Health Benefits and How to Use – Cleveland Clinic

Best known for its fragrant purple flowers, lavender is a perennial (regrows every year) that is also known for its health benefits.

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“That trademark smell comes from the oil of the flower, which has medicinal properties. But the flower itself also has medicinal properties,” says integrative medicine specialist Yufang Lin, MD.

Dr. Lin explains what lavender is for and how to use it effectively.

The benefits of lavender

Traditional herbal textbooks and research studies confirm lavender’s role as a jack-of-all-trades for health. This is because the parts of the plant contain different chemical compounds that positively affect your body.

“These compounds include flavonoids, which are also found in vegetables and fruits, and coumarin. Both have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions,” says Dr. Lin. “Lavender essential oil is just as potent and contains important compounds like linalool. Linalool has been shown to reduce anxiety and blood pressure.

From its ability to boost your mood to reduce colic symptoms, Dr. Lin shares the eclectic list of potential lavender benefits:

  • Supports sleep: Some studies suggest that lavender can improve your body’s melatonin levels, promoting a better night’s rest.
  • Reduces pain and inflammation: Research has shown that lavender essential oil can help reduce headaches.
  • Helps with Mood, Anxiety and Depression: “Lavender is known for its ability to calm the nervous system, improve mood, and even lower blood pressure,” says Dr. Lin. “Research links the use of lavender to less anxiety and depression.”
  • Relieves menstrual pain: In one study, women who smelled lavender for 30 minutes a day for the first three days of their period had less pain after two months. Other research has linked applying lavender essential oil to the abdomen to reducing menstrual pain.
  • Kills harmful viruses and bacteria: “Before we had antiseptics, people used lavender to clean hospital wards,” says Dr. Lin. “It is still used for its antimicrobial and antiviral properties.”
  • Reduce colic symptoms: One study found aromatherapy massage with lavender oil to be effective in reducing colic symptoms in infants, including how long they cry per week.

Additionally, an animal study found that lavender oil helped wound healing by improving the skin’s ability to produce collagen after surgery.

forms of lavender

You can use lavender in these forms:

  • Essential oil.
  • Extract.
  • Plant (flower, stem and leaves).
  • Tea.

How to use lavender essential oil

The sky is the limit when it comes to the uses of lavender essential oil. Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts. Because they are so strong, use them sparingly and with caution.

Dr. Lin suggests trying a few drops of lavender essential oil in:

  • Thermal baths.
  • Distilled water to make a room or body spray.
  • Massage oil.

If you’re considering using lavender essential oil on your skin, Dr. Lin notes the importance of diluting it with another oil. Good oils to use are those you are not allergic to and may include:

  • Almond oil.
  • Coconut oil.
  • Jojoba oil.
  • Olive oil.

To make your mixture:

  1. Add enough essential oil to your base oil to be between 1% (six drops of essential oil per ounce) and 2% (12 drops of essential oil per ounce) of the blend.
  2. Shake it.
  3. Apply it anywhere.

Cleansing with lavender essential oil

“To make a homemade cleaning solution, add a few drops of lavender essential oil to distilled water, vinegar, and a few drops of Castile soap. Vinegar and soap help cut grease, and soap and lavender have antimicrobial properties,” says Dr. Lin. “You also get that lovely scent.”

How to use lavender extract

“Lavender essential oil does not include the water-soluble part of the plant. When you make lavender extract, you use both the oil-soluble and water-soluble parts of the plant,” says Dr. Lin. “With lavender extract, you take the flower and cover it with some form of liquid, usually a combination of water and alcohol, to extract the medicine.”

You can capsule lavender extract into a pill that you can take. “But you have to be judicious and make sure you get the right dose,” Dr. Lin advises. “Because it’s so strong and toxicity is possible, do it under the supervision of a well-trained herbalist who knows how to use it properly.”

How to use the lavender plant

Dr. Lin says the simple act of inhaling the scent of a lavender flower provides great benefits. To benefit from it in aromatherapy, use the flowers to make:

  • Lavender soap.
  • Lavender infused oil for your skin.
  • Sachet or potpourri sachet.
  • Perfumed bath.
  • Tea. (“The tea provides double the benefits since you inhale the scent and get the medicinal components of the plant by drinking it,” Dr. Lin notes.)

Dr. Lin also suggests using dried or fresh lavender flowers in your cooking. “Lavender is an ingredient in the French spice blend, Herbes de Provence. But be careful how much you use. Too much lavender can make food or tea taste soapy.

What is the best form of lavender to take?

It depends. “If you’re using lavender to improve your mood, aromatherapy with essential oils is the way to go,” says Dr. Lin. “If you’re using it for muscle pain or body aches, apply lavender massage oil directly to the area of ​​discomfort.”

But Dr. Lin adds that lavender tea may give you the most bang for your buck. “Making a cup of tea is itself a form of self-care. It puts you in a “me-time” mindset. Then when you drink it you get both the aromatherapy and the herbal part of the lavender.

Potential Side Effects of Using Lavender

While experts consider lavender to be safe, Dr. Lin recommends heeding these three precautions:

1. Lavender aromatherapy isn’t for everyone.

“Essential oils often work so well because they trigger emotional memory,” says Dr. Lin. “For most people, lavender is calming and soothing. But for some, the smell may be associated with a negative experience, such as abuse. If they smell like lavender, it may bring them back to that place. So if lavender triggers you, don’t feel like you have to use it or try it.

2. A research study found a potential link between lavender oil and premature breast development

In one study, three young girls and one young boy with premature breast development were exposed to lavender oil, including in soap, cologne or diffuser. When they stopped using the product or removed the exposure, the breast development disappeared.

“It is important to note that there are subsequent studies that have called the validity of this into question. These products may also have contained estrogen disruptors, so we do not know for sure if this was of lavender or another ingredient in the product,” says Dr. Lin. “So take this finding with a grain of salt and consider limiting the amount of lavender you use for child development.”

3. Taking lavender essential oil by mouth can be dangerous

“Traditional herbalists wouldn’t use lavender essential oil orally,” says Dr. Lin. “When you use the lavender plant as food or tea, you’re less likely to have a toxic effect because it’s usually mild. But because the essential oils are so strong, I’d be more cautious about using them with food or drink.

Dr. Lin also notes that essential oils can burn and irritate the mucous membrane, soft palate lining, throat, and tongue. But with the help of an herbalist, you can safely explore the many positive effects lavender can have on your life and health.

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