Lavender for Hypertension and Anxiety
People usually associate lavender with two specific traits: its fragrance and its color. But you may not know that the lavender flower and the oil derived from it have long histories in herbal medicine.
The word lavender comes from the Latin root “lavare,” which literally means “to wash.” The earliest recorded use of lavender dates back to ancient Egypt. There, lavender oil played a role in the mummification process.
During later times, lavender became a bath additive in several regions, including ancient Persia, Greece, and Rome. These cultures believed that lavender helped purify the body and mind.
Investigators at Kagoshima University in Japan studied the effect of linalool, a sweet-smelling alcohol that is present in essential oils of lavender and other scented plants.
They showed that exposure to linalool vapour affects the brain through smell and not by being absorbed into the bloodstream via the lungs.
Another key finding was that unlike anxiolytic, or anti-anxiety, drugs (such as benzodiazepines), linalool works without impairing movement.
The researchers suggest that their study paves the way for further investigations into how to use linalool’s calming properties in humans, citing a need for “safer alternatives” to benzodiazepines and other anti-anxiety medications.
One application that they foresee is to help people about to undergo surgery to relax before receiving general anaesthesia.
A paper on the study now features in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.
Anxiety and linalool
Anxiety can range from short-lived worry or fear about a problem, decision, or stressful situation such as doing an exam, to a lasting, or chronic, condition that does not go away. When anxiety is chronic, the symptoms can progressively worsen and disrupt daily life, work, relationships, and school.
There are several forms of the condition, which are collectively termed anxiety disorders. These include panic disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, and phobia-related conditions.
Olfactory route to the brain
The prevailing assumption was that inhaling linalool led to it being absorbed through the lungs into the bloodstream. From the bloodstream, it could then reach signal-sensing proteins called gamma-aminobutyric acid type A (GABAA) receptors in nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain. Benzodiazepines also target these receptors.
Lavender’s effects on depression aren’t as well documented as those on anxiety, but research is promising. A small 2016 study on postpartum women found that lavender aromatherapy prevented stress, anxiety, and depression after childbirth.
Another small 2015 study looked at people with kidney disease. The researchers found that those who inhaled a lavender scent for 1 hour during hemodialysis had lower scores of depression and stress than those who did not.
Insomnia is a nagging problem that keeps you tossing and turning throughout the night. Cutting out caffeine and getting more exercise might help induce sleep. But sometimes these efforts and others remedies don’t work. As a result, you end up a groggy mess in the daytime.
If you’re willing to try anything for a restful night’s sleep, a study published in March 2017 in the British Association of Critical Nurses found lavender essential oil to be an effective remedy in improving the sleep quality of intensive care unit (ICU) patients who had difficulty sleeping.
So if you’ve tried other sleep remedies to no avail, place a few drops of lavender essential oil on your pillow before going to sleep tonight.
What Are Some of the Different Forms of Lavender?
Lavender is available in different forms. For example:
Lavender Oil Nectar extracted from the flowering plant is used to create a fragrant oil. The oil can be massaged into the skin, placed in a diffuser, or applied to a pillow or cotton swab and inhaled for aromatherapy.
Lavender Plant This is a sweetly scented perennial plant. It adds colour to a garden and gives off a sweet aroma.
Lavender Capsules or Supplements You can also purchase lavender as a supplement in capsule form. Take as directed for medicinal benefits — just be sure to work with your healthcare provider to ensure the supplement won’t have negative interactions with any medication you’re taking. Also, know that supplements aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Lavender Tea This form of lavender can offer a calming beverage that helps ease anxiety and promotes sleep. You can purchase lavender tea, or make your own by steeping fresh lavender buds in boiling water for about 15 to 20 minutes.
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