Lavender essential oil has long been known for its calming and relaxing benefits. But in some exceptional cases, lavender oil actually proved to be energizing.
In a 2004 study1 in the Journal of Palliative Medicine, terminally ill cancer patients received a combination of aromatherapy, a lavender essential oil foot soak, and a reflexology treatment with jojoba oil containing lavender. Evaluation of the Cancer Fatigue Scale (CFS) showed fatigue was alleviated.
Knowing that lavender is calming and sedating to most people while energizing to terminally ill cancer patients invokes the term “adaptogen.” This means that lavender seems to have an inherent sense of what is needed and then provides it.
An April 2012 study2 by researchers in Thailand analyzed the effects of lavender oil on the central nervous system, the autonomic nervous system, and mood responses in humans after inhalation. Twenty healthy volunteers participated in the study with sweet almond oil as the control. Autonomic nervous system functions (those that operate involuntarily or below the level of consciousness) such as blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and skin temperature were assessed.
Additionally, study subjects were questioned on their mood responses: feeling pleasant or unpleasant, uncomfortable, their feelings of sensuality, and relaxation in order to assess behavioral arousal. Also, an electroencephalogram (EEG) was recorded from 31 electrodes on the scalp. The data was analyzed comparing the effects of lavender oil on physiological and mood states with sweet almond oil.
In what could not have been a surprise to anyone, the results showed that lavender oil caused significant decreases in blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature, which indicated a decrease of autonomic arousal. With regard to mood states, the lavender oil group categorized themselves as more active, fresher, and relaxed than subjects inhaling the control oil. Compared to the control oil, lavender essential oil increased the power of theta and alpha brain activities.
In another 2012 study, recognizing the number of studies of lavender’s calming, antiseptic, and sleep-assisting benefits, Taiwanese scientists from Yuanpei University3 decided to analyze lavender’s response to lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced inflammation in human monocyte THP-1 cells.
Using just a 0.1 percent solution of lavender essential oil (LEO), the researchers discovered that lavender oil significantly increased cell viability and inhibited the IL-1β and superoxide anion generation of LPS-stimulated THP-1 cells. The highly technical study abstract also noted that lavender essential oil down-regulated both LPS-induced protein levels of phospho-NF-kB and membrane toll-like receptor 4.
For the nonscientists among us, superoxide, says Wikipedia, “is biologically quite toxic and is deployed by the immune system to kill invading microorganisms.”4 Nuclear factor kappa beta (NF-kB) “controls many genes involved in inflammation” so “it is not surprising that NF-kN is found to be chronically active in many inflammatory diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, sepsis, gastritis, asthma, atherosclerosis, and others.”5
- Kohara H, et al. Combined modality treatment of aromatherapy, footsoak, and reflexology relieves fatigue in patients with cancer, J Palliat Med. 2004 Dec;7(6):791-6.
- Sayorwan W, et al. The effects of lavender essential oil inhalation on emotional states, autonomic nervous system, and brain electrical activity, J Med Assoc Thai. 2012 Apr;95(4):598-606.
- Huang MY, et al. Effect of lavender essential oil on LPS-stimulated inflammation, Am J Chin Med. 2012;40(4):845-59.