11 Nov

Why it’s Wonderful

Lavender has a fascinating history from ancient times.  Legend has it that Adam and Eve took lavender with them as they fled the Garden of Eden.  The Egyptians, Phoenicians and Arabians used lavender for cleansing, for preparing mummies, and sent urns of the flowers with their kings into their graves.  Cleopatra famously used lavender for seduction.  It is believed that lavender was used to honor Jesus Christ as a baby, to anoint his feet with the essential oils (when Mary used “spikenard”), and to wrap his body when he was buried.  Lavender shares the same root word as “lavar” in Latin, meaning to wash (or some argue, “livendulo”, meaning the color blue). The ancient Romans had famed aromatherapy baths with lavender. This is surely due to the natural antiseptic and cleansing properties of lavender. The Romans even lavender1made wine with lavender, and lavender has been used in naturopathy and gourmet cooking for thousands of years.  Josephine was said to make a special hot chocolate drink for Napoleon, for which the secret ingredient was lavender (and was believed to fuel their great passion).  During the Bubonic Plague, lavender was a key ingredient in the so-called “Thieves Oil” that enabled nefarious robbers to pilfer the bodies and homes of the stricken.  Both Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria were enamored of lavender, and insisted it fill their palaces in its many forms.  Lavender was brought to the Americas in the 1600s with the Pilgrims, and was used for wounds in battle as recently as World War I.

The medicinal and soothing properties of lavender go far beyond helping us get clean. In our current time, many studies have been done on the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of lavender oil (more than 1,500 studies as of August 2014), and these studies yielded some pretty incredible findings. I’ve listed some of these findings below, all taken from study abstracts listed on PubMed, or the U.S. National Library of Medicine hosted by the National Institute of Health.

[Note: Please bear in mind these studies were performed on Lavandula: Angustifolia essential oil, and the majority of lavender products available are made with other lavenders (such as Lavandula: x intermedias) because they are less expensive to produce and the plants yield higher quantities of oil. These other lavenders do have some medicinal/therapeutic properties, but at lower levels and often the quality is not high. Please see my discussion of lavender Varieties for more information.]

Reduction of stress/mood elevator
• Significantly reduced blood pressure, heart rate and skin temperature (i.e. reduces physiological stress). (1)
• Calmed nerve activity and caused more relaxed state. (2)
• Showed pronounced antidepressant effect and improved general mental health. (3)
• Literature review confirmed clinical trials on lavender suggest antidepressive influence. (4)
• Calming olfactory effect induced a broader attentional state. (5)
Reduction of Anxiety and Insomnia
• Significantly reduced symptoms of anxiety disorders, including disturbed sleep, somatic complaints comparable to Lorazapam. (6)
• Reduced the anxiety related symptoms and sleep disturbances in major depressive disorder (MDD) patients, with an anxiolytic effect comparable to Lorazapam. (7)
Reduction in pain and wound healing
• Reduced pain in many different studies: post-tonsillectomy pain in pediatric patients (8) , Cesarean postoperative pain (9) , resulting in significantly lower usage of pain  medications such as acetaminophen.
• Improved parasympathetic nervous system activity, and alleviated PMS (premenstrual syndrome). (10)
• Aided in wound healing. (11)
• Suppressed allergic airway inflammation for bronchial asthma. (12)
• Showed protective effect against reproductive damage and oxidative stress in diabetic rats. (13)
Antimicrobial properties
• Improved the antimicrobial activity of other essential oils when used in a blend. (14)
• Reversed E. coli’s multi-drug resistance by reversing its bacterial resistance, opening the door for new options for phytopharmaceuticals. (15) (16)
• Shown to grow cultivable endophytic bacteria on the plant itself that has bioactive compounds relevant in the field of pathogen control and human health (i.e. it seems to be able to kill pathogens that would otherwise harm us). (17)
Effects on the brain
• Showed neuroprotective activity against cerebral ischemia in studies on strokes, as well as inhibiting oxidative stress. (18)
• Increased antioxidant enzyme activities, reduced rates of cellular death, and potent neuroprotective effects on rats’ brains. (19)
• Worked to reduce neuropathic pain and anxiety in the hippocampus in the same range as the drug pregabalin. (20)
• Increased theta and alpha brain activity, and showed obviously more scattering power in alpha range waves particularly in bilateral temporal and central areas of the brain. (21)
Other impacts of lavender
• Aided in the healing of burns. (22)
• Effective mosquito repellent. (23) (24)
• Reduced insect infestation of apple orchards by 95%. (25)
• Reduced insect infestation in camel herds by 100%. (26)
• Honey made including lavender compounds include benefits of the lavender. (27)
Lavandula: Dentata (a section of Lavender carved out from Stoechas) shown to be cytotoxic on human breast adenocarcionoma cells (anticancer). (28)

 

Bibliography

1. The effects of lavender and rosemary essential oils on test-taking anxiety among graduate nursing students.

Chen MC, Fang SH, Fang L.

