Disclaimer: Do not stop, add, or make changes to any medications without consulting your prescribing physician and/or other qualified health care practitioners. The following article is not intended to be, or a replacement for, professional medical treatments.
Lavender oil: a common staple found in most massage therapy rooms, be it as essential oil, an ingredient in the lotion, or even in the candle burning.
There are many claims made about this oil including its ability to relieve headaches and muscle pain, or reduce anxiety and depression.
Let's see what the research says...
RESEARCH ON LAVENDER
A study published in 2013 on lavendar oil's historical use as an anti-inflammatory concluded, "results of the present study confirm the traditional use of Lavandula angustifolia for the treatment of painful and inflammatory conditions."
Other small scale studies suggest lavender aromatherapy "may be an effective way to improve sleep," and "can improve the quality of [patient's] sleep and health," and ,"alleviated stress and improved sleep quality in intensive care unit patients."
It's not uncommon for a massage therapist to ask their patients about sleep habits, as sleep plays such a critical role in our general health as well as muscle restoration and healing.
The way in which we position our bodies during sleep may also impact various musculo-skeletal issues, either helping or hindering throughout the night.
Research states lavender aromatherapy creates a "significant decrease in [workplace] stress," "causes significant decreases of blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature," and, "may be an effective and safe treatment modality in acute management of migraine headaches."
AN ASIDE ON ANXIETY
There are many studies on silexan. Silexan are capsules containing lavender oil with a high amount of linalool and linalyl acetate.
Found in over 200 species of plants, linalool is a naturally occurring terpene alcohol chemical. Linalyl acetateis a naturally occurring phytochemical. Phytochemicals are chemical compounds occurring naturally in plants; some with historical use as effective drugs. A notable example being willow tree leaves used to treat fevers. These leaves contain the phytochemical salicin, which has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. It was later synthetically produced and became the over-the-counter drug aspirin.
Currently, silexan is approved as an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) drug in Germany. This is based on a multi-center, double-blind, randomised study published in 2010 that concluded, "silexan appears to be an effective and well tolerated alternative to benzodiazepines for amelioration of generalized anxiety."
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults in the United States, or 18% of the population. That's nearly one in five folks who have an anxiety disorder. That's a big deal.
Benzodiapines (alprazolam, clonazepam, diazepam, and lorazepam) are frequently prescribed to treat anxiety. Considering the serious potential side effects of long-term bezodizepine use, an alternative treatment option is also a big deal. Therefor, I'm going to throw a few more studies at you:
A randomized, double-blind comparison published in 2014 concluded, "Silexan showed a pronounced antidepressant effect and improved general mental health and health-related quality of life."
A 2013 evidence-based review concluded that silexan in 80 or 160 mg doses was "comparable to lorazepam ... in patients with generalized anxiety disorder."
A 2013 study concluded, "All the three doses of silexan showed significant and dose-dependent anxiolytic [anti-anxiety] activity in the used pharmacological models .... which was comparable to that of the standard anxiolytic agent lorazepam."
A randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial published in 2010 concluded, "Lavandula oil preparation had a significant beneficial influence on quality and duration of sleep and improved general mental and physical health without causing any unwanted sedative or other drug specific effects ... is both efficacious and safe for the relief of anxiety disorder ... clinically meaningful anxiolytic effect and alleviates anxiety related disturbed sleep."
I found an established body of research that may suggest lavender oil to be an effective in treating stress, anxiety, and increasing sleep quality.
Given the very low risk and very limited side effects, it would seem worth discussing with your health care professional(s) if you're seeking a complementary and/or natural remedy for those issues