If you like the smell of lavender and it calms you, it’s not your imagination. Different studies have discovered that this plant has a relaxing action that allows to treat stress, anxiety and even insomnia.
Lavender for insomnia
One of the first investigations on the effects of lavender was carried out at the University of Southampton. In this pilot study involving only 10 people who had difficulty sleeping, it was found that the aroma of lavender improved the symptoms of insomnia and increased the quality of sleep.
A larger study, carried out for 12 weeks at the Medical University of Taipei, showed that the inhalation of lavender helps to sleep, favoring the activation of the parasympathetic system, which is precisely what generates a feeling of tranquility and relaxation.
Lavender for anxiety
For several years researchers have also been evaluating the use of lavender for anxiety. A study developed in Germany revealed that the 6-week intake of lavender oil through tablets is as effective as lorazepam in relieving anxiety disorders.
Other researchers at the University of Central Lancashire asked a group of people to watch a movie that generated anxiety. Half of them took one capsule of lavender oil and the other half a placebo. This time the researchers controlled from the mood reported by people to their heart rate, galvanic response of the skin and variation of heart rate, the physiological indicators of anxiety. They found that in women, lavender effectively reduced the emotional and physical signs of anxiety.
Linalool, a compound of lavender, acts at the brain level
Researchers from the University of Kagoshima, in Japan, discovered that the key lies in linalool, a chemical compound found in lavender that is what generates the sensation of relaxation that we experience when we smell it.
These neuroscientists found that in mice, the smell of linalool had the same effect as Valium. This smell affects the same parts of the brain as the medicine for anxiety, but doesn’t have all the side effects that accompany it. Interestingly, if linalool is injected directly into the bloodstream, its effects are different, more similar to those produced by alcohol consumption.
Similar studies have proven the effect of lavender at the brain level in people. It has been appreciated that it not only activates the olfactory zones of the brain but also those related to emotions, while mitigating the activity of the prefrontal cortex. In fact, lavender generates an increase in alpha wave activities, indicating a state of relaxation. It has also been seen that lavender aromatherapy produces EEG patterns characteristic of people who are comfortable.
How to use lavender for anxiety and insomnia?
Lavender can be used in different ways to relieve stress, anxiety and insomnia:
– Prepare an infusion of lavender by adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of dried whole flowers to a cup of boiling water, and leave them for about 10 minutes.
– Add the lavender extract or essential oil to the bath water, to take a relaxing bath before going to bed. It’s important you make sure it is pure lavender essential oil because if it is mixed with other oils it will lose power.
– Turn on a lavender diffuser before going to bed, so you can sleep with this smell.
However, it’s important to bear in mind that lavender also creates a tolerance process, which means that if you continually expose yourself to its smell or consume it daily, you will need increasing doses to obtain the same effect. That is why it is convenient to resort to this natural remedy only when you really need it.
Obviously, it’s not recommended to substitute the medication for anxiety with lavender, it is always advisable to consult the psychiatrist before any change. If you use anxiolytics, you should even tell him that you want to use lavender since he may lower the dose.
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