Does Lavender Work?

Lavender products are claimed to be beneficial for numerous conditions, but does lavender work? One study showed that adding lavender to an antidepressant may improve the effectiveness of the medication, while another study suggested that combining lavender with certain other essential oils may improve hair growth in people with alopecia areata. However, these studies also show that using lavender alone did not appear to help with these conditions.

Does Lavender Work?

When taken orally (by mouth), lavender is claimed to work for the following conditions:
  • Acne
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Gas
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Menstrual problems
  • Migraines
  • Nerve pain
  • Restlessness
  • Toothaches
  • Sprains
  • Upset stomach, nausea, or vomiting.
When inhaled (as aromatherapy), lavender is said to be beneficial for the following conditions:
When applied to the skin, lavender is claimed to be beneficial for the following conditions:
  • A specific type of hair loss known as alopecia areata
  • Circulation problems
  • Pain.
Lavender is also said to work as an insect repellent and to promote overall psychological well-being when applied to the skin.

Lavender and Scientific Evidence

One small study has suggested that lavender oil (in combination with thyme, rosemary, and cedarwood essential oils) applied to the skin may significantly improve hair growth in people with alopecia areata. However, there is no evidence that using lavender alone can help with hair growth.
One study compared lavender (taken orally) to imipramine (an antidepressant) for depression treatment. This study showed that lavender was significantly less effective than imipramine. However, adding lavender to imipramine seemed to improve the effectiveness of imipramine.
Studies suggest that adding lavender to bathwater may slightly improve mood, but that lavender aromatherapy probably does not help with agitation related to dementia.
There is no reliable scientific evidence (such as clinical studies) to suggest that lavender works for other uses. This does not mean that lavender does not work; it simply means that there is currently not any real proof that it does. Some people (including most healthcare providers) feel that it is appropriate to take only medications and supplements that have been scientifically demonstrated to be beneficial and safe; other people, however, are comfortable experimenting with unproven treatments. Whether or not you decide to take lavender will largely depend on your willingness to try an unproven treatment that has not been shown to work.
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