How Lavender Is Used for Social Anxiety

Lavender is used for relaxation, to alleviate insomnia, anxiety and depression,

Lavender is an alternative therapy.
Lavender can be used to calm anxiety. Getty / Photolibrary / Alexandra Grablewsk

You may have wondered how lavender is used for social anxiety. But first, just what is lavender? Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), also known as English or garden lavender, is an herb native to the Mediterranean region.

Historically, lavender was used to mummify bodies in Egypt, in baths in Greece and Rome, and for antiseptic and mental health purposes. Today, lavender is used as a traditional or complementary remedy for relaxation, to alleviate insomnia, anxiety and depression, as well as for physical ailments such as stomach upset and headaches.

Lavender and Social Anxiety Disorder

No scientific studies have specifically examined the benefits lavender use for social anxiety disorder (SAD).

In a 2000 systematic review of aromatherapy studies, Cook and Ernst reported that in general, aromatherapy was helpful in reducing anxiety and stress in the short-term. A 2012 review study also showed some evidence of the usefulness of lavender taken orally for anxiety.

More research is needed to support the used of lavender for the treatment of SAD.

How to Use Lavender

Lavender is usually used in the form of an essential oil as part of aromatherapy. The scent is inhaled, or the oil is applied to the skin. Dried lavender can also be used to make a tea or liquid extract. Lavender may also be taken in pill form.

Lavender tea can be made by steeping 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried leaves for 15 minutes in a cup of boiling water. In liquid extract form, no more than 60 drops of lavender should be taken in a day.

Before ingesting lavender in liquid form, you should read the product label and discuss the dose with a qualified health care provider.

Who Shouldn’t Use Lavender

There is not enough scientific evidence to safely recommend lavender for children younger than 18 years.

Lavender taken by mouth has the potential to increase the risk of bleeding.

If you suffer from a bleeding disorder or are taking medication that may increase bleeding, use caution when taking lavender.

Medication Interactions 

Lavender has the potential to increase the drowsiness caused by other treatments for SAD, such as Xanax (and other benzodiazepines) and St. John's Wort (and other herbal supplements).

The same effects may be seen with barbituates, narcotics, seizure medications, and alcohol. Lavender may also increase the toxicity of antidepressant medications and herbs and supplements taken for depression.

When taken with drugs such as aspirin, warfarin, ibuprofen, and naproxen lavender may increase the risk of bleeding. Check the package insert and speak with a health care professional or pharmacist about possible interactions.

Side Effects of Lavender

Side effects are rare but may include the following:

  • a mild rash
  • sun sensitivity
  • changes in skin pigmentation
  • drowsiness
  • nausea
  • loss of appetite
  • headache
  • constipation
  • confusion (after ingesting large doses of lavender or perillyl alcohol, which is derived from lavender)

    Associated Risks of Lavender

    Caution should be used when driving or operating heavy machinery if lavender is combined with medications causing drowsiness. Lavender essential oil can be poisonous if taken by mouth.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate the production of herbs and supplements. Most herbs and supplements are not thoroughly tested, and there is no guarantee regarding the ingredients or safety of the products.

    Use of lavender over an extended period of time should be supervised by a qualified health care professional.

    References:

    Cooke B, Ernst E. Aromatherapy: A systematic review. British Journal of General Practice: 2000; 493-495.

    National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Lavender. Accessed March 9, 2016.

    Perry R, Terry R, Watson LK, Ernst E. Is lavender an anxiolytic drug? A systematic review of randomised clinical trials. Phytomedicine. 2012;19(8-9):825-35.

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