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Relax and Feel Better With Lavender

Every night before bed, I flip on the switch to the aromatherapy diffuser in my 2-year-olds bedroom. I add 5-10 drops of lavender oil and wait for the sweet, balsamic, floral aroma to fill his room. I was slightly skeptical initially, but I swear by this scent for helping my son relax while we complete his bedtime routine.

Lavender’s high concentration of volatile oils are responsible for its distinctive and pleasing fragrance. The relaxing experience of smelling lavender led to its therapeutic use in aromatherapy centuries ago.  As it turns out, lavender actually has many uses, and relaxation is one of its primary ones.

Other aromatherapy benefits include balancing, soothing, normalizing, calming, relaxing, and healing. Lavender is primarily used either dried or as an essential oil.

Anxiety and Depression

I don’t know many people who like going to the dentist so here’s something worth considering, and so simple…dental patients who smelled lavender prior to their appointment had a decrease in their anxiety levels (1).

A suggestion for improving mood is adding a 3 mL mixture of 20% lavender oil and 80% grape seed oil to daily baths. This combo produces small improvements in mood, compared with baths containing grape seed oil alone.

Calming and Soothing

Research has confrimed lavender produces a slight calming, soothing, and sedative effect when its scent is inhaled. In one study, a blend of lavender and bergamot (orange) oils proved effective for inducing a calm, relaxing effect on a person (2). This could be used before bed, in the car after a long day, at your office desk, or anyplace you want to find your zen.

Insomnia/Sleeplessness

Developing research suggests using lavender oil in a vaporizer overnight, or on a gauze pad left beside the bed, might help some people with mild insomnia. Short-term inhalation of lavender oil has also been used as a sleep aid (3).

Attention women transitioning through menopause; if you’re experiencing sleep problems, one study showed after 12 weeks of lavender aromatherapy, midlife women with insomnia had improvements in the quality of their sleep (4).

If you’re a mom of a newborn, bathing your very young infant in lavender-scented bath oil found babies cried less and spent more time in deep sleep after bath (5).

Agitation

Using lavender to reduce agitation has been studied in patients with dementia, and study results have been mixed. In one study, nightly use of lavender oil in a bedside diffuser for 3 weeks reduced agitation in patients with various types of dementia. However, in another study, continuous use of lavender oil on a pad attached to a patient's shirt had no effect in a small group of patients with advanced dementia. More research needs to be done.

Mix and Match

Lavender combines well with many oils including citrus, clove, patchouli, rosemary, clary sage and pine.

Considerations When Purchasing Lavender

Look for pure essential oils of the highest quality. Important criteria to consider when selecting essential oils include the following: 100% pure and natural, country of origin, growing season, extraction method (ie: distillation, expression), plant part used and the reputation of the company providing the oils.

Bottom Line: Considering we’re in the midst of a busy, often hectic holiday season, lavender would be awesome for staying sane and relaxed when needed.

In Health and Happiness,

Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods

References:

1. Lehrner J, Marwinski G, Lehr S, Johren P, Deecke L. Ambient odors of orange and lavender reduce anxiety and improve mood in a dental office. Physiol Behav. 2005 Sep 15;86(1-2):92-5.

2. Hongratanaworakit T. Aroma-therapeutic effects of massage blended essential oils on humans. Nat Prod Commun. 2011 Aug;6(8):1199-204.

3. Wheatley D. Medicinal plants for insomnia: a review of their pharmacology, efficacy and tolerability. Journal of Psychopharmacology. 2005;19(4):414–421. 

4. Li-Wei Chien,Su Li Cheng,and Chi Feng Liu. The Effect of Lavender Aromatherapy on Autonomic Nervous System in Midlife Women with Insomnia. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012; 2012: 740813.   

5. Field T, Field T, Cullen C, Largie S, Diego M, Schanberg S, Kuhn C. Lavender bath oil reduces stress and crying and enhances sleep in very young infants. Early Hum Dev. 2008 Jun;84(6):399-401. 

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