Lavender

Lavender: A Soothing Herb For The Mind And Body

Key Takeaways

Lavender Benefits

1. Boosting Sleep Quality

Lavender improves sleep quality by affecting neurotransmitters and lowering heart rate and blood pressure. 

2. Promoting the Brain

Lavender positively impacts cognitive function, attention, and memory. Neuroimaging reveals it activates and deactivates specific brain regions to increase arousal and relaxation.

3. Decreasing Anxiety

Lavender helps reduce anxiety and promotes relaxation by affecting neurotransmitters like GABA in the brain. It also influences the autonomic nervous system, reducing "fight or flight" responses and promoting calm.

4. Promoting Heart Health

Lavender may benefit heart health by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. It contains antioxidant compounds like rosmarinic acid that counteract free radicals.

5. Controlling Pain

Lavender contains compounds like linalool with analgesic effects, modulating neurotransmitters like dopamine to regulate pain signals. Its anti-inflammatory properties also reduce pain and swelling in conditions like arthritis.

What Is Lavender

Lavender belongs to the mint family, Lamiaceae. It is native to the Mediterranean but is widely cultivated worldwide for its fragrant flowers. It has been used for aromatherapy, culinary, and medicinal purposes. It helps with reducing anxiety, easing stress-related symptoms, and promoting sleep.

Lavender contains volatile oils rich in monoterpenes, such as linalool, linalyl acetate, camphor, and eucalyptol. These compounds give lavender its distinctive aroma, color, and therapeutic properties. [1]

Lavender And Sleep

Lavender is a natural sleep aid and can help improve sleep quality and treat insomnia. [2] This ability is due to its effects on the nervous system. Lavender contains compounds called terpenes, which modulate the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain involved in sleep regulation, such as GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) and serotonin. [3]

Serotonin is another neurotransmitter that plays a vital role in regulating sleep-wake cycles. Lavender increases serotonin levels in the brain, which promotes feelings of well-being and improves sleep quality. 

In addition, lavender decreases heart rate and blood pressure, contributing to a sense of relaxation and improved sleep quality.

A study found that lavender improved sleep quality and reduced insomnia symptoms in patients with coronary artery disease. [4] 

Another study found that lavender can improve sleep quality in healthy students. [5]

Lavender also improves sleep quality in midlife women with insomnia. [6]

Additionally, lavender herbal tea impacted sleep quality in elderly patients suffering from poor sleep. [7]

Lavender And The Brain

Lavender improves cognitive function, particularly attention, memory, and reaction time. Its smell can make you feel more awake and more relaxed at the same time. 

Neuroimaging showed that lavender scent increases arousal and relaxation by activating specific brain regions, such as the orbitofrontal cortex, posterior cingulate gyrus, brainstem, thalamus, and cerebellum. At the same time, it reduces activity in others, such as the pre/post-central gyrus and frontal eye field [8]. 

Additionally, lavender scent increases blood flow to some cortical areas, such as the gyrus rectus, orbitofrontal cortex, and superior temporal cortical regions related to smell processing and emotional responses [9]. 

It activates major olfactory brain structures involved in smell perception, memory, and emotion regulation, such as the primary olfactory cortex, entorhinal cortex, hippocampus and parahippocampal cortex, thalamus, hypothalamus, orbitofrontal cortex, insular cortex [10]. 

What's more interesting, lavender’s scent stimulates different brain regions depending on whether it is perceived through the nose or the mouth. When we smell it through our nose, it activates the part of the brain involved in tasting and sensing things inside our body.

When we smell it through our mouth (often labeled as tastes, however, these are actually odor perceptions that reach our olfactory neurons through the root of the mouth), it switches on the part of the brain involved in reward and forming habits. [11]

Lavender And Anxiety

Lavender promotes relaxation through its effects on the central nervous system. [3] It contains several compounds, such as linalool and linalyl acetate, which interact with the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. 

GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps to reduce brain activity and promote relaxation. Lavender enhances the effects of GABA, leading to a calming effect on the mind and body. [12]

In addition to its effects on the central nervous system, lavender may promote relaxation through its impact on the autonomic nervous system.

