Did You Know…Lavender Can Decrease Anxiety as Much as Dangerous Prescription Drugs?
Common knowledge (and scientific investigation) tells us that the smell of lavender oil, distilled from lavender flowers, has calming properties. Simply smelling lavender oil can decrease anxiety as measured by the Hamilton rating scale, a psychological questionnaire used by doctors to gauge the severity of a person’s anxiety.
But what happens if you take lavender oil in capsule form? You may be surprised at the rather astonishing answer!
The Nose Knows
Until quite recently, research on lavender’s soothing effects concentrated on its smell. This research did demonstrate that lavender has a calming effect, but it’s not easy to conduct double-blind studies with odors. That limitation made it difficult to draw firm conclusions about lavender as a treatment for anxiety.
Then some enterprising researchers decided to try administering lavender orally. When they gave patients capsules of lavender-infused oil, the results were truly remarkable. In a double-blind study comparing lavender oil to the popular anti-anxiety drug Ativan (lorazepam), lavender reduced anxiety more effectively than the drug!
The most commonly prescribed treatments for anxiety in the mainstream medical world are Ativan and other benzodiazepines or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Benzodiazepines, sometimes called “benzos” for short, may alleviate anxiety but often leave users feeling hung over. Well-known side effects of benzodiazepines include… Drowsiness
SSRIs do not have the same addictive potential, but do come with their own long list of unpleasant side effects. The negative outcomes associated with these two popular treatment options may be why anxiety is considered an undertreated condition.
A Gentle and More Effective Option
When researchers compared lavender oil and Ativan, they found that lavender worked better. Lead authors Woelk and Schlaefke conducted a multicenter, double-blind randomized study comparing lavender oil capsules and Ativan. At the end of the six-week trial, both groups experienced similar drops in anxiety levels as measure by the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A), but the group taking lavender actually experienced a slightly more substantial decrease.
During the trial, additional tools were used to measure anxiety levels, such as…
- The HAM-A “somatic anxiety” subscore
- The HAM-A “psychic anxiety” subscore
- The Self-rating Anxiety Scale (SAS)
- The Penn State Worry Questionnaire (PSWQ-PW)
- The SF 36 Health Survey Questionnaire
- The Clinical Global Impressions of Severity of Disorder (CGI)
Participants also kept sleep diaries. All in all, the measures indicated the lavender had just as impactful a positive effect on anxiety as Ativan.
Unlike Ativan, other benzodiazepines, and SSRIs, lavender oils have no potential for drug abuse, and cause no “hangovers” or other undesirable effects. So far scientists have given it a green light as an anxiety treatment.