How to Use Lavender to Calm Anxiety and Improve Sleep
The natural chemicals in lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) oil affect parts of the brain that control well-being. Lavender oil can help you de-stress, decompress, and get some sleep.
Silviu Benjamin Tofan via Unsplash
Health Benefits of Lavender Oil
Essential oils and aromatherapy are staples of holistic health. Essential oils are the liquid extracts of plants, which can be used to help with everything from stress to sleep, hormone health to home cleaning, and more.
While each oil offers its own benefits, lavender is a powerhouse that can promote well-being by reducing stress, calming anxiety, and boosting sleep.
Using Lavender to Relieve Stress and Calm Anxiety
In one study, researchers found that lavender oil can be as equally effective as prescription medication for general anxiety. For six weeks, one group of participants took the anxiety-reducing medication Lorazepam while another group took an oral dosage of lavender essential oil. At the end of the trial period, each group reported an almost identical decrease in anxiety—45% and 46%, respectively.
A 2017 study found lavender aromatherapy even calmed anxiety levels in preoperative patients.
If your stress or anxiety has caused you to have a headache, try sniffing lavender. In one study of 47 patients who suffered from regular migraines, one half of the group was prescribed regular 15-minute lavender-smelling sessions while the other half smelled a placebo. Researchers found that those who smell lavender every 15 minutes reported significantly less severity of migraine attacks for the next two hours.
Using Lavender to Improve Sleep
Sleep is an essential component of wellness. If you are struggling with sleep disturbances, research suggests that lavender oil may help. One study found that smelling lavender oil before bed increased the percentage of deep sleep time for healthy men and women.
Lavender essential oil even helps those suffering from insomnia. One study found that inhaling lavender oil over a 20-minute period twice a week soothed the nervous system and improved sleep quality scores for women with insomnia, when compared to a lavender-oil-free control group.
How to Use or Apply Lavender Oil
You have several options for using essential oils, so try a few ways and see what works for you.
Simply sniffing the scent directly from a vial of essential oil can help calm anxiety and ease stress. But go easy--the oil is highly concentrated, so 2-3 whiffs at a time are typically all you need. Keep a small bottle beside your bed, in your purse, or at work--wherever you often find yourself feeling uneasy or panicked.
Most air freshener sprays are loaded with chemicals and artificial scents that are potentially harmful to you, your family, and your pets. Their overwhelming smells may actually increase anxiety. Homemade spray infused with lavender essential oil is super easy to make and is a simple way to control your exposure to unnecessary chemicals. Try the simple DIY recipe below to create your own spray for bed linens, furniture, or the air to enjoy the calming effects of lavender.
DIY Lavender Spray Solution. Ingredients: 3 Tbsp witch hazel or white distilled vinegar, 1 c. purified water, 15-30 drops of essential oil. Directions: Mix ingredients in small (preferably glass) spray bottle.
You can apply lavender oil to your skin only only if it has been diluted in a carrier oil such as coconut, argan, grapeseed, or olive. Then use the mixture once or twice daily just as you would a lotion or moisturizer. Try storing your mixture in a dark glass rollerball bottle, which is convenient to keep in your purse or pocket or by your bed. To create your own, use about 15 drops of lavender oil with your favorite carrier oil.
Neuroscientist and psychologist Leigh Winters recommends using a jet style nebulizer made out of glass. When possible, avoid plastic diffusers that use water as a carrier, because these diffusers are harder to clean and the essential oils eventually degrade the plastic. Additionally, Winters suggests using a nebulizer diffuser that uses cool air, rather than heat, to create an aromatic vapor. Most cheap diffusers heat the oil by candle or lamp, but heating often changes the chemical structure of essential oils, potentially altering their aroma and therapeutic benefits.
Avoid scented wax melts, as these cubes typically include toxic artificial chemicals. They may make your room smell nice, but they do not use natural essential oils so you are not getting the benefits of the actual essential oil. Plus they fill your room with nasty toxins that can actually increase the stress you are trying to eliminate.
While not all essential oils are safe to use in the bath, lavender is great for creating a calming herbal bath. Mix 1-2 cups Epsom salts with 1 tablespoon carrier oil or liquid soap and 3-6 drops lavender essential oil, then stir the calming solution into a warm bath. Enjoy for about 20 minutes while you inhale the soothing benefits of lavender.
In addition to its calming benefits, lavender essential oil is also a natural antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory effects. So using lavender oil in your facial cleansing routine is a win-win! The sugar (save the salt for foot scrubs, please) gently scrubs away dead skin cells while the oil fights off free radicals that impair mitochondrial function and speed up the aging process.
DIY Lavender Face Scrub. Ingredients: 1 c. sugar, 1/4 c. carrier oil such as sweet almond oil, 10-20 drops lavender essential oil. Directions: In a small bowl, mix ingredients until well combined and spoon into a sealed glass jar.
How to Choose the Right Essential Oils
Because the essential oil industry is unregulated, the quality of composition of these oils varies. In order to choose a high-quality oil, look for lavender oils that contain only aromatic plant compounds with no additives or synthetic oils. Pure oils usually list the plant’s botanical name (Lavandula angustifolia) and are sold in dark colored glass bottles. Choose a chemical-free essential oil that has been extracted through distillation or mechanical cold pressing. If you plan to dilute the oil to use on your skin, be sure to purchase an oil that says “food-safe” quality.
Growing a Lavender Plant
While native to the Mediterranean, the Arabian Peninsula, and Russia, the lavender plant can now be grown in a pot in your kitchen anywhere in the world! Check out this article from Good Housekeeping for everything you need to know about growing your own lavender.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice provided by a healthcare professional.
Written by Laura B. Demers, © 2021 Reclamation Sisters