New year, new you?
It’s usually not that simple. Instead of relying on the calendar, changing your lifestyle or updating bad habits takes time and dedication. As we arrived into 2019, millions of people across the globe drew up resolutions to meet for the new year. With over 40 million adults over the age of 18 suffering from anxiety, I’m guessing there were many wishing silently to overcome this oftentimes debilitating condition.
Well, I’m here to help!
Self-care is one of the most important elements for reducing anxiety symptoms. From meditation to exercise to healthy eating to simply taking time for yourself. Yet, sometimes we need a little extra help. This is where lavender comes in. This ancient herb has popped up in recent studies as an effective aid in reducing anxiety symptoms. Let’s take a deeper dive and find out why!
What is Lavender?
Lavender, in Latin called Lavandula, refers to a group of herbaceous perennial plants and shrubs within the mint family. While most of us recognize lavender by its blushing lilac, it has the ability to bloom in a variety of colors — including blue, violet, black, and even yellow — depending on its location and horticultural history. The flowers are “borne in whorls”, an arrangement of petals originating from a single point, and the stems are oftentimes covered in fine oil coated hairs called indumentum.
This flowering perennial also happens to be one of the most wide-reaching plants originating in what was referred to as the “Old World” spanning Africa, Asia, and Europe. Yet now lavender is easily found at your local nursery. Many gardeners covet this hardy and beautiful shrub to use as a hedge for privacy, as a landscaping tool, an insect repellent, and a bee attractant, if you happen to have a garden in need of pollination.
Yet, while lavender is a beautiful addition to your landscape or indoor garden, many people like having it around for its relaxing qualities. The whorls can be snipped and dried for potpourri and the oils extracted for skin balms and salves, or even ingested or applied raw to relieve stress and anxiety.
Lavender is by far one of the best little plants to keep handy around the house!
Lavender and Anxiety
If you’re suffering from anxiety in any stage, it’s important to speak with a medical professional before changing your diet or lifestyle. Sometimes medication is an important and necessary ingredient for overcoming symptoms. With that said, many anxiety medications — such as Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium — serve up unwanted side effects including drowsiness and fatigue, headaches, digestive discomfort, and even disrupted sleep.
This is where lavender can play a key role in recovery!
Studies conducted in multiple research centers in both Iran and Germany, including the Neuroscience Research Center in Iran and the Department of Neurology in Germany, revealed the efficacy of silexan, an essential oil created by steaming lavender flowers.
During the study, participants suffering from generalized anxiety disorders, as well as agitation and restlessness, were divided and given either a daily dose of 80 milligrams of silexan or a placebo. The essential oil proved superior to the placebo “in 221 patients suffering from anxiety disorder” and it showed “improved associated symptoms such as restlessness, disturbed sleep, and somatic complaints and had a beneficial influence on general well-being and quality of life.”
To add to the positive outcome, the study also revealed that “lavender effectively ameliorates generalized anxiety comparable to 0.5 mg/daily lorazepam” and revealed that patients treated with lavender aromatherapy showed an improvement in mood, reduction in anxiety symptoms, and reduced psychological distress.
Lavender is not just effective on disposition and mental well-being, it also has a variety of other health benefits. Lavender has been shown to improve sleep, alleviate pain, relieve headaches, soothe burns and itching, reduce allergy symptoms, and promotes healthy hair and skin. Plus, it naturally refreshes stale air, which can come in handy during those closed in, cold winter months.
Ways to Use Lavender
For some, lavender is a great way to calm down and take that extra edge off. For others, it could be a key ingredient in beating off those debilitating anxiety symptoms that hang like a dark cloud over your would-be sunny disposition. Luckily, lavender is widely available in a variety of easy to consume forms. Now that we know how it works, let’s take a look at how to use it in your everyday life.
No-Bake Lavender Fig Custard Tart/One Green Planet
When it comes to culinary uses, lavender is king in desserts! This wonderful flower has an incredibly mellow, yet sweet taste that is complementary to both light flavors — such as lemon and berries — or rich flavors — such as dark chocolate and sugary figs. Most recipes ask for dried lavender — such as this No-Bake Lavender Fig Custard Tart or this Berry Lavender Poached Pears With Granola — lavender buds — such as this Banana Chocolate Lavender Bars or this Lemon Olive Oil Breakfast Cake or lavender extract — such as this Slow-Cooker Lavender Rose Hot Chocolate.
Dried, budded, or extracted lavender is generally available at your local health food store. Yet, for best prices, you can find all of these varieties of lavender online such as this one pound pack of Starwest Botanicals Organic Dried Lavender Flowers for $20.35, this 4 ounce bag of additive and preservative free Culinary & Crafting Lavender Flower Buds for $10.99, or this Plant Therapy USDA Certified Organic Lavender Essential Oil for $16.10.
For those looking to make their own, you can easily dry lavender to use for culinary purposes in your home! Lavender enjoys well-drained and healthy soil, yet doesn’t need too much tending. As long as it gets a bit of water and sunshine, you’re set to go. Once your lavender is ready for harvesting, simply bundle them together with string and hang them in a warm and dry area (such as a loft or attic). It should only take a few days!
Lavender oil may be the most effective way to deliver relief quickly to your anxiety rued mind. The best way to use lavender oil to reduce anxiety is through inhalation. Rub a few drops into your cupped palms and simply breathe from your hands. Apply the oil directly to your temples, wrists, back of the neck, or even your feet for immediate calming relief. For better sleep, try sprinkling a few drops on your pillow before heading to bed. Draw a warm bath and add a few drops of lavender oil. You can also use an aromatherapy diffuser, such as this VicTsing Essential Oil Diffuser, in order to apply the lavender oils to a specific room, such as your bedroom while you sleep, or even your entire house, during those stagnant winter months.
For those looking for a quick fix of that anxiety relieving lavender, try out the supplement option! There are a host of non-GMO, organic, and vegetarian brands to choose from such as this Nature’s Life Lavender Calm Veg Capsules or these gluten-free Nature’s Way CalmAid soft gels. When searching for the right supplement for you, make sure to look at both lavender and silexan. Silexan refers to “a new oral lavender oil capsule.” Basically, it’s the term used for the oral version of lavender oils. For example, these Lasea Liquid Capsules list silexan as the prime ingredient, as well as these Lavela Integrative Therapeutics soft gels.
Looking for more ways to integrate lavender into your life? We highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
Lead Image Source: Lev Kropotov/Shutterstock