6 Soothing Benefits of Lavender (Beyond Its Lovely Scent)

Read the science behind lavender’s incredible healing powers.

Since ancient times, cultures around the world have used lavender as a wellness aid. The ancient Greeks, in particular, turned to lavender as a tool to alleviate insomnia and back pain. Today, people continue to embrace lavender for its many purported wellness benefits. It's said to help with anxiety, stress, sleep, and overall relaxation. But how exactly does lavender work?

To answer the question, we've gathered the help of physicians and research to provide science-backed reasons as to why everyone finds lavender so incredibly soothing. Here's how lavender affects the brain and body and why we can't get enough of this beautiful flower (and its wonderful smell).

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Lavender can increase deep sleep when inhaled.

It's no secret that lavender is used far and wide to promote good sleep. Before the widespread availability of lavender essential oils and lavender-scented products, like eye masks and heating pads, people would dry lavender flowers and place them in a bag under their pillow.

Now, recent studies are pointing to lavender's ability to actually boost deep sleep when inhaled. That's because the lavender aroma increases delta waves in slow-wave sleep, which is the stage of sleep where you sleep the most deeply. It also reduces alpha waves in wake-stage sleep, which decreases the amount of restless sleep a person might experience.

02 of 06

Lavender has antibacterial and antifungal effects.

Lavender is known for its attractive, calming scent, but did you know lavender also has antibacterial and antifungal properties? Studies are looking into how lavender essential oil compares to common antifungal medications on the market. Early data is showing that lavender may be more effective, making it a potential antifungal agent. It's also been found to be effective against many different species of bacteria, including staph infections.

So what makes it so soothing? Neither fungal or bacterial infections are pleasant to experience, and lavender may have more power than we previously knew to alleviate some symptoms of both. It also has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, according to neurologist and neurosurgeon Hafiz Abdul Majid, MBBS, MCPS, FCPS, who adds that "these properties boost the healing process."

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Lavender can actually protect your brain.

Growing evidence points to lavender potentially treating or alleviating neurological disorders. Preliminary research studying lavender's impact on the nervous system suggested that lavender had neuroprotective properties, or properties that can protect your nervous system.

To get more specific, preventative health specialist, Sandra El Hajj, PhD, says, "Lavender is deemed to be one of the best treatments for neurological disorders due to its content of linalool, linalyl acetate, 1,8-cineole B-ocimene, terpinen-4-ol and camphor." Put more simply, lavender may be able to reverse the progression of some neurological diseases, though further studies are needed to understand the phenomenon better.

RELATED: 5 Ways to Train Your Brain for Lifelong Mental Fitness

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Lavender has the potential to reduce pain.

Lavender is often hailed for its ability to reduce pain, whether acute (temporary) or chronic (long-term). A study that looked at 100 ICU patients found that after massaging lavender essential oil into the feet of the patients, there were significantly noticeable changes. These included lowered blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, wakefulness, and pain itself.

When a person is in pain, both blood pressure and heart rate can go up, showing lavender may work as an all-natural pain reliever. Other studies show that lavender might work as a topical analgesic, or painkiller, when rubbed into an area of the body experiencing pain.

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Lavender can help alleviate digestive problems.

You may have seen different lavender teas in grocery stores. While most purport calming or sleep benefits, others are designed to aid with digestion. Lavender is said to help with different digestive issues like vomiting, nausea, intestinal gas, upset stomach, and abdominal swelling.

One study that used aromatherapy as a treatment for postoperative nausea and vomiting found that nausea scores improved in 82.6 percent of patients who inhaled lavender essential oil. It was found to be superior to ginger essential oil, a common nausea relief aid, which only improved nausea scores in 65.2 percent of patients.

RELATED: 7 Natural Remedies for Soothing an Upset Stomach

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Lavender may reduce stress and anxiety.

Arguably the holy grail of lavender benefits is its proven merit to reduce stress and anxiety. "Lavender smell increases brain activities," Dr. Majid explains. "The smell affects mood, productivity and mental illness by providing a calm sensation to the brain."

Research shows that lavender can improve symptoms of anxiety like restlessness, disturbed sleep and even physical symptoms that anxiety can sometimes cause. Lavender was also shown to have a positive influence on general well-being and quality of life. This is because lavender has anxiolytic properties, or anxiety-relieving properties, that are comparable to that of common anxiety medications.

Aside from the six reasons listed above, the possible benefits of lavender range far and wide. It's said to potentially help with skin problems, asthma and even hair loss as well. To decide if lavender products or lavender essential oil might be right for you, it's best to test a small amount on your skin (or try a product for a few minutes) to rule out any possible allergic reactions or other adverse responses.

And the most important thing to note: Lavender shouldn't be used to treat health conditions without consulting your doctor first.

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