lavender oil benefits for healing

Jill Bridges, SATI STAFF

Essential oils have been around for centuries. In fact, their history can be traced back to ancient forms of medicine, particularly aromatherapy. From ancient times to the present day, essential oils have been linked with the treatment and relief of a variety of ailments. Given their long, proven history, it’s no wonder they’re still used today.

One such oil that is widely used for health, beauty and healing is lavender oil. As one of the most well-known remedies among essential oils, lavender oil is celebrated for its ability to heal. When combined with other holistic health programs, lavender oil is proven to be a very powerful and effective form of treatment for even the most burdensome ailments.

If you’re interested in the world of aromatherapy and want to give lavender oil a try, continue reading to find out more about its history, uses and benefits. We’ll discuss the studies behind this popular essential oil that have solidified its role as a healing agent.

1. The history of lavender oil

Ancient texts reveal that lavender oil has had medicinal and religious applications for over 2,500 years[1]. For example, the Egyptians used lavender oil during the mummification process and as a perfume. The Romans used it for cooking and bathing. And, perhaps the most famous use of all, Mary used it in the Bible to anoint Jesus[2]. In sum, there are over 100 references to the use of lavender oil in the Bible[3].

Lavender is native to Russia, the Arabian Peninsula and the Mediterranean region. Today, it’s grown all around the world, including the United States, Europe and Australia. As of 2011, Bulgaria is the largest producer of lavender oil[4].

Essential oils like lavender are derived from the natural, fragrant liquids found in trees, shrubs and other plants. These liquids are extracted and concentrated to create highly potent remedies for aromatherapy treatments. Among these essential oils, lavender oil is mostly known for its healing properties[5].

2. The composition of lavender oil

Let’s dive a little deeper into how lavender oil is made and what it’s made of. Although the exact chemical composition of lavender oil varies from species to species, lavender is generally a very complex structure. It has over 100 active compounds, which helps explain its abilities as a healer[6].

Lavender’s botanical name, Lavandula, originates from the Latin word lavare, which means “to wash”[7]. This is likely linked to its long history as a method to treat wounds, wash linens and assist in personal bathing. As you might have concluded, lavender plants have a strong, pleasant aroma to them.

To make lavender oil, and most other essential oils, the steam distillation process is used. The freshly picked lavender flowers are suspended over a vat of boiling water, which causes the steam to extract the oils from the plant. As the steam rises, it is captured and pushed along tubing that has been set up to catch and direct it. After the steam is rapidly cooled and converted back to water, the oil forms a separate layer from the water. From there, the lavender oil is collected and distributed[8]. Now that we know a bit more about what lavender oil is, let’s explore its many great and helpful benefits.

3. Antioxidant production

As you may already be aware, antioxidants play an essential role in the prevention of disease. Free radicals such as pollutants and toxins can even cause the immune system to shut down, resulting in serious damage to your body[9]. Luckily, antioxidants are here to save the day and keep you in proper shape!

Antioxidants are our bodies’ natural response to harmful free radicals. We produce antioxidant enzymes, particularly glutathione, catalase and superoxide dismutase (SOD), in order to prevent free radicals from causing damage[10,11]. Unfortunately, our bodies aren’t always able to produce enough antioxidants to fight off disease. Poor diet and frequent exposure to toxins, among other things, has led to this antioxidant deficiency[12].

That is where lavender oil comes in. Researches have recently discovered that lavender oil can help your body produce the antioxidants needed to combat free radicals. Studies show that glutathione, catalase and SOD were produced within 22 hours of using lavender oil[13]. Thus, lavender oil may be a great supplement to help us fight off the pollutants, chemicals and toxins we face daily.

4. Treatment for diabetes

Another exciting study regarding the health benefits and healing abilities of lavender oil comes from a 2014 study on diabetic patients. Tunisian scientists were interested in testing the effects of lavender oil on blood sugar[14].

