Dried lavender herb and essential aromatherapy oil

Lavender aromatherapy, massage with lavender essential oil and the oral administration of a standardized lavender product all resulted in significant reductions in anxiety, according to a recent review and meta-analysis.

However, this review also revealed the need for higher quality research on lavender for anxiety.

Study Design

The review, “Effects of lavender on anxiety: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” involved 102 randomized controlled trials and 25 non-randomized studies with more than 13,000 subjects total. These studies all investigated the effects of lavender on anxiety.

In order to be part of the review, each study had to include an assessment of anxiety using at least one validated anxiety scale, such as the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, a visual analog scale or the Profile of Mood States, among others. In addition, the research had to employ lavender essential oil, lavender extracts or other types of lavender-derived products.

The researchers report three main interventions were used in the reviewed studies: oral administration of a standardized lavender product, massage with lavender essential oil and aromatherapy via lavender inhalation. As for the control or comparison groups, the studies used standard care, no intervention, placebo or sham intervention and massage without lavender essential oil.

Study Results

The results of this review and meta-analysis showed a significant reduction in anxiety with oral intake of lavender, as well as lavender inhalation and massage with lavender essential oil. However, due to the varying quality of these studies, the researchers clarified their interpretation of these results.

“Overall, oral administration of lavender essential oil proves to be effective in the treatment of anxiety, whereas for inhalation there is only an indication of an effect of reasonable size, due to the heterogeneity of available studies,” state the authors of the review. “Lavender essential oil administered through massage appears to be effective, but available studies are not sufficient to determine whether the benefit is due to a specific effect of lavender.”

The researchers recommend further high-quality randomized controlled trials with more homogenous or uniform study designs in order to confirm these findings.

Authors: Davide Donelli, Michele Antonelli, Caterina Bellinazzi, Gian Franco Gensini, Fabio Firenzuoli.

Sources: Monticelli Thermal Baths, Parma, Italy; Department of Medicine and Surgery, University of Parma, Italy; Permanent Commission for Guidelines, Tuscany Region, Florence, Italy; Research and Innovation Center in Phytotherapy and Integrated Medicine, CERFIT, Referring Center for Phytotherapy of Tuscany Region, Careggi University Hospital, Florence, Italy; Consultancy Service in Integrative and Complementary Medicine, Reggio Emilia, Italy. Originally published online in December 2019 in Phytomedicine.