Int J Nurs Pract. 2013 Nov 15. doi: 10.1111/ijn.12229. [Epub ahead of print]

PMID: 24238073 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

2. Olfactory stimulatory with grapefruit and lavender oils change autonomic nerve activity and physiological function.

Nagai K, Niijima A, Horii Y, Shen J, Tanida M.

Auton Neurosci. 2014 Jun 25. pii: S1566-0702(14)00091-5. doi: 10.1016/j.autneu.2014.06.005. [Epub ahead of print] Review.

PMID: 25002406 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

3.Lavender oil preparation Silexan is effective in generalized anxiety disorder–a randomized, double-blind comparison to placebo and paroxetine.

Kasper S, Gastpar M, Müller WE, Volz HP, Möller HJ, Schläfke S, Dienel A.

Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2014 Jun;17(6):859-69. doi: 10.1017/S1461145714000017. Epub 2014 Jan 23.

PMID: 24456909 [PubMed – in process]

4.[Herbal remedies in depression–state of the art].

Szafrański T.

Psychiatr Pol. 2014 Jan-Feb;48(1):59-73. Polish.

PMID: 24946435 [PubMed – in process]

5. Attentional control in the attentional blink is modulated by odor.

Colzato LS, Sellaro R, Rossi Paccani C, Hommel B.

Atten Percept Psychophys. 2014 Aug;76(6):1510-5. doi: 10.3758/s13414-014-0733-0.

PMID: 25070746 [PubMed – in process]

6. An orally administered lavandula oil preparation (Silexan) for anxiety disorder and related conditions: an evidence based review.

Kasper S.

Int J Psychiatry Clin Pract. 2013 Nov;17 Suppl 1:15-22. doi: 10.3109/13651501.2013.813555. Epub 2013 Aug 3. Review.

PMID: 23808618 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

7. A case series on the use of lavendula oil capsules in patients suffering from major depressive disorder and symptoms of psychomotor agitation, insomnia and anxiety.

Fißler M, Quante A.

Complement Ther Med. 2014 Feb;22(1):63-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2013.11.008. Epub 2013 Dec 5.

PMID: 24559818 [PubMed – in process]

8. Evaluation of the effect of aromatherapy with lavender essential oil on post-tonsillectomy pain in pediatric patients: a randomized controlled trial.
Soltani R, Soheilipour S, Hajhashemi V, Asghari G, Bagheri M, Molavi M.
Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2013 Sep;77(9):1579-81. doi: 10.1016/j.ijporl.2013.07.014. Epub 2013 Aug 8.

PMID: 23932834 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

9. The Effect of Inhalation of Aromatherapy Blend containing Lavender Essential Oil on Cesarean Postoperative Pain.
Olapour A, Behaeen K, Akhondzadeh R, Soltani F, Al Sadat Razavi F, Bekhradi R.
Anesth Pain Med. 2013 Summer;3(1):203-7. doi: 10.5812/aapm.9570. Epub 2013 Jul 1.

PMID: 24223363 [PubMed]

10. Does lavender aromatherapy alleviate premenstrual emotional symptoms?: a randomized crossover trial.
Matsumoto T, Asakura H, Hayashi T.
Biopsychosoc Med. 2013 May 31;7:12. doi: 10.1186/1751-0759-7-12. eCollection 2013.

PMID: 23724853 [PubMed]

11. A Comparison Study of Growth Factor Expression following Treatment with Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, Saline Solution, Povidone-Iodine, and Lavender Oil in Wounds Healing.
Koca Kutlu A, Ceçen D, Gürgen SG, Sayın O, Cetin F.
Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:361832. doi: 10.1155/2013/361832. Epub 2013 Jun 3.

PMID: 23861704 [PubMed]

12. Lavender essential oil inhalation suppresses allergic airway inflammation and mucous cell hyperplasia in a murine model of asthma.
Ueno-Iio T, Shibakura M, Yokota K, Aoe M, Hyoda T, Shinohata R, Kanehiro A, Tanimoto M, Kataoka M.
Life Sci. 2014 Jul 17;108(2):109-15. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2014.05.018. Epub 2014 Jun 5.

PMID: 24909715 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

13. Protective Effect of Lavandula stoechas and Rosmarinus officinalis Essential Oils Against Reproductive Damage and Oxidative Stress in Alloxan-Induced Diabetic Rats.
Sebai H, Selmi S, Rtibi K, Gharbi N, Sakly M.
J Med Food. 2014 Aug 8. [Epub ahead of print]

PMID: 25105335 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

14. The In Vitro Antimicrobial Activity of Lavandula angustifolia Essential Oil in Combination with Other Aroma-Therapeutic Oils.
de Rapper S, Kamatou G, Viljoen A, van Vuuren S.
Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:852049. doi: 10.1155/2013/852049. Epub 2013 May 13.

