Lavender for anxiety reduction.
There are many sources of contemporary research demonstrating that lavender has sedative and calming properties. Below is a summary of some of this research.
Diego et al (1998) studies EEG activity, alertness, and mood in 40 adults given 3 minutes of aromatherapy with lavender. Participants were also given simple math computations before and after the therapy. After exposure to lavender oil the subjects showed increased beta power, suggesting increased drowsiness, they had less depressed mood and reported feeling more relaxed and performed the math computations faster and more accurately following aromatherapy.
Lehrner et al (1998) researched the use of lavender to reduce anxiety and improve mood in a dentists surgery. The goal of the study was to investigate the effect of essential oils of orange and lavender on anxiety, mood, alertness and calmness in dental patients. Two hundred patients between the ages of 18 and 77 years (half women, half men) were assigned to one of four independent groups. While waiting for their dentist appointment subjects were either stimulated with the odour of orange or the odour of lavender. These conditions were compared to a music condition and a control condition (no scent, no music). Anxiety, mood, alertness and calmness were assessed while subjects waited for dental treatment. Statistical analyses revealed that compared to control condition both oils of orange and lavender reduced anxiety and improved mood in patients waiting for dental treatment. This study supported the previous opinion that aromatherapy is capable of altering emotional states and may indicate that the use of aromatherapy is helpful in reducing anxiety in dental patients.
Toda et al (2008) studied the effect of lavender on salivary stress markers. These markers present in human saliva indicate levels of stress. They evaluated the stress relief effect of lavender aroma by measuring sensitive salivary stress markers. Thirty subjects performed a mathematics task for 10min and then rested for 10min. During the rest, 16 students (aroma group) were exposed to airborne organic essential oil of lavender. Saliva samples were collected immediately before and after the task, and at 5 and 10min after that. In the aroma group, levels of stress marker that had been elevated at the end of the arithmetic task were statistically significantly lower 10min later. The control group showed no such change. The results strongly suggest that lavender aroma has a measurable biological stress relief effect.
Field et al (2008) Studied the effects of lavender on babies and their mothers. Babies were given a bath with or without lavender-scented bath oil. The mothers in the lavender bath oil group were more relaxed, smiled and touched their babies more during the bath. Their babies looked at them a greater percentage of the bath time and cried less and spent more time in deep sleep after the bath. The cortisol levels (a biological stress indicator) of this group of mothers and infants significantly decreased, showing increased relaxation of the mothers and their infants. These findings supported the body of research demonstrating the relaxing and sleep-inducing properties of lavender oil.
There are many more research studies available that support the use of lavender for relaxation and anxiety management.
The use of aromatherapy oils in pregnancy, when trying to conceive and breast feeding should only be undertaken after consulting with a trained professional. Please seek medical advise if you are concerned about stress or anxiety. Lavender oil is not suitable for all and you should check with a aromatherapy professional before use.