbils to lavender aroma, the anxiolytic effect of lavender appeared to be as effective as diazepam. It is likely that lavender potentiates the effects of the neurotransmitter GABA; however this has not been confirmed yet.

Side Effects of Using Lavender for Sleep or Anxiety Disorders

Lavender for sleep and anxiety disorders is generally well tolerated. However, in rare cases some people are allergic to lavender. Also, high doses of lavender oil can cause drowsiness. Other possible side effects are increased appetite, constipation, headache, nausea, skin irritation, increased photosensitivity, and gynaecomastia in boys who have not attained puberty. Lavender may increase the risk of bleeding if combined with "blood thinning" medicines or dietary supplements, or with other drugs that increase the risk of bleeding (e.g. non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).

Interactions - Things to Avoid While Using Lavender for Sleep/Anxiety

Lavender oil or extract can interact with other medicines that cause sedation or drowsiness. These include alcohol, anti-anxiety medicines, anti-depressants, anti-allergy medicines, narcotic pain relievers, muscle relaxants, anti-epilepsy or anti-seizure medicines, valerian or other herbs used to treat anxiety and depression, etc. Other medicines and substances with which interactions can occur include blood-pressure lowering agents, cholesterol lowering agents, asprin, anticoagulants (blood thinners), anti-platelet drugs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g. ibuprofen), Ginkgo biloba, garlic, saw palmetto, guggul, niacin, fish oil. If you are using lavender for sleep or anxiety disorders, you should avoid these things.

Contraindications - Who Should Avoid Lavender?

Pregnant or breast-feeding women should not use lavender for sleep or anxiety disorders. Children should also avoid it. See more information under the interactions section above.

Special Precautions

High doses of lavender can cause drowsiness. If you feel drowsy, avoid driving or operating machinery that requires you to be alert. Avoid alcohol and other medicines that cause drowsiness. If you are taking any prescription medicines or if you have any medical disorder, consult your doctor before using lavender for sleep, anxiety, or mood disorders.

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