When you hear the word “lavender,” you might immediately think of a lighter shade of purple. But there’s more to this herb than its color.
Read on to learn about possible health benefits of lavender, as well as other uses and potential risks that come with using the herb.
What Exactly Is Lavender?
Lavender is a flowering plant in the mint family that’s easily identified by its sweet floral scent. It’s believed to be native to the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and India, with a history dating as far back as 2,500 years.
In ancient times, lavender was used as a holy herb. Additionally, it was often used to freshen up and give a light scent to a variety of personal items, such as clothes and hair.
What Are Possible Health Benefits of Lavender?
Today, lavender is more than just a fragrant plant. As it turns out, this herb is also commonly used for medicinal and therapeutic benefits. So if you’re dealing with a few medical issues of your own, and you don’t want to risk the unpleasant side effects that come with many over-the-counter and prescription medicines, here’s a look at the potential health perks of using lavender.
May Help Improve Sleep
Insomnia is a nagging problem that keeps you tossing and turning throughout the night. Cutting out caffeine and getting more exercise might help induce sleep. But sometimes these efforts and others remedies don’t work. As a result, you end up a groggy mess in the daytime.
If you’re willing to try anything for a restful night’s sleep, a study published in March 2017 in the British Association of Critical Nurses found lavender essential oil to be an effective remedy in improving the sleep quality of intensive care unit (ICU) patients who had difficulty sleeping.
So if you’ve tried other sleep remedies to no avail, place a few drops of lavender essential oil on your pillow before going to sleep tonight. Just be sure not to ingest it, or any other essential oil, for that matter, as doing so may pose health harms.
Could Help Treat Skin Blemishes
A variety of essential oils are also excellent for dermatology use, including lavender. In fact, if you have acne, eczema, or skin inflammation, applying lavender oil to affected areas may play a role in treating blemishes and ease inflammation, according to a paper published in May 2017 in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. For those with sensitive skin, dilute the essential oil in water or a carrier oil.
The antioxidant activity of lavender may also contribute to wound healing.
Just be sure to check with your dermatologist before adding lavender to your skincare regimen, to ensure it won’t interact with any of the medication you’re currently taking.
May Offer a Natural Remedy for Pain
Some people reach for over-the-counter pain relievers when dealing with acute or chronic pain. And depending on the severity of pain, you might seek a prescription from your doctor.
Before going the traditional route to help ease pain, try aromatherapy with 2 percent lavender essential oil that is diluted in water. One study found lavender to be an effective remedy for postoperative pain. It can function as a pain reliever because the oil contains linalyl acetate and linalool — anti-inflammatory components that are found in many essential oils.
Lavender also contains polysaccharides. Another study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research stated that plants containing these molecules are “the most potent in curing inflammatory diseases,” which includes arthritis and rheumatism.
Meanwhile, other research suggests lavender aromatherapy may be used during labor to reduce the intensity, though not the duration of, pain.
Reduce Blood Pressure and Heart Rate
Chronic high blood pressure puts added stress on the heart, increasing the risk of health complications like stroke and heart attack. But a small study published in 2017 in the Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research found that when 40 people inhaled lavender essential oil after open-heart surgery, they reduced their blood pressure and heart rate, suggesting the oil had a positive effect on their vital signs. (8) Yet the authors note more research is needed on this possible benefit — namely, a randomized controlled trial, the gold standard for medical research, with a larger sample size.
Could Relieve Asthma Symptoms
Because of the anti-inflammatory effects of lavender, it may also improve bronchial asthma. A study on mice published in July 2014 in the journal Life Sciences found that lavender essential oil had a positive impact on respiratory health, relieving allergic inflammation and mucus hyperplasia. Whether the same effect would be seen in humans remains unclear.
Lessens Menopausal Hot Flashes
Hot flashes (or hot flushes) are a common menopause symptom that affects many women. It causes a sudden feeling of heat over the body, and it can make the face flushed and trigger perspiration.
But lavender aromatherapy for 20 minutes twice a day may help reduce menopause flashing and improve quality of life, according to a study published in September 2016 in the Journal of Chinese Medical Association.
Help Combat Fungus Growth
There are also a number of studies highlighting the potential antifungal activity of lavender. Studies suggest lavender essential oil may be effective in inhibiting the growth of certain types of fungus, such as C. albicans. The oil could also act as remedy for treating athlete’s foot and ringworm, which are also caused by fungus, according to previous research.
Potentially Promotes Hair Growth
In yet another study, lavender essential oil applied to the backs of mice once a day, five times a week, for four weeks, resulted in an increase in their number of hair follicles and a thicker dermal layer. This leads researchers to believe that lavender could potentially be used as a hair growth promoting agent, though more research is needed. After all, you aren’t a mouse.
Also read about : Plants with medicinal value
What Are Some of the Different Forms of Lavender?
Lavender is available in different forms. For example:
Lavender Oil Nectar extracted from the flowering plant is used to create a fragrant oil. The oil can be massaged into the skin, placed in a diffuser, or applied to a pillow or cotton swab and inhaled for aromatherapy.
Lavender Plant This is a sweetly scented perennial plant. It adds color to a garden and gives off a sweet aroma.
Lavender Capsules or Supplements You can also purchase lavender as a supplement in capsule form. Take as directed for medicinal benefits — just be sure to work with your healthcare provider to ensure the supplement won’t have negative interactions with any medication you’re taking.
Lavender Tea This form of lavender can offer a calming beverage that helps ease anxiety and promotes sleep.