Lavender for Less Anxiety?

lavender oil
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Lavender is an herb sometimes recommend for the relief of anxiety. One of the most widely used remedies in aromatherapy, the plant's essential oil is said to promote relaxation. Some research shows that lavender essential oil may possess sedative properties, which could play a key role in its potentially anxiety-reducing effects. 

Why Do People Sometimes Use Lavender for Anxiety Relief?

According to the principles of aromatherapy, breathing in the scent of lavender essential oil or applying lavender essential oil to the skin transmits messages to the limbic system (a brain region known to influence the nervous system and help regulate emotion).

Proponents suggest that lavender essential oil may help alleviate anxiety in part by inducing a calming effect on the central nervous system.

One popular approach involves combining lavender oil with a carrier oil (such as jojoba or sweet almond). Once blended with a carrier oil, lavender essential oil can be massaged into your skin or added to your bath.

You can also sprinkle a few drops of lavender essential oil onto a cloth or tissue and inhale its aroma, or add the oil to an aromatherapy diffuser or vaporizer. Here are some tips for purchasing lavender and other essential oils.

Research on Lavender and Anxiety

While there's currently a lack of large-scale clinical trials testing lavender's effects on people with anxiety, a number of studies show that the oil may offer some anti-anxiety benefits.

Several studies have tested lavender's anxiety-reducing effects in specific populations. For example, a study published in Physiology & Behavior in 2005 focused on 200 people awaiting dental treatment and found that breathing in the scent of lavender both lessened anxiety and improved mood.

Related: Natural Mood Enhancers

In addition, a pilot study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice in 2012 indicates that lavender-essential-oil-based aromatherapy may help soothe anxiety in high-risk postpartum women. In an experiment involving 28 women who had given birth in the previous 18 months, researchers found that four weeks of twice-weekly, 15-minute-long aromatherapy sessions helped alleviate depression in addition to lowering anxiety levels.

Related: Eight Natural Depression Remedies to Consider

There's also some evidence that ingesting lavender oil may help relieve anxiety. In a report published in Phytomedicine in 2012, for instance, scientists analyzed 15 previously published clinical trials and concluded that dietary supplements containing lavender oil may have some therapeutic effects on patients struggling with anxiety and/or stress.


Lavender essential oil may cause irritation or an allergic reaction in some individuals. If you experience nausea, vomiting, or headache after using lavender, discontinue use immediately.

Because consuming lavender essential oil can have toxic effects, this remedy should not be ingested.

You can learn more about using lavender and other essential oils safely here.

Alternatives to Lavender

There are many ways to lessen everyday anxiety naturally. For example, practicing mind/body techniques like meditation and deep breathing may help you relax and keep your anxiety in check. Undergoing alternative therapies like massage and acupuncture may also benefit people with anxiety.

What's more, some studies suggest that taking herbs like passion flower, kava, and valerian may help reduce anxiety symptoms. 

The Bottom Line

While lavender may help soothe mild anxiety, it should not be used in place of mental-health-professional-provided treatment for any type of anxiety disorder.

If you're experiencing symptoms such as constant worrying, fatigue, insomnia, and rapid heartbeat, make sure to consult your primary care provider rather than self-treating your anxiety with lavender.


Bradley BF1, Brown SL, Chu S, Lea RW. "Effects of orally administered lavender essential oil on responses to anxiety-provoking film clips." Hum Psychopharmacol. 2009 Jun;24(4):319-30.

Conrad P1, Adams C. "The effects of clinical aromatherapy for anxiety and depression in the high risk postpartum woman - a pilot study." Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2012 Aug;18(3):164-8.

Lehrner J1, Marwinski G, Lehr S, Johren P, Deecke L. "Ambient odors of orange and lavender reduce anxiety and improve mood in a dental office." Physiol Behav. 2005 Sep 15;86(1-2):92-5.

Louis M1, Kowalski SD. "Use of aromatherapy with hospice patients to decrease pain, anxiety, and depression and to promote an increased sense of well-being." Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2002 Nov-Dec;19(6):381-6.

Perry R1, Terry R, Watson LK, Ernst E. "Is lavender an anxiolytic drug? A systematic review of randomised clinical trials." Phytomedicine. 2012 Jun 15;19(8-9):825-35.

Setzer WN. "Essential oils and anxiolytic aromatherapy." Nat Prod Commun. 2009 Sep;4(9):1305-16.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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