Overall, the 15 day study revealed a surprising amount of information about how lavender oil can actually help to protect the body from certain symptoms of diabetes[15]. These symptoms include an increase in blood glucose, weight gain, metabolic disorders (particularly the metabolism of fat), kidney and liver dysfunction, kidney and liver antioxidant depletion and kidney and liver lipoperoxidation (which occurs when free radicals use essential fat molecules from cell membranes)[16,17]. Quite impressive!

Also, when compared with ascorbic acid, or Vitamin C, lavender oil performed better as an antioxidant producer[18]. Although more research is being conducted to look deeper into lavender oils’ use in the treatment of diabetes, this first study is certainly promising.

5. Mood boost and neurological protection

As if those first two items in lavender oils’ long list of healing properties weren’t impressive enough, another bit of recent research found that it can also help support the brain and improve a person’s mood[19]. For years, lavender oil has been used to help migraines, headaches, anxiety and depression, so these links between this essential oil and brain function may seem intuitive[20,21,22].

For example, lavender oil has long been used as a sleep aid and as a stress reliever[23]. As a result of this centuries-old use of lavender oil, patients can avoid sleeping pills and medications that can lead to dangerous side effects and long-term damage[24]. One study on individuals who were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) showed that lavender aromatherapy actually decreased depression by 32.7 percent and drastically reduced sleep disturbances and moodiness[25].

Other studies revealed that lavender oil has the power to prevent brain oxidative stress in rats with dementia, help high-risk postpartum women reduce postnatal depression and anxiety, reduce the symptoms and development of Alzheimer’s disease and even treat strokes[26,27,28,29]. As more studies are conducted, the amazing abilities of lavender oil continue to surprise us.

6. Healing for cuts and burns

Lavender oil as a treatment for cuts and burns is one of its oldest, most traditional uses. Over the years, about 100 studies have examined the antimicrobial properties of lavender oil and its history as a preventative for infections and bacterial or fungal disorders[30]. Ultimately, the studies have further solidified lavender’s long established role as a healer.

The antimicrobial properties of lavender have been linked with faster healing times for all sorts of burns, cuts, scrapes and wounds[31]. When you apply it to a scape, it not only increases the cell growth, which leads to faster healing, but it also reduces the appearance of scars[32]. This makes it good even for aesthetic purposes as well as healing.

Additionally, lavender oil can help to protect cuts and burns from dangerous infection. The microbial properties of this oil serve to protect open wounds and speed up the healing process. These effects are exemplified when blended with other essential oils such as tea tree oil. For example, a 1:1 ratio of these two oils was determined to be the most effective concoction in fighting against the fungus Candida albicans and staph infections[33,34]. So it seems lavender oil helps bring out the healing properties of other oils as well.

7. Benefits for your skin

Another enticing benefit of lavender oil is its effect on the skin. As we’ve discussed, lavender has numerous antimicrobial and antioxidant characteristics. These characteristics can be extremely beneficial for the skin, helping with acne, dryness, redness and more[35].

Lavender oil’s ability to nourish make it perfect for applications to the skin and hair. For centuries, it’s been added to baths in order to wash, soothe and soften the skin[36]. When you combine this nourishment with its bacteria-fighting capabilities, it’s no surprise that clear, healthy skin is the end result.

Studies have also revealed that lavender oil can assist in the treatment of sunburn and canker sores, though this is perhaps not a great surprise given the information on healing already discussed above. It’s also known to prevent allergic reactions and to reduce age spots[37,38,39]. For those who are interested in these and similar healing benefits, lavender oil can be applied directly on the skin when you wake up, after you shower and before bed.

8. Treatment for headaches

As we briefly mentioned before, lavender oil has long been used to help treat migraines and headaches. Anyone who suffers from these ailments knows how much distress and heartache they can cause and just how much they can get in the way of living life in a happy and enjoyable way. Relief from such a pain as this is of course very welcome, and lavender oil may be the natural cure you’re looking for.

A study from the European Journal of Neurology found that individuals that struggled with migraine headaches experienced a significant reduction in pain after inhaling lavender oil for about 15 minutes. Among patients in the study group, 71 percent reported that their migraine attacks were resolved or partially resolved after inhaling the lavender[40].

