Last updated by Dr Sarah Brewer on
Lavender oil capsules are a traditional herbal medicine for the relief of symptoms of anxiety such as stress and nervousness. More than 15 clinical trials involving 2,200 people show that lavender oil capsules are as effective for treating anxiety as prescribed medication, with significant benefits seen within two weeks.
Lavender oil for anxiety
When inhaled, lavender aromatherapy oil is an effective sedative used to aid sleep – but don’t even think about swigging from that bottle at the back of your cupboard. For safe use by mouth, the lavender oil must come from the flowers of one particular species of lavender, Lavandula angustifolia Miller.
The lavender oil must also be prepared to pharmaceutical standards known as GMP to provide a consistent dose of active ingredients. Other non-pharmaceutical grade lavender oils should not be taken by mouth as they may contain pesticides or other impurities, and contain synthetic chemicals.
How lavender oil reduces anxiety
As many as one in five people feel anxious for a lot or all of the time. Worry and negative, spinning thoughts interfere with self-confidence, the ability to concentrate and can lead to difficulty sleeping.
Brain scan studies on 17 healthy men who took lavender oil capsules or placebo for 8 weeks, found that lavender oil works by significantly reducing excess binding of neurotransmitters to specific serotonin-1A receptors in the brain. This allowed free levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters involved in regulating mood and anxiety to rise.
Other studies suggest lavender oil promotes the release of less excitatory neurotransmitters to reduce over-stimulation of nerve cells and anxiety symptoms.
Clinical trials show lavender oil reduces anxiety
A trial involving 27 general practices and psychiatric centres compared the effects of pharmaceutical grade lavender oil against placebo in 216 people with anxiety.
Anxiety scores reduced significantly more in those taking lavender oil capsules than placebo, with effectiveness noticed within two weeks. In those taking lavender oil capsules, 76% had at least a 50% reducing in anxiety symptoms and, on average, anxiety symptoms reduced overall by 59%. There were no unwanted sedative effects.
Lavender oil as effective as anxiety medication
Another trial, involving 77 people with generalised anxiety disorder, compared the effectiveness of pharmaceutical grade lavender oil capsules against the prescribed benzodiazepine drug, lorazepam.
Both reduced the physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety, and improved sleep to a similar extent (by around 45%).
The lavender oil capsules were as effective as lorazepam for treating generalized anxiety disorder, with no sedative effects and, importantly, no potential for addiction or drug abuse (unlike the benzodiazepines).
Yet another study compared pharmaceutical grade lavender oil capsules against the antidepressant drug, paroxetine, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) used to treat anxiety disorders, including panic attacks.
A total of 523 people with generalised anxiety disorder were randomised to take either lavender oil capsules or paroxetine. Results showed both treatments were equally effective, and the lavender oil had beneficial effects on mental health in general, and health-related quality of life.
When 170 people with anxiety-related restlessness and disturbed sleep were given either 80mg pharmaceutical grade lavender oil or placebo, once a day for 10 weeks, symptoms decreased significantly more in those taking lavender capsules, with around one-third (31%) achieving remission. This confirms the calming effect of lavender oil in relieving anxiety. The results were even more pronounced in people with moderate to severe anxiety at the start of the trial.
Is oral lavender oil safe?
Clinical trials confirm that pharmaceutical grade lavender oil capsules are safe, with no known interactions.
Unlike when lavender oil is inhaled, the oral capsules are not sedative and that are not habit-forming.
Do not exceed the recommended dose.
Side effects can include belching or burping, and a few people have reported mild skin reactions such as itching or a rash.
If anxiety is persistent or excessive, always seek medical advice.
Have you tried lavender oil? Did you find it effective?
Click here to read my advice on How To Sleep Better Naturally.
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