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Will Lavender Oil Ease Your Anxiety and Insomnia?

The scent of lavender oil can help reduce anxiety and overcome sleeplessness in people undergoing surgery. Might it help you too?
Will Lavender Oil Ease Your Anxiety and Insomnia?
Lavender herb flower leaf sprigs with an aromatherapy essential oil dropper bottle over white background.

Aromatherapy, the use of plant materials with notable fragrance, has long been popular in Europe. It is now becoming more widely adopted in the US as well. In this approach, people utilize the “essential oils” of a plant that carry its “essence” or fragrance. They may inhale, apply or ingest these oils. One of the simplest to use is lavender oil, because it is simply inhaled. One reader reports enjoying its fragrance for years.

Will Lavender Oil Relax You?

Q. I’ve been sprinkling lavender oil on my pillow every night for years; I’ve found it very soothing and relaxing. Zero side effects.

We also used this herbal oil to help calm my late mother’s anxiety after she came home from rehabbing a broken hip. Again, zero side effects.

Fragrance Can Make a Difference:

A. Studies show that aromatherapy, whether with lavender, chamomile or peppermint essential oil, can help hospitalized cancer patients sleep better (Oncology Nursing Forum, July 1, 2017).  Moreover, there is also evidence that lavender oil can help ease anxiety (Mental Health Clinician, March 26, 2018).

In this regard, researchers studying mice have found that the odor of lavender oil and particularly its component linalool is critical to this anti-anxiety action. Here is what we wrote about this study. Furthermore, other scientists have confirmed that linalool and the oil of Lavandula angustifolia can counteract social aversion in mice (Molecules, Oct. 19, 2018).

What about humans? Fortunately, such aromatherapy may also help women face surgery with less anxiety (Journal of Clinical Anesthesia, Sep. 2016). Finally, impartial reviewers found that lavender extract alleviated anxiety better than placebo (Advances in Therapy, March 2018).

Learn More:

You can learn more about aromatherapy and essential oils in our interview with Dr. Tieraona Low Dog and Stacy Brower. It is Show 1101: How You Can Use Essential Oils for Better Health. In summary, you may want to consider sniffing some lavender oil when you are feeling anxious or having trouble sleeping.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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