Another effective treatment includes a combination of lavender oil and peppermint oil. To experience the effects, try rubbing these essential oils on the back of your neck, your temples and the lateral sides of your forehead. Take a moment to inhale these oils as well. Typically, this regimen works to reduce the symptoms and pain associated with headaches or gets rid of the altogether[41].

9. Lavender as a sleep aid

We’ve also touched on the fact that aromatherapy can help with sleep disturbances and insomnia. If you have trouble sleeping, lavender oil may help. For example, during a study conducted on college students, researchers found that lavender oil improved their overall quality of sleep by 60 percent. In this case, “quality” includes the length of sleep, how long it took to fall asleep and overall restfulness[42].

Five men and five women with insomnia participated in another study that used aromatherapy with lavender oil. The results showed that all of the participants experienced immediate improvements. Women and younger volunteers with mild insomnia improved more than others[43].

If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night, aromatherapy may be a solution for you. This natural remedy has proven effectiveness and takes minimal effort to try out. Direct application of the oil to the neck, chest and temples is one way to try, or you can try a healing bath with 15 drops of lavender oil and a cup of epsom salts to relax the body and improve sleep[2].

10. Other practical uses of lavender oil

In addition to the numerous healing properties and applications of lavender oil, there are lots of practical, at-home uses for it as well. If you want a natural perfume that’s free of irritating toxins, lavender oil is a great scent for men and women. It can be applied directly or diluted in water for a subtler aroma[44]. Lavender oil also makes a great, non-toxic air freshener for cars, houses, offices and other locations.

Because lavender oil is great for sunburns and dry skin, it makes an excellent lip balm. The fact that it’s natural, chemical-free and smells wonderful is a major bonus. You can add a few drops of the oil to shea butter, coconut oil or another variety for your very own homemade lip protection[45].

Finally, if you’re having stomach discomfort like nausea or motion sickness, lavender oil is a great soothing solution[46]. Bring a little bottle of lavender oil with you to rub on your temples and palms if you know you’re going to be traveling and are prone to motion sickness. Also, lavender is a great addition to healthy recipes as it’s completely edible and packs a ton of flavor.

11. Side effects to consider

Using lavender oil is completely safe for most people. However, it’s important to be aware of the various side effects for certain situations and conditions. For example, individuals with extremely sensitive skin should be cautious when applying lavender oil (as well as other essential oils) topically. Also, if you are currently taking any prescription or over-the-counter drugs for sleep related disorders or depression, be aware that lavender oil can exemplify their effectiveness. Do not use lavender oil if you are undergoing surgery in the near future[47,48,49].

For women who are pregnant or nursing, lavender oil is not recommended. Research has not yet been able to determine whether lavender oil is completely safe to use during these circumstances. It can have a relaxing effect on the muscles and may impact hormone levels, so it’s best for women in their third trimester to avoid it[50]. Your doctor can provide more information about the use of other essential oils while nursing or pregnant.

If you’re considering using lavender oil for aromatherapy, ingestion or topical applications, talk with your healthcare provider so that they can get a full picture of all that you do to manage or improve your health. They’ll also be able to tell you whether or not a certain combination or integration of your health approaches is or is not recommended. Typically, when changing anything about your healthcare routine, it’s best to consult a professional first.

The sati line

If you’re interested in experiencing some of the amazing health and healing benefits that lavender oil has to offer, luckily it’s not hard to find. Make sure you buy your essential oils from a high quality, trusted brand. You’ll want to look for ones that are therapeutic grade and organic so you can be sure it hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals that have harmful health effects.

Monitor the healing effects lavender has on your overall health so that you can adjust your approach as needed. Remember, everyone reacts differently to certain things, so come up with a plan that suits you. There are many combinations of essential oils you can create to experience the full benefits of aromatherapy. See our other articles about this or talk to your physician about what you want.

When it comes to feeling good and being healthy, essential oils like lavender oil are a long-established solution. See for yourself why lavender oil has been used for thousands of years and continues to be among the most popular healing oils on the market.

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