If you’re looking to calm both the body and the mind (and let’s face it—we could all benefit from a little R&R), look no further than the classic essential oil: lavender oil. While the pretty purple plant itself is a sight to see, its versatile essential oil is where the healing powers are at. From your head to your toes, lavender oil can help you de-stress, decompress, and develop your healthiest routines yet.
What exactly is lavender oil?
Lavender oil, also known by its scientific name Lavandula angustifolia, is a type of essential oil derived from—you guessed it—the lavender flower. Although it’s now grown globally, lavender is native to the Mediterranean, the Arabian Peninsula, and Russia.
The oil is extracted by a steam distillation process, in which the flowers are steamed, the steam is captured, and the oil is separated and collected from the water. You can usually find lavender oil at health food stores, or even drugstores, located near the other essential oils.
Essential oils and aromatherapy have gained quite the reputation for being a go-to in holistic health. Essential oils are the liquid extracts of plants, which can be used to help with everything from stress to sleep, hormone health to home cleaning, and beyond. But each essential oil is unique and offers its own specific benefits. Here’s what you need to know about how one of the most popular essential oils, lavender oil, can promote well-being:
1. It helps you catch some serious zzz’s.
Any way you spin it, the foundation of a healthy lifestyle starts and ends with sleep. If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, research suggests that lavender oil may be your saving grace: One study found that several whiffs of lavender oil before bed increased the percentage of deep sleep time in healthy men and women. It even has beneficial effects for those who suffer from insomnia—a study found that inhaling lavender oil twice a week for 20 minutes at a time soothed the nervous system and improved sleep quality scores for women with insomnia when compared to a lavender-oil-free control group.
2. It helps manage stress.
The soothing powers of lavender oil don’t stop there. In one study, researchers found that lavender oil could go toe-to-toe against a prescription medication for general anxiety. For six weeks, one group of participants took the anxiety-reducing medication Lorazepam while another group took an oral dosage of lavender oil. At the end of the trial period, both groups reported an almost identical decrease in anxiety—45% and 46%, respectively. When it came to more extreme conditions, the oil still proved effective: A 2017 study found lavender aromatherapy even calmed anxiety levels in preoperative patients.
3. It soothes angry skin and can help with bug bites.
Just as lavender oil can soothe the mind, it can also do wonders for calming the body. In particular, not-so-fun skin flare-ups like eczema and psoriasis have responded well to the anti-inflammatory properties of lavender oil. A review of the most popular essential oils and their functions in dermatology cited lavender oil’s ability to calm irritated skin when used topically. What’s more, the oil’s de-stressing qualities come in handy for psoriasis, in which flare-ups are often triggered by anxiety.
It can even be used as a natural alternative for healing pesky bug bites—when mixed with a little baking soda and applied to the bites, you’ll hardly even notice they’re there.