Friday, January 6, 2012

Essential oils: Lavender - the science about applying it to our skin or ingesting it

Lavender essential oil isn't just for aromatherapy - we can put it in our products or ingest it, so let's take a look at the science behind those claims! 

In this study of 120 women who had undergone episiotomies in the hospital, 25 of the 60 whose wounds were treated with lavender essential oil reported no pain, versus 17 out of 60 who had povidone-iodine. The lavender group also reported less redness. 

In this study, women were asked to bathe with lavender oil to help with perineal pain after childbirth. "Analysis of daily discomfort scores revealed no statistically significant difference between groups It cannot be concluded that current practice results m a reduction of postnatal perineal discomfort at the dilution levels used. However, there is some consistency m results between the 3rd and 5th days, with those women using lavender oil as a bath additive recording lower mean discomfort scores This is a time when the mother usually fmds herself discharged home and perineal discomfort is high." 

In a study entitled, "Topical Use of Lavender, Clary Sage, and Rose Oils Reduces Dysmenorrhea in College Students", the authors studied women at School of Nursing at Wonkwang Public Health College in Iksan, Korea. "The authors conclude that aromatherapy with topically applied lavender, clary sage, and rose oils is effective in reducing the severity of menstrual cramps and dysmenorrhea." The problem is that these oils were combined, so we're not really sure if one was more effective than another. In the review, there are problems noted about the way this study was conducted - for instance, "The limitations of the study are the placebo, which was not a true placebo in that it did not match the treatment product exactly, particularly in odor." The reviewer concludes that, " indicates that lower abdominal massage in combination with essential oils of lavender, clary sage, and rose may be a simple, safe, and low cost method to alleviate menstrual cramps." (Han S, Hur M, Buckle J, Choi J, Lee M. Effect of aromatherapy on symptoms of dysmenorrhea in college students: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2006;12(6):535-541.) 

I could spend weeks just reviewing studies on lavender essential oil and pain, so for now I would say the jury might still be out or "more investigation is required" to say that lavender essential oil applied topically reduces pain. 

I've searched my university library, EBSCOhost, Google scholar, and my textbooks, and the only thing I could find on using lavender essential oil on burns or sunburns was in this article from Alive magazine without any mention of the science of why this might be. So I can't call this confirmed. (If you have any studies on this, please pass them on to me at!) 

In this study on treating MRSA, the researchers tested four strains of lavender and found that..."At any single dose, the extent of inhibition was very similar irrespective of the chemical composition of the oils or the strain of S. aureus used. Several binary combinations of the oils were tested, and the results showed that the necrodane-rich L. luisieri oil interacted synergistically with L. stoechas (high in 1,8-cineole, fenchone, and camphor) and L. langustifolia (rich in linalool and linalyl acetate) to produce larger inhibition zones than those produced using each oil individually." The conclusion was that "The results suggest that combinations of lavender oils should be investigated further for possible use in antibacterial products." 

Now remember, this phrase generally means "we found something, but there isn't a lot to report" or "we didn't find what we wanted, and there's not a lot to report", so read this to mean that they found something interesting but haven't achieved the results to say that this works! 

In this study on a number of different essential oils, there wasn't a strong finding that lavender was effective at preventing bacterial growth. "In the liquid medium, lavender oil permitted a small growth after 6 h..." (I really encourage you to read this study! It's very interesting!) 

In the study, "Effects of orally administered lavender essential oil on responses to anxiety-provoking film clips" (I love that title!) "Orally administered lavender capsules (placebo, 100, 200 ┬Ál) were tested in a randomised between-subjects (n = 97) double-blind study. Film clips were used to elicit anxiety." The conclusions? "These findings suggest that lavender has anxiolytic effects in humans under conditions of low anxiety, but these effects may not extend to conditions of high anxiety." In other words, these lavender tablets were effective, but might not be for high anxiety. Which isn't a bad thing, because most of the time what we're experiencing is low anxiety anyway. Can't sleep, worried about something, traffic is getting you frustrated, and so on. (I'm guessing this would be a job for something like lavender tea!) 

In this review of using lavender essential oil (specifically Silexen capsules) with patients with anxiety disorders, the researcher concluded that "The anxiolytic effect of lavender was clinically detectable after 2 weeks of treatment and was statistically significant at week 4 and all later visits " and "The lavender treatment had a significant beneficial influence on the patients’ duration and quality of sleep and reduced their daytime tiredness."

I could quote a number of studies that support these two, but I think we're establishing that ingesting lavender can benefit sleep and anxiety. 

Join me tomorrow to take a look at those reports that lavender essential oil can cause breast growth in young boys! You know that's going to be interesting! 


Tara said...

I am obsessed with lavender-infused honey during summertime farmers' markets :-D

Ben said...

Hmmmm...very interesting! I suppose one could add this to a green tea to adjourn the anti-anxiety effects of l-theanine. Further, maybe we could add some calendula and lemon balm too soothe and relax, and either lemongrass for a lemon flavor, or hibiscus for a sweet fruity flavor.

At least that's what I thought of when I read this!

I'm curious, however, how to add the oil to the tea, and how much? I would consider just placing a drop on the leaves within the tea bag (or in the strainer), but I imagine that this would yield more than 1 cup. Any thoughts?