Latin Names – Lavandula angustifolia
The herb lavender is a perennial with a light purple flower that has a distinctive aroma. Native to the Mediterranean region, where it grows in profusion in the south of France, the herb is now cultivated in similar climates around the world. Lavender’s use as a bath additive originated in Persia, Greece, and Rome. The herb’s name comes from the Latin lavare, which means "to wash."
Lavender is commonly used in aromatherapy, a therapy in which the scent of essential oils from flowers, herbs, and trees is used to promote health and well-being. The essential oil of lavender is sometime diluted with another oil and applied to the skin. Dried lavender flowers can be used to make teas or liquid extracts.
Historically, lavender was used as an antiseptic. This herb was also used as an herbal remedy to improve mental health.
Today, lavender is used as an herbal remedy in the hope of improving such problems as anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, headache, upset stomach, and hair loss.
Research indicates there is little scientific evidence of lavender’s effectiveness for most health uses. Small studies on lavender for anxiety show mixed results.
Some preliminary results indicate that lavender oil, combined with oils from other herbs, may help with hair loss from a condition called alopecia areata.
Side Effects and Cautions
- Lavender oil may be poisonous if taken by mouth.
- Applying lavender oil to the skin can cause irritation.
- Lavender and Tea Tree Oils May Cause Breast Growth in Boys
- When lavender teas and extracts are taken by mouth, they may cause headache, changes in appetite, and constipation.
- Using lavender with sedative medications may increase drowsiness.
- Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health to help ensure coordinated and safe care. Complementary or alternative therapy should not be used in place of conventional medical care or to delay seeking that care.
- Lavender. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Accessed on December 28, 2006.
- Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia Miller). Natural Standard Database Web site. Accessed on December 28, 2006.
- Lavender flower. In: Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckman J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000:226–229.
For More Information
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) Clearinghouse
The NCCAM Clearinghouse provides information on CAM and NCCAM, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.
NIH Office of Dietary Supplements
Web site: ods.od.nih.gov
NIH National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus
Lavender Listing: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-lavender.html
Source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Lavender fact sheet, Created March 2007, Updated March 2008