Lavender (Lavandula spp.)
Lavender is an amazing plant, it is one of the most well-known and commonly used herbs for stress relief and sleep, but did you know that lavender has been shown to have neuroprotective effects, have benefit in depression, and even help with menopausal symptoms?
This fragrant phenom of the plant world has more than 30 species under its banner, ranging from the beautiful English Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia) to the incredibly aromatic French Lavender (Lavandula Stoechas) and is most often used in its essential oil form in a variety of preparations- creams, caplets, aromatherapy, massage oils and bath salts.
The good news is research indicates that lavender oil is rapidly absorbed through the skin and into our blood, where it exerts its many medicinal effects. It can also be made into teas, tinctured*, and the herb ingested in capsule form. (1)
*Tincturing herbs (extracting) is one of my favorite preparations that helps botanicals retain their potency over longer periods of time, is convenient for regular use of herbs and is highly cost effective. Stay in the loop by reaching out on the contact page for upcoming Long Island workshops, such as those for learning how to tincture and other herbal crafts!
Traditional Uses of Lavender:
Lavender is a relaxant herb that is well suited for conditions of tension of the nervous system and supporting a positively calm mood. It has a history of use as an antiseptic herb for burns, wounds and bites of all kinds. It has also been used for migraines, muscle spasms, epilepsy and indigestion associated with stress. (2)
It is specific for symptoms of an overactive mind, similar to passionflower, such as anxiety, panic, depression, nervous exhaustion, inability to sleep and overall mental tension. The great 20th century mystic Rudolf Steiner recommended lavender for “negative states of the soul where the astral body grasps the physical body too tightly, resulting in tense muscles and nervous system degeneration." It has benefit in calming a mind that is constantly thinking, so much so that sleep is difficult. (2)
Lavender is also particularly useful in people who are perfectionists to the point of stress, those who have depression & anxiety associated with irritable bowel syndrome and people who are exhausted even after constant meditating. Lavender is also a great natural therapy for migraines, and headaches associated with neck & shoulder tension. (2)
Lavender is great for overall nervous system balance, stimulating or sedating as needed by the body - hence why it is used for BOTH anxiety and depression, too seemingly opposite conditions. As many know however, they often go along hand in hand and oscillate like a see-saw for those of us unfortunate enough to regularly experience them.
Dose: Up to 10g in hot water to make a tea
Up to 4 ml of herbal extract (that’s about 4-5 droppers full of tincture)
Lavender essential oil diluted in a carrier oil for massage or a few drops of essential oil in water for aromatherapy.
Research: Lavender has research backing its anxiety relieving, sedative, sleep supportive, anti-depressive and neuroprotective effects. It has sedative effects that were comparable to benzodiazepines when tested on rats, just from inhaling the aroma of lavender!
Anxiety: A study on over 200 people suffering from generalized anxiety disorder showed improvement in restlessness, insomnia, and general well-being that was as effective as sedative pharmaceuticals. The study was using 80mg/day of lavender essential oil for over a month. (1)
Depression: Studies have shown benefit of lavender as a natural treatment for post-partum depression, mood improvement in those with moderate depression and even helped with some side effects of a pharmaceutical antidepressant (the Tricyclic antidepressant Imipramine). (1)
Personal Experience: Lavender is one of my favorite plants from the mint family, and in fact of all herbs that I use. I have made very strong teas from it and they have a very warming and relaxing effect, that is instantly noticeable from the first whiff of that aromatic plant. I’ve used the essential oil often when doing aromatherapy and have noticed that it brings a peaceful quality to a room, and noticed it helps me gently fall asleep when I placed a lavender filled satchel next to my pillow or even sprinkled some essential oil on my sheets. It is underrated in use as a tea, making a delicious lavender aroma with a nice bitterness to it. I’ve noticed the tea is by far the most apparently calming, and fastest acting.
After drinking a big cup of it my eyelids start getting heavy and my body relaxes. The tinctured form is also quite potent, and similar to the tea in how quickly it calms and the amazing fragrance if it is extracted properly. I have made lavender tinctures infused with wildflower honey and they were just splendidly delicious, and the perfect thing to carry around if I needed some chill on the go. Working with lavender plants in the wild, and growing potted plants was wonderful and I always loved taking parts of the plant and rubbing them between my fingers and inhaling that exquisite aroma that only comes from fresh lavender.
If I was to only have 10 plants that I kept in my cupboard lavender would certainly be one, from its uses in supporting a positive mood, calming anxiety and its ability to help wound healing and pain applied on the skin, it really is a plant that has finally gotten well deserved recognition. It has a long use in ancient traditions and is a truly noteworthy plant that has kept its presence and even boomed in recent times with the natural health movement.
Thanks for reading!
Bogdan Makartchuk, ND
Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine (NUNM)
Founder of The Herbal Remedy, an Herbal Medicine Store located in Sayville, New York (Long Island).
Host of the Herbal Hour Podcast: Available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and your favorite podcast player.
1) Koulivand PH, Khaleghi Ghadiri M, Gorji A. Lavender and the nervous system. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:681304. doi:10.1155/2013/681304
2) Wood M. The Book of Herbal Wisdom: Using Plants as Medicines. North Atlantic Books. 1997