Lavender oil has a long history of medicinal use in reducing anxiety, stabilising moods and for its sedative effects in promoting sleep. Inhaling lavender aromatherapy oil can also lower your blood pressure, even in an anxiety-inducing environment such as a hospital intermediate care unit.
Inhaling lavender oil lowers blood pressure
A total of 50 patients who were admitted to the ICU on different occasions agreed to take part in the study and all continued to receive standard intensive medical care. On their second night in the unit, half the volunteers also had a glass jar placed beside their bed (from 10pm until 6am) which contained 3 ml of a 100% pure, therapeutic-grade lavender oil (Eden’s Garden brand).
All patients had their blood pressure recorded regularly throughout the night and completed a validated sleep questionnaire the next morning.
The researchers found that blood pressure readings were significantly lower throughout the night in those who inhaled the lavender aromatherapy oil, than in the control group who were not exposed to lavender oil.
On average, mean arterial blood pressure was reduced by 3.5 mmHg between midnight and 4 am in those inhaling lavender oil, while in the control group mean arterial blood pressure increased by 3.4mmHg – an overall difference of 6.9 mmHg.
The usual rise in blood pressure that occurs just before waking was also blunted, so that when average blood pressure readings were assessed across the whole treatment period of 8 hours, readings were 6.3 mmHg lower in those who inhaled the lavender oil while asleep.
Sleep quality scores were also higher in those inhaling lavender oil (48.25 versus 40.10) although this difference was not statistically significant, and probably reflected the regular interruptions to monitor patients that occur within a high care hospital environment.
Inhaling lavender oil works via the limbic system in the brain, especially areas known as the amygdala and hippocampus, to suppress the overactivity associated with anxiety.
Lavender oil capsules improve sleep
Pharmaceutical grade lavender oil capsules are also available to take by mouth to relieve anxiety, but do not have the same sedative effect as when lavender oil is inhaled. Don’t, whatever you do, consume aromatherapy lavender oil (even therapeutic grade oils) as these are not designed for internal use. Some may contain synthetic ingredients, for example, and some may have traces of pesticides or other agricultural chemicals.
Lavender oil capsules (derived from Lavandula angustifolia Miller) are classed as a traditional herbal medicine in the UK, and are licensed for the relief of symptoms of mild anxiety such as stress and nervousness. At least 15 clinical trials, involving 2,200 people, show lavender oil capsules are as effective as prescribed anti-anxiety medication (eg lorazepam and paroxetine).
Brain scans show that oral lavender oil works via specific serotonin-1A receptors in the brain, and significant anti-anxiety effects are seen within two weeks.
A study involving 170 people with anxiety-related restlessness and disturbed sleep found that taking 80mg pharmaceutical grade lavender oil by mouth, once a day for 10 weeks, was significantly more effective than placebo in reducing anxiety. Around a third (31%) of those with moderate to severe anxiety achieved full remission from anxiety and sleeplessness.
As oral lavender oil does not have a soporific effect, you can take them in the morning to reduce anxiety throughout the day, and sleep better at night. Interestingly, taking oral lavender oil capsules does not seem to have a significant effect on blood pressure readings. If your blood pressure is raised by anxiety, however, I would expect it to have some beneficial effects on pulse rate and blood pressure readings.
If anxiety is persistent or excessive, always seek medical advice.
Click here to read my advice on How To Sleep Better Naturally.
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