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Lavender Essential Oil

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Lavender essential oil uses
Lavender Essential Oil uses - infographic to repin / share

Lavender Essential Oil - General Description

A product of distillation from lavender (Lavandula) flower spikes, lavender essential oil is a mixture of a variety of naturally occurring phytochemicals[1] and can be either the colorless or yellowish lavender flower oil, which is an important component in several fine perfumes and cosmetics, [2] or the lavender spike oil, which is chiefly used in soap manufacture and porcelain or as a scenting material to other products. [3] Furthermore, lavender essential oils can come in myriad forms and preparations – from being fundamentally an aromatherapy oil; to bath gels, soaps, and lotions; to infusion, extracts, teas, and tinctures.



Due to its calming and soothing effect upon the inhalation of its scent, lavender essential oil has afforded itself a spot in integrative medicine, including massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic manipulation,[4] and has become an important additive to numerous over-the-counter complementary medicine products. Offering a clean light scent and texture and being among the most versatile essential oils, lavender essential oil can be diffused for aromatherapy or be integrated in one’s warm bath. [5] If preferred, it suits well to be blended with eucalyptus, peppermint, patchouli, rosemary, or tea tree for a balancing and purifying effect on the senses. [6]

Lavender Essential Oil - Uses and Reported Benefits

Lavender essential oil has been purported to exert several physiological effects on the central nervous system, especially the autonomic nervous system, and mood responses of humans after inhalation,[7] hence its century-long cosmetic and – more importantly – therapeutic utility, principally from varieties such as L. angustifolia, L. latifolia, L. stoechas, and L. intermedia. [8] Lavender essential oil has long been traditionally used as an anxiolytic drug, a mood stabilizer, a sedative, a spasmolytic, an antihypertensive, and an overall antimicrobial, analgesic agent with a wound healing–accelerating effect,[9] owing to its antibacterial, antifungal, carminative (smooth muscle–relaxing), tranquilizing, and antidepressive properties. [8]

It is not uncommon today to see lavender essential oils being used predominantly in aromatherapy or massage for their benefits in the relief of stress and depression symptoms as well as anxiety. This works psychologically and physiologically, the inhaled active volatile compounds from the lavender essential oil possibly exerting their effects on the human brain’s limbic system (i.e., amygdala and hippocampus); however, studies that are more extensive are needed to establish thoroughly and distinctly the exact mechanism of this action. [10] Lavender essential oils provide a light fresh aroma that is floral-herbaceous, clear, and balsamic, and most aroma therapists recommend the oil for the treatment of a wide range of conditions, such as rheumatism, sprains, respiratory problems, abdominal cramps, depression, insomnia, tension-related problems, burns, sun-damaged skin, and various types of skin infections. [11]



Lavender Essential Oil - Contraindications and Safety

Lavender essential oil is largely intended for aromatherapy use, but for all other uses, one must cautiously dilute the lavender essential oil with a carrier oil such as jojoba, grape seed, olive, or almond oil prior to use. In general, lavender essential oil should be kept out of children’ reach. Avoiding contact with eyes and, if pregnant or lactating, consulting a practitioner or expert before its use are necessary for safety’s sake. [5]

Though lavender essential oil is among the mildest known plant essential oils and is generally nonpoisonous when breathed in during aromatherapy, it can be cytotoxic to human skin cells in vitro (endothelial cells and fibroblasts) at a concentration of 0.25% (v/v), possibly through a mechanism that does damage to cell membranes. [12] However, contact dermatitis from lavender essential oil seems to occur at a very low frequency. [13]

Although small amounts of lavender flowers have been used in some food products (i.e. lavender ice cream), when the essential oil is taken orally, lavender poisoning ensues, which may be manifested symptomatically as blurred vision, difficulty in breathing, diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, rash, and burning sensation in the throat, thus necessitating immediate medical assistance. [14] Hence, the oral administration of lavender essential oil is normally not advocated and lavender oil treatment should be limited to external use.

Lavender Essential Oil - Scientific Studies and Research

Sayorwan et al. (2012) presented evidence from their study about the relaxing effect of lavender essential oil inhalation, furnishing results that revealed lavender essential oil significantly decreasing blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature among the twenty healthy volunteers who participated in the experiments. The decrease in the autonomic parameters assessed translates to a decrease in the arousal level of the autonomic nervous system. In this study, the study participants belonging to the lavender oil group expressed feelings of being “more active, fresher, and relaxed.”[7] A more or less similar earlier study by Buchbauer, Jirovetz, Jäger, Dietrich, and Plank (1991) on the sedative effects of inhaling lavender essential oil on mice offered evidence on the correlation between the motility of mice under standardized experimental conditions and linalool in serum and thus on the lavender essential oil’s efficacy in facilitating falling asleep and in minimizing stress. [15]

Inhaling lavender essential oil is also a safe and effective regimen to manage acute migraine, as claimed by a 2012 placebo-controlled clinical trial wherein forty-seven patients with a diagnosis of migraine headache were requested to record their headache severity and associated symptoms in 30-minute intervals for 2 hours. The experimental group of this trial inhaled lavender essential oil for 15 minutes, and the results revealed a significant reduction of headache severity by 3.6 ± 2.8 per the Visual Analogue Scale in the experimental group. [9]

As mentioned in the earlier texts, lavender essential oil possesses both antimicrobial and antifungal properties in addition to its wound healing–accelerating effect. Employing the agar diffusion method for microbial growth inhibition, Sienkiewicz, Kalemba, and Wasiela (2011) investigated the antibacterial activity of both thyme and lavender essential oils against thirty clinical bacterial strains of Escherichia coli from patients with diverse clinical conditions and provided results that showed that lavender essential oil is efficacious and active against all clinical E. coli strains, especially those which are considered multidrug-resistant. [16] Similarly, in a 2005 Italian study that explored the antifungal action of lavender essential oil and its primary constituents (i.e., linalool and linalyl acetate) against fifty clinical isolates of Candida albicans (28 oropharyngeal strains, 22 vaginal strains) and C. albicans ATCC 3153, it was demonstrated that lavender essential oil significantly suppressed the growth of C. albicans, caused the death of all C. albicans ATCC 3153 within 15 minutes, and inhibited germ tube formation and hyphal elongation of C. albicans ATCC 3153. [17]

Lavender Essential Oil - Molecular Components and Chemistry

According to one study, lavender essential oil is primarily composed of linalyl acetate (51%) and linalool (35%), linalool being the major active component of lavender oil. [12] However as with other essential oils, chemistry is variable depending on many factors such as the location / soil, quality of the cultivar and the extraction method. Tschiggerl and Bucar (2010) studied the relative proportions of chemical constituents in lavender essential oil isolated by hydrodistillation and determined its key components to be as follows: linalool (28.8%), 1,8-cineole (18.05%), linalyl acetate (13.9%), and α-terpineol (4.0%). [18]

Lavender Essential Oil - References

[1] Lavender oil. Retrieved 11 March 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavender_oil

[2] Lavender oil. Retrieved 11 March 2013 from http://global.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/332662/lavender-oil

[3] Spike oil. Retrieved 11 March 2013 from http://global.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/559916/spike-oil

[4] Lavender. Complementary Medicine, University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved 11 March 2013 from http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/lavender-000260.htm

[5] NOW Foods Lavender Oil. Retrieved 11 March 2013 from http://www.amazon.com/NOW-Foods-Lavender-Oil-ounce/dp/B0013OXEFK

[6] 50ml Lavender, True Essential Oil. Naissance. Retrieved 11 March 2013 from http://www.amazon.co.uk/50ml-Lavender-True-Essential-Oil/dp/B004RGOAVS

[7] Sayorwan W., Siripornpanich V., Piriyapunyaporn T., Hongratanaworakit T., Kotchabhakdi N., & Ruangrungsi N. (2012). The effects of lavender oil inhalation on emotional states, autonomic nervous system, and brain electrical activity. Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand, 95(4): 598–606. Retrieved 11 March 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22612017

[8] Cavanagh H. M. & Wilkinson J. M. (2002). Biological activities of lavender essential oil. Phytotherapy Research, 16(4): 301–308. Retrieved 11 March 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12112282

[9] Sasannejad P., Saeedi M., Shoeibi A., Gorji A., Abbasi M., & Foroughipour M. Lavender essential oil in the treatment of migraine headache: a placebo-controlled clinical trial. European Neurology, 67(5): 288–291. doi: 10.1159/000335249. Retrieved 11 March 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22517298

[10] Cavanagh H. M. & Wilkinson J. M. (2005). Lavender essential oil: a review. Australian Infection Control, 10(1). Retrieved 11 March 2013 from http://www.publish.csiro.au/?act=view_file&file_id=HI05035.pdf

[11] Lavender 100% Pure Essential Oil - 30 ml. Plantlife Natural Body Care. Retrieved 11 March 2013 from http://www.amazon.com/Lavender-100-Pure-Essential-Oil/dp/B0018196J6

[12] Prashar A., Locke I. C., & Evans C. S. (2004). Cytotoxicity of lavender oil and its major components to human skin cells. Cell Proliferation, 37(3): 221–229. Retrieved 11 March 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15144499

[13] Matthieu L. et al. (2004). Contact and photocontact allergy to ketoprofen. The Belgian experience. Contact Dermatitis, 50(4): 238–241. Retrieved 11 March 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15186381

[14] Lavender oil. First Aid and Emergencies, PubMed Health. Retrieved 11 March 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0003271/

[15] Buchbauer G., Jirovetz L., Jäger W., Dietrich H., & Plank C. (1991). Aromatherapy: evidence for sedative effects of the essential oil of lavender after inhalation. Zeitschrift für Naturforschung C, 46(11–12): 1067–1072. Retrieved 11 March 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1817516

[16] Sienkiewicz M., Kalemba D., & Wasiela M. (2011). Sensitivity assessment of thyme and lavender essential oils against clinical strains of Escherichia coli for their resistance. Medycyna Doświadczalna i Mikrobiologia, 63(3): 273–281. Retrieved 11 March 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22184923

[17] D'Auria F. D., Tecca M., Strippoli V., Salvatore G., Battinelli L., & Mazzanti G. (2005). Antifungal activity of Lavandula angustifolia essential oil against Candida albicans yeast and mycelial form. Medical Mycology, 43(5): 391–396. Retrieved 11 March 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16178366

[18] Tschiggerl C. & Bucar F. (2010).Volatile fraction of lavender and bitter fennel infusion extracts. Natural Product Communications, 5(9): 1431–1436. Retrieved 11 March 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20923003

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