The autonomic nervous system controls many of the body's involuntary functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing. Lavender reduces sympathetic nervous system activity, which is responsible for the "fight or flight" response and increases parasympathetic nervous system activity, which promotes relaxation and a sense of calm. [13]

One study found that lavender reduced anxiety effectively in people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). [14]

Another study found that lavender can help reduce workplace stress. [15] 

Lavender And Heart Health

Lavender has potential benefits for heart health through its ability to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. [16]

Oxidative stress refers to an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body, which can lead to cell damage and contribute to disease development, including heart disease.

Research has demonstrated that lavender contains compounds with antioxidant properties, such as rosmarinic acid and luteolin. These compounds scavenge free radicals and protect against oxidative stress. [17]

In addition to its antioxidant effects, lavender also has anti-inflammatory properties. Chronic inflammation is a known risk factor for heart disease, and reducing inflammation may help to lower the risk of developing this condition.

One study found that lavender significantly decreased blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. [18]

Lavender And Pain Relief

Several compounds found in lavender, including linalool and linalyl acetate, have direct analgesic (pain-relieving) effects, acting on pain receptors. They modulate the activity of several neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, thus regulating pain signals.

Lavender's anti-inflammatory properties also assist in reducing pain. They lower pain and swelling in arthritis and muscle soreness.

One study found that lavender can help reduce pain and improve mobility in patients with knee osteoarthritis. [19]

Another study found that lavender helps reduce the severity of migraine headaches.[20]

Safety And Side Effects

Lavender is generally safe for most people when used in moderation. However, it can cause allergic reactions in some people.

Children and pregnant women should avoid it and only use it after consulting their doctors.

Final Thoughts

Lavender is a therapeutic plant that has been used for centuries for its many benefits.

Its calming and soothing properties make it a popular choice for better sleep and relaxation. It also has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory effects.

Whether you're looking for a natural remedy to help you sleep or want to enjoy its pleasant fragrance, lavender tea is guaranteed to bring calmness into your life.

Additional Readings

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References

[1][Analyses of Volatile Components of Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia HIDCOTE and Lavandula x intermedia GROSSO) as Influenced by Cultivar Type, Part, and Growth Season] - PubMed (nih.gov)

[2]A systematic review of the effect of inhaled essential oils on sleep - PubMed (nih.gov)

[3]Lavender and the Nervous System - PMC (nih.gov)

[4]The Effect of Lavender Aromatherapy on Heart Rate, Blood Pressure, and Perceived Stress Among Cardiac Rehabilitation Patients: A Pilot Study - PubMed (nih.gov)

[5]Effects of lavender aroma on sleep quality in healthy Japanese students - PubMed (nih.gov)

[6]The Effect of Lavender Aromatherapy on Autonomic Nervous System in Midlife Women with Insomnia - PMC (nih.gov)

[7]Impact of lavender herbal tea on sleep quality in elderly patients with poor sleep quality: A randomized study | Semantic Scholar

[8]Autonomic nervous function and localization of cerebral activity during lavender aromatic immersion - PubMed (nih.gov)

[9]Olfactory function evaluated by SPECT - PubMed (nih.gov)

[10]Functional magnetic resonance imaging study of human olfaction and normal aging - PubMed (nih.gov)

[11]Differential neural responses evoked by orthonasal versus retronasal odorant perception in humans - PubMed (nih.gov)

[12]Potentiation of GABAA receptors expressed in Xenopus oocytes by perfume and phytoncid - PubMed (nih.gov)

[13]The effects of lavender oil inhalation on emotional states, autonomic nervous system, and brain electrical activity - PubMed (nih.gov)

[14]Lavender oil preparation Silexan is effective in generalized anxiety disorder--a randomized, double-blind comparison to placebo and paroxetine - PubMed (nih.gov)

[15](PDF) Effect of Aromatherapy with Lavender Extract on Occupational Stress among Operating Room Staff (researchgate.net)

[16]The Effect of Lavender Aromatherapy on Heart Rate, Blood Pre... : Holistic Nursing Practice (lww.com)

[17]Antioxidant Properties of Three Aromatic Herbs (Rosemary, Thyme and Lavender) in Oil-in-Water Emulsions | SpringerLink

[18]Effect of aromatherapy on the quality of sleep in ischemic heart disease patients hospitalized in intensive care units of heart hospitals of the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences - PubMed (nih.gov)

[19]Effect of aromatherapy massage with lavender essential oil on pain in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee: A randomized controlled clinical trial - PubMed (nih.gov)

[20]Lavender essential oil in the treatment of migraine headache: a placebo-controlled clinical trial - PubMed (nih.gov)

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