The medicinal parts are the essential oil extracted from the fresh flowers and/or the inflorescences, the flowers collected just before opening and dried, the fresh flowers, and the dried flowers.
Flower and Fruit
The flowers are in false whorls of 6 to 10 blossoms forming interrupted terminal spikes. The pedicles are 10- to 15-cm long downy stems. The bracts are 5 mm long, ovate to broadly triangular, often brown and brown-violet or violet-tinged. The tubular calyx has 5 uneven tips, it is amethyst-colored and tomentose. After flowering it is closed by a lidlike appendage of its upper tip. The corolla is longer with a cylindrically fused base, the lips are flat, and the upper lip is larger with 2 lobes. The lower lip is trilobed with even tips. The stamens are enclosed in the tube. The ovary consists of 4 carpels and has a nectary below it. The fruit is a glossy brown nutlet.
Leaves, Stem, and Root
English Lavender is a 60-cm high subshrub and is heavily branched with leafy, erect, rodlike, gray-green, young branches. The leaves are sessile, oblong-lanceolate, entire-margined, involute, gray, later green with glandular spots beneath.
The flowers have a fresh aromatic fragrance.
The plant is indigenous to the Mediterranean region but is common in most of southern Europe and is cultivated extensively.
English Lavender flower consists of the dried flower of Lavandula angustifolia, gathered shortly before fully unfolding, as well as its preparations. Flowering shoots are harvested when the middle section of the spike is flowering; it is cut 10 cm beneath the insertion of the spike. The most valuable part is the receptacle.
Not to be Confused With
Other varieties of lavender such as Lavendula intermedia (Lavendin) and Lavendula latifolia. The varieties are often mixed commercially. When the drug material has a high proportion of stem and leaf material, it is considered less valuable.
French Lavender, Garden Lavender, Lavender
Actions & Pharmacology
Volatile oil (1-3%): chief components (-)-linalool (making up 20-50%) and linalyl acetate (30-40%), furthermore, including among others, cis-ocimene, terpinene-4-ol, beta-caryophyllene, lavandulyl acetate
Hydroxycoumarins: including among others, umbelliferone, herniarin
Caffeic acid derivatives: including among others, rosmaric acid
The primary active constituents appear to be monoterpenes, especially (30% to 60%) linalool and linalyl acetate (Schulz et al, 1998; Duke, 1985. Choleretic and cholagogic effects have been described. In addition, an antimicrobial effect has been demonstrated in vitro, and therefore external use on poorly healing wounds is plausible. In animal experiments a neurodepressive effect was demonstrated (shortening of the falling-asleep period and lengthening of sleep duration) and a reduction of motor activity. Lavender oil inhibits immediate-type allergic reactions by inhibition of mast cell degranulation. The antineoplastic effect of perillyl alcohol is inhibition of isoprenylation of small (21 to 26 kilodaltons) G proteins. Lavender oil is a carminative, thus aiding in reduction of flatulence, colic, and stomach distress (Kim & Cho, 1999; Phillips et al, 1995; Duke, 1985). In humans, after inhalation of the drug, an effect on the limbic cortex (similar to nitrazepam) was demonstrated.
Lavender is one of the most widely used essential oils in aromatherapy. It has a soothing and calming effect and is used therapeutically in a number of disease states. It is used internally and as a bath to ease tension and anxiety. It is also used topically and internally for skin conditions such as acne, rosacea and eczema to help calm the skin and reduce redness and irritation. Lavender has antibacterial qualities that contribute to its effectiveness in treating acne as well as minor cuts and scrapes. Lavender oil can be applied to burns and insect stings. The astringency helps to reduce pain and inflammation. A tea can be taken for headaches or diluted lavender oil can be used to massage the temples or body to ease tension in the muscles. Lavender has also been used for mild depression.
Animal and in vitro studies suggest lavender oil inhibits immediate-type allergic reactions by inhibition of mast cell degranulation (Kim & Cho, 1999). Lavender oil, in concentrations of 1% or more, showed anti-inflammatory action in mouse inflammation models.
