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What is Lavender Oil Used for Today?
Lavender continues to be recommended for all its traditional uses. Only a few of these uses, however, have any supporting scientific evidence whatsoever, and for none of these is the evidence strong.
A few studies suggest that lavender oil, when taken by inhalation ( aromatherapy ) might reduce agitation in people with severe dementia . For example, in one very well-designed but very small study, a hospital ward was suffused with either lavender oil or water for two hours. 1 An investigator who was unaware of the study’s design and who wore a device to block inhalation of odors entered the ward and evaluated the behavior of the 15 residents, all of whom had dementia. The results indicated that use of lavender oil aromatherapy modestly decreased agitated behavior. A somewhat less rigorous study reported similar benefits. 2 Rigor is essential in such studies, as it has been shown that merely creating expectations about the effects of aromas may be sufficient to cause them to occur. 3 A preliminary controlled trial found some evidence that lavender, administered through the oxygen face mask, reduced need for pain medications following gastric banding surgery. 4 A small study performed in Iran reported that oral use of lavender tincture augmented the effectiveness of a pharmaceutical treatment for depression . 5 However, this study suffered from numerous problems, both in design and reporting, as well as in the scientific reputation of the investigators involved.
In a controlled trial with more than 600 participants, lavender oil in bath water failed to improve perineal pain after childbirth . 6 One poorly designed study found weak hints that lavender might be useful for insomnia . 7 One animal study failed to find that lavender oil enhances wound healing . 8 Lavender is also used in combination with other essential oils. For information on these uses, see the Aromatherapy article.
- Holmes C, Hopkins V, Hensford C, MacLaughlin V, Wilkinson D, Rosenvinge H. Lavender oil as a treatment for agitated behaviour in severe dementia: a placebo controlled study. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 17(4):305-8.
- Lin PW, Chan WC, Ng BF, Lam LC. Efficacy of aromatherapy (Lavandula angustifolia) as an intervention for agitated behaviours in Chinese older persons with dementia: a cross-over randomized trial. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 22(5):405-10.
- Howard S, Hughes BM. Expectancies, not aroma, explain impact of lavender aromatherapy on psychophysiological indices of relaxation in young healthy women. Br J Health Psychol. 2007 Sep 7. [Epub ahead of print]
- Kim JT, Ren CJ, Fielding GA, Pitti A, Kasumi T, Wajda M, Lebovits A, Bekker A. Treatment with lavender aromatherapy in the post-anesthesia care unit reduces opioid requirements of morbidly obese patients undergoing laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding. Obes Surg. 17(7):920-5.
- Akhondzadeh S, Kashani L, Fotouhi A, Jarvandi S, Mobaseri M, Moin M, Khani M, Jamshidi AH, Baghalian K, Taghizadeh M. Comparison of Lavandula angustifolia Mill. tincture and imipramine in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized trial. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 27(1):123-7.
- Dale A, Cornwell S. The role of lavender oil in relieving perineal discomfort following childbirth: a blind randomized clinical trial. J Adv Nurs. 19(1):89-96.
- Lewith GT, Godfrey AD, Prescott P. A single-blinded, randomized pilot study evaluating the aroma of Lavandula augustifolia as a treatment for mild insomnia. J Altern Complement Med. 11(4):631-7.
- Lusby PE, Coombes AL, Wilkinson JM. A comparison of wound healing following treatment with Lavandula x allardii honey or essential oil. Phytother Res. 2006 Jun 28. [Epub ahead of print]