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Lavender and Anxiety

By Silvia Nena ; Updated August 14, 2017

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety affects about 40 million adults. It is a condition marked by fear and uncertainty, especially in stressful situations. Unlike short-term anxiety that may debilitate you in specific situations like speaking in public, anxiety as a condition is ongoing -- lasting six months and longer. There are various methods of treating anxiety. One such method is aromatherapy and the use of lavender oil.

What is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils that are extracted from plants for medicinal use. It is holistic medicine that has been used for over 6,000 years. A French chemist named Maurice Gattefosse founded the science of aromatherapy in 1928. Since that time, use of aromatherapy has extended to spas and hospital settings. Therapeutic uses include inhalation, bath, massage, and on rare occasions under therapist supervision, oral administration.

Lavender Oil

Lavender is the oil distilled from the lavender’s deep blue, tightly clustered flowers. Oil distilled for therapeutic use comes from the botanical species Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula officinalis. Lavender is a soothing and uplifting oil that can help reduce stress, anxiety, insomnia and depression. In a 2007 study published in "The International Journal of Cardiology," researchers recognized lavender’s therapeutic value in mental relaxation.

How Lavender Works

It is believed that when a person inhales lavender essential oil, molecules enter the brain and interact with centers associated with emotion: the amygdala and hippocampus. Lavender appears to act as a sedative in these areas, thereby reducing feelings of stress and anxiety. The 2007 study cited above also revealed that lavender significantly lowered serum cortisol levels in healthy men. Cortisol is a hormone associated with stress. This finding may give more insight into lavender’s anxiety reducing effects.

Using Lavender

Lavender oil is available at most health food and vitamins and supplements stores. Look for high quality, organic grade oils that say pure or 100% essential oil on their labels. The bottles should be made from dark glass to preserve the oil’s quality, which can be degraded by light and plastic. The oil can be diffused through a room with a diffuser made for this purpose or a few drops can be added to your bath. Most massage therapists use essential oils at clients’ requests. Lavender pillows can also reduce anxiety and enhance relaxation.

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