D-limonene and perillyl alcohol (minor components of lavender oil) mildly reduce cholesterol by suppressing hepatic 3-hydroxy-3- methylglutaryl-coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase activity. This enzyme is involved in a rate-limiting step of cholesterol synthesis (Elson & Yu, 1994). Perillyl alcohol also inhibited ubiquinone synthesis and blocked conversion of lathosterol to cholesterol (Ren & Gould, 1994).
Various components of lavender oil have shown antibacterial, antifungal, and mitocidal activities. Lavender oil has shown promise against methicillin-resistant Staphlococcus aureus and vancomycin-resistant strains of Enterococcus faecium (Fetrow & Avila, 1999). Lavender oil has been shown to have in vitro antifungal activity against the human pathogens Malassezia furfur, Trichophyton rubrum, and Trichosporon beigelii (Yamada et al, 1994). Oils of lavender and linalool have been shown to have acaricidal activity against the mite Psoroptes cuniculi in vitro. The activity existed both when the oil came in contact with the parasite and when exposed to volatized oil (not direct contact) (Perrucci et al, 1996; Perrucci et al, 1994). In addition, lavender oil has also been shown to be mitocidal at 0.9% to 0.1% against the carmine spider mite Tetranychus cinnabarinus (Mansour et al, 1986).
The active antineoplastic agents in lavender oil are thought to be attributed to monoterpenes such as d-limonene and perillyl alcohol (Fetrow & Avila, 1999). Perillyl alcohol is hydrogenated d-limonene; limonene has antitumor activity against rodent mammary, liver, lung, pancreatic, stomach, prostate, and skin (Jirtle et al, 1993; Stayrook et al, 1997).
Central Nervous System Effects
Lavender oil is a sedative and hypnotic for humans and animals. Subjects exposed to lavender aromatherapy show EEG changes consistent with drowsiness (Diego et al, 1998). Anticonvulsant activity has been noticed in both mice and rats after induced seizures (Schulz et al, 1998; Atanassova-Shopova & Roussinow, 1970). The oil is a sedative, producing mild drowsiness to coma and convulsions, depending on the amount used (Schulz et al, 1998; Buchbauer et al, 1993).
Lavender oil is a carminative, thus aiding in reduction of flatulence, colic, stomach distress, and tonic (Duke, 1985). Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea were dose limiting in cancer patients taking up to 0.5 to 12 g/m2/d of d-limonene (Vigushin et al, 1998).
A controlled, prospective trial was performed to evaluate the use of aromatherapy to reduce anxiety in 118 patients prior to a scheduled colonoscopy or esophagogastroduodenoscopy. The control group was given an inert oil (placebo) for inhalation, and the experimental group received the essential oil, Lavender, for inhalation. There was no significant difference in anxiety levels between pre- and post-placebo inhalation in either group (Muzzarelli et al, 2006).
Eight sessions of acupressure enhanced with the use of aromatic essential oil of Lavender effectively resolved short-term, sub-acute and nonspecific neck pain (defined as pain on most days in the 2 weeks previous) in this randomized, controlled clinical trial done at a Hong Kong clinic and community center. Eight sessions of manual acupressure with Lavender oil (3% in olive oil base) used as the lubricant were performed over a 3-week period. One month after treatment had ended, the 14 participants randomized to acupressure with Lavender had 23% reduced pain intensity (p=0.02), 23% reduced neck stiffness (p=0.001), improved lateral neck flexion (p=0.02), and improved neck extension (p=0.001) when compared with the 18 participants in the control group. The regimen (acupressure plus Lavender) has value, the authors conclude, as a complement to conventional medical treatments for sub-acute neck pain (Yip, 2006).
Anecdotal evidence suggests that, unlike conventional insomnia treatments, Lavender oil is not only effective but free of side effects when used for mild insomnia. Ten individuals with insomnia [verified by a score of 5 or more on the the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI)] took part in a single-blinded, 4-week crossover pilot trial in which half of the individuals were randomized to take Lavender, and half to placebo (sweet almond oil), and then assignments were switched. The Lavender improved the PSQI score by -2.5 points (p=0.07). More notable improvements were seen in females and younger participants, but belief in the power of complementary and alternative medicine therapies did not predict outcome. Milder insomnia also improved more than other intensity levels. Larger trials are needed to draw statistically significant conclusions regarding the positive outcomes for Lavender in this trial (Lewith, 2005).
In a double-blind, randomized, crossover trial, 12 patients receiving lavender extract had increased tiredness after administration. Quantitative EEG analysis and self assessment (tiredness rated on a visual analog scale) were used to determine the sedative effect of oral (1200 mg extract capsule) Lavandula angustifolia extract versus a negative, placebo control and a positive, diazepam 10 mg control. A 5 minute EEG (leads Fz-Cz and Oz-T6) was recorded before, and 2 and 3 hours after administration of the products. (Schulz et al, 1998).
Treatment with perillyl alcohol resulted in disease stabilization for 6 months or more, but no objective tumor change findings were observed. These patients were treatment failures from chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, or biologic response modifiers. The types of cancers in these patients were prostate, ovarian, sarcoma, renal cell, hepatocellular, chronic myelogenous leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and an unknown primary adenocarcinoma (Ripple et al, 1998). Similar stabilization results were seen in a Phase 1 clinical trial of mixed solid tumors (Vigushin et al, 1998).
A significant (p<0.05) difference in anxiety reduction was reported in 36 patients admitted to an intensive care unit who were treated with 1% lavender oil aromatherapy. While anxiety was significantly, but briefly, reduced, mood and coping variables were not significantly changed. The lavender oil was administered via ether inhalation or by application to the skin after determining that none of the patients were allergic to the oil. There were no significant changes in any physiologic values measured (Dunn et al, 1995).
Indications & Usage
Approved by Commission E:
- Loss of appetite
- Nervousness and insomnia
- Circulatory disorders
- Dyspeptic complaints
Internally, English Lavender is used for mood disturbances such as restlessness or insomnia, functional abdominal complaints (nervous stomach irritations, Roehmheld syndrome, meteorism, nervous intestinal discomfort).
Externally, English Lavender is used for treatment of functional circulatory disorders.
In folk medicine, English Lavender is used for migraine, cramps, and bronchial asthma. Externally, it is used for rheumatic conditions (the drug as an extract in liniments), as a sedative in cases of tension, exhaustion; also for poorly healing wounds (lavender baths) and for sleep as aromatherapy (herb pillow).
English Lavender is contraindicated during pregnancy and lactation (internal use) (Fetrow & Avila, 1999).
Precautions & Adverse Reactions
Possible adverse effects of English Lavender include drowsiness, gastrointestinal disturbance, and skin irritation. A weak estrogenic and antiandrogenic effect resulting in prepubertal gynecomastia in boys was linked to the use of Lavender, along with tea tree oil, in a 2007 New England Journal of Medicine report (Henley, 2007). The volatile oil possesses a weak potential for sensitization. To prevent toxicity, no more than 2 drops of lavender oil should be taken internally (Fetrow & Avila, 1999). Dermatitis, irritation, and phototoxicity may occur after external application of lavender, and possibly limit the concentration of lavender oil that can be applied to the skin.
No human interaction data available.
CNS depression, constipation, respiratory depression, headache, meiosis, vomiting, and convulsions may occur in overdose
Mode of Administration
The whole drug is used for infusions, as an extract and as a bath additive. Combinations with other sedative and/or carminative herbs may be beneficial.
An infusion is prepared by adding 5 to 10 mL of drug per cup of hot water (150 mL), draw for 10 minutes, and strain. For external use as bath additive, 100 g of drug is scalded or boiled with 2 liters of water and added to the bath.
A tea prepared as indicated above can be administered 1 cup three times daily.