Lavender

Our rating
 Question mark: This treatment has not been properly researched. It is not possible to say whether they are useful or not.

What is it?

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a flowering shrub known for its fragrant purple flowers. There are many different types of lavender which are grown all over the world. Lavender had traditionally been used as a herbal remedy to improve sleep, reduce anxiety, and relieve headaches.

Lavender is also commonly used in aromatherapy.

How does it work?

It is not clear how lavender might work to help depression. Some studies suggest that lavender can interact with chemical receptors in the brain. These chemical receptors interact with neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which are thought to be involved in depression. 

Is it effective?

There have been some scientific studies on the use of lavender to treat depression. One study found that lavender was not as effective as an antidepressant medication, but it was helpful at reducing depression symptoms when taken alongside antidepressant medication. Another study found that adding lavender infusions to standard antidepressant medication led to better outcomes than taking antidepressant medication by itself, however the quality of this study was poor.

More studies of better quality are needed to better understand if lavender could be helpful in treating depression.

Are there any disadvantages?

Like all herbal supplements, lavender could cause side effects or have negative interactions with prescribed medications or other supplements. If you are thinking of using lavender, ask your doctor or pharmacist it if might interfere with other medications or supplements you are taking.

Lavender oil should always be diluted in a carrier oil before applying to the skin. Lavender oil can cause an allergic reaction and rashes in some people. Lavender oil should not be swallowed and can be toxic if ingested.

Where do you get it?

Lavender is available in many forms. Lavender supplements may be found in some health food shops and supplement stores. Dried lavender flowers can be purchased online or from natural health shops and used to make tea.

Lavender essential oil is available from natural health shops, and lavender oil is commonly added to aromatherapy products, massage oils, and other fragrances.

Recommendation

There is not enough good evidence at this stage to recommend lavender as a treatment for depression.

Key references

  • Akhondzadeh S, Kashani L, Fotouhi A, Jarvandi S, Mobaseri M, Moin M, et al. Comparison of Lavandula angustifolia Mill. tincture and imipramine in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized trial. Progress in Neuro-psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry. 2003; 27(1): 123-7.
  • López V, Nielsen B, Solas M, Ramírez MJ, Jäger AK. Exploring Pharmacological Mechanisms of Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) Essential Oil on Central Nervous System Targets. Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2017; 8 (280).

Last updated and reviewed: 1 November 2019