Lavender for Anxiety: A Powerful Stress-Relieving Herb

Image of fresh lavender on a light purple background with wording Lavender for Anxiety by The Healthy RD

The most legendary use of lavender is to help calm the body and mind. Find out how lavender for anxiety may be your next favorite remedy.

Lavender has been used traditionally for many health issues, including infections, pain, improving mood, and digestive relief.  Impressively, lavender today is approved by the European Medicine Agency for use to relieve stress and anxiety.

Let’s take a look at the research that has been done to prove how lavender works for anxiety.

Lavender for Anxiety

Using lavender for anxiety really works.  For example, a review of 7 clinical studies concluded that lavender capsules are effective in reducing symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, and also improving sleep and quality of life in all studies.

These studies used a type of standardized lavender of 80 mg in a gel cap called Silexan.  Silexan isn’t available in the United States, but you can find comparable products online and gelcaps of lavender called Lavella here.

When lavender oil is taken as a capsule, it is as effective as the drug therapy for anxiety called Lorazepam in a clinical trial as well.  Not surprisingly, lavender is an appealing alternative to drugs because it doesn’t have the sedating effects or side effects of Lorazepam.

Lavender Reduces Anxiety Due to Procedures

Impressively, lavender is able to reduce anxiety symptoms in specific and acute health conditions as well.  In one study, lavender reduced anxiety after hospitalization with heart issues.   It also reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and mean arterial pressure compared to the placebo.

The use of lavender oil also reduced anxiety symptoms during dental exams.

For yet another study, Lavender oils and sandalwood oils, when inhaled as aromatherapy,  were effective for reducing breast biopsy-related anxiety compared to a placebo, or a sugar pill.

How Does Lavender Reduce Anxiety?

Diverse Effects of Lavender for Anxiety

Lavender oil binds with a very important neuro-receptor in the brain called NMDA. Because of this, lavender has beneficial effects on NMDA.  This receptor is known to be involved in certain neurological and psychiatric disorders including epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease as well.

In a study of 90 patients preparing for heart surgery, inhaling lavender essential oil reduced the stress hormone called cortisol by a striking 70 percent compared to the control group.

Fascinatingly, lavender also protects cells in the brain from toxins.  And lavender may also have anti-depressant effects because it beneficially affects serotonin transporters.

With yet another benefit, lavender may additionally be calming because it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.  Reducing inflammation and oxidation helps protect the brain in many ways; in fact, most diseases today benefit from this action.

Does Lavender Have Side Effects?

An important matter to consider when thinking about the effectiveness of lavender for stress and anxiety is to also consider the potential drawbacks of medications used for treating stress and anxiety.

Benzodiazepines, while useful, have sometimes crippling withdrawal and rebound effects.

The side effects of lavender are very minimal to none. As a bonus, lavender also has pain-relieving benefits.

Lavender for Anxiety Testimonial

Here is a great lavender case report from my friend and colleague, Calene Van Noy, RD:

On lavender’s ability to calm:

My 2-year-old son was in the hospital with a sudden, severe case of croup and they wanted to keep him overnight to make sure he was fine. It was 2 a.m….the nurses had just checked on him – and said he was fine and that I should try and get a little sleep. I laid down on that pullout hospital chair with a warm blanket but was unable to sleep as my mind kept spinning -going through everything over and over. He was sleeping peacefully and breathing just fine, but I simply couldn’t calm my mind down enough to sleep. Just then I remembered my lavender and its ability to calm so I pulled it out, put a couple of drops in my hand – rubbed them together, and cupped it over my nose, taking deep breaths. I laid back down and quickly fell asleep. I awoke to the nurses checking on my son again and my outlook was so different – I felt hopeful, relieved, and grateful.

Using Lavender in Cooking

Lavender oil, lavender buds, and dried lavender on a light wood background for the post lavender for anxiety by The Healthy RD

An easy way to get more lavender health benefits is to cook with this versatile flower because it is cheap and effective. Use Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade Only (CPTG) when using lavender essential oil in cooking.

I purposefully do not add exact amounts in many of my recipes.  Why?  The best chefs taste as they go.

Lavender strength preference is a very personal one.  I want the flavor to have a strong impact.

Others may not want it so strong.  That’s okay. Everything may feel okay after having some lavender.

Websites caution using lavender in cooking, citing that it can quickly overpower flavors.  Not a problem if you ask me.  Bring on the potent flavor!

Lavender Chocolates or Chocolate sauce

Ingredients needed:

  • Dark chocolate bars
  • Lavender oil or dried lavender buds
  • Butter, optional
  • Coconut milk, optional

Melt chocolate, and add lavender to your taste preference.  Done. If you use essential oil, go easy.  One drop goes a long way.

If you want to make this into a sauce, add the butter and coconut milk to achieve desired consistency.

Lavender-Coconut Tea

Ingredients needed:

  • Boiling water
  • Earl Grey tea leaves
  • Lavender buds or essential oil
  • Coconut butter
  • Coconut milk
  • Honey

Add tea leaves and lavender buds to a tea diffuser.  Pour boiling water over and steep for 3-5 minutes.  Mix in coconut butter, milk, and honey. You can use cream if you prefer over coconut.

You can also just throw the buds or a little drop of essential oil right in as long as it is food-grade essential oil.

No need to reinvent the wheel.  Check out these links for more recipes:

Add lavender buds or essential oil to just about any type of tea, infused water, or beverage.

Lavender Precautions

If you are cooking with or eating lavender oils, make sure you find a high-quality form that is Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade.

Lavender is generally recognized as safe.  As with anything, check with your healthcare provider before increasing the amount of supplemental lavender you take.

If you are allergic to lavender (develop a rash), please avoid its use.

A word of caution: a few case reports of prepubertal boys using lavender for extended periods of time noted gynecomastia.  This is actually a common symptom of puberty as well.  No long-term side effects were noted. Use of large amounts of lavender in this age group is cautioned.

The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body and is shared for educational purposes only. Consult your doctor or healthcare provider before making changes to your supplement regimen or lifestyle.

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