PMID: 23737850 [PubMed]

15. Membrane disruption and anti-quorum sensing effects of synergistic interaction between Lavandula angustifolia (lavender oil) in combination with antibiotic against plasmid-conferred multi-drug-resistant Escherichia coli.
Yap PS, Krishnan T, Yiap BC, Hu CP, Chan KG, Lim SH.
J Appl Microbiol. 2014 May;116(5):1119-28. doi: 10.1111/jam.12444. Epub 2014 Feb 14.

PMID: 24779580 [PubMed – in process]

16. Combination of essential oils and antibiotics reduce antibiotic resistance in plasmid-conferred multidrug resistant bacteria.
Yap PS, Lim SH, Hu CP, Yiap BC.
Phytomedicine. 2013 Jun 15;20(8-9):710-3. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2013.02.013. Epub 2013 Mar 26.

PMID: 23537749 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

17. Linking Bacterial Endophytic Communities to Essential Oils: Clues from Lavandula angustifolia Mill.
Emiliani G, Mengoni A, Maida I, Perrin E, Chiellini C, Fondi M, Gallo E, Gori L, Maggini V, Vannacci A, Biffi S, Firenzuoli F, Fani R.
Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:650905. doi: 10.1155/2014/650905. Epub 2014 May 26.

PMID: 24971151 [PubMed]

18. Effect of lavender oil (Lavandula angustifolia) on cerebral edema and its possible mechanisms in an experimental model of stroke.
Vakili A, Sharifat S, Akhavan MM, Bandegi AR.
Brain Res. 2014 Feb 22;1548:56-62. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2013.12.019. Epub 2013 Dec 30.

PMID: 24384140 [PubMed – in process]

19. Neuroprotective effects of inhaled lavender oil on scopolamine-induced dementia via anti-oxidative activities in rats.
Hancianu M, Cioanca O, Mihasan M, Hritcu L.
Phytomedicine. 2013 Mar 15;20(5):446-52. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2012.12.005. Epub 2013 Jan 23.

PMID: 23351960 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

20. Lavender oil-potent anxiolytic properties via modulating voltage dependent calcium channels.
Schuwald AM, Nöldner M, Wilmes T, Klugbauer N, Leuner K, Müller WE.
PLoS One. 2013 Apr 29;8(4):e59998. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059998. Print 2013.

PMID: 23637742 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

21. The effects of lavender oil inhalation on emotional states, autonomic nervous system, and brain electrical activity.
Sayorwan W, Siripornpanich V, Piriyapunyaporn T, Hongratanaworakit T, Kotchabhakdi N, Ruangrungsi N.
J Med Assoc Thai. 2012 Apr;95(4):598-606.

PMID: 22612017 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

22. Lavender and the nervous system.
Koulivand PH, Khaleghi Ghadiri M, Gorji A.
Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:681304. doi: 10.1155/2013/681304. Epub 2013 Mar 14.

PMID: 23573142 [PubMed]

23. Repellency of oils of lemon eucalyptus, geranium, and lavender and the mosquito repellent MyggA natural to Ixodes ricinus (Acari: Ixodidae) in the laboratory and field.
Jaenson TG, Garboui S, Palsson K.
J Med Entomol. 2006 Jul;43(4):731-6.

PMID: 16892632 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

24. Repellent activities of essential oils and monoterpenes against Culex pipiens pallens.
Choi WS, Park BS, Ku SK, Lee SE.
J Am Mosq Control Assoc. 2002 Dec;18(4):348-51.

PMID: 12542193 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

25. Repellence of the red bud borer Resseliella oculiperda from grafted apple trees by impregnation of rubber budding strips with essential oils.
van Tol RW, Swarts HJ, van der Linden A, Visser JH.
Pest Manag Sci. 2007 May;63(5):483-90.

PMID: 17421054 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

26. In vitro control of the camel nasal botfly, Cephalopina titillator, with doramectin, lavender, camphor, and onion oils.
Khater HF, Ramadan MY, Mageid AD.
Parasitol Res. 2013 Jul;112(7):2503-10. doi: 10.1007/s00436-013-3415-2. Epub 2013 Apr 19.

PMID: 23604566 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

27. Enantiomer Distribution of Major Chiral Volatile Organic Compounds in Selected Types of Herbal Honeys.
Pažitná A, Džúrová J, Spánik I.
Chirality. 2014 Aug 7. doi: 10.1002/chir.22364. [Epub ahead of print]

PMID: 25099214 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

28. In vitro cytotoxicity screening of wild plant extracts from Saudi Arabia on human breast adenocarcinoma cells.
Ali MA, Abul Farah M, Al-Hemaid FM, Abou-Tarboush FM.
Genet Mol Res. 2014 May 23;13(2):3981-90. doi: 10.4238/2014.May.23.9.

PMID: 24938609 [PubMed – in process]

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