Baths, Lavender Oil Improves Well-Being
People who take daily baths with lavender oil (Lavendula angustifolium) may experience improved mood, reduced aggression, and a more positive outlook, according to a study in Complementary Therapies In Medicine (2002;10:223–8). While lavender has traditionally been used by herbalists to promote relaxation, this is one of the first studies to demonstrate its health benefits.
The study comprised two separate experiments. In the first, 40 adult women were randomly assigned to take daily baths, adding 3 ml of either 100% grapeseed oil or 80% grapeseed oil and 20% lavender oil for 14 days. Participants were asked to soak in the bath for 10 minutes. Questionnaires that evaluated mood were administered immediately following the first and last bath. The second experiment had a similar design except participants answered questionnaires regarding their outlook on possible future good and bad events and scores were based on positive or negative responses.
Results from the first part of the study showed that bathing, with or without lavender oil, produced significant improvements in mood, while decreasing tense feelings, suggesting bathing alone had mood-enhancing effects. However, those taking baths with lavender oil had a significant reduction in aggressive feelings, compared with those whose baths did not contain lavender oil.
The second part of the study showed that negative thoughts about future events were significantly lower after taking baths with lavender oil, suggesting it may help reduce pessimism in some individuals. Results from the current study were based on participants who were generally healthy to begin with, so it is unknown whether lavender oil baths would produce similar results in those suffering from conditions such as bipolar disorder or depression. In addition, since the study was only for two weeks, the long-term risks and benefits of lavender oil baths are unknown. Some essential oils will produce a topical allergic response if used continuously for an extended period of time, although this has not been specifically reported for lavender.
Preliminary studies suggest inhaling lavender oil may also be useful in treating insomnia and other conditions of the nervous system, while drinking lavender tea may be effective in treating indigestion and heartburn. Although lavender oil is generally considered safe when used topically, ingesting concentrated lavender oil (the essential oil) can cause irritation to the stomach and intestines and should only be taken internally under the supervision of a physician. However, drinking lavender tea or inhaling the oil does not appear to cause any known toxic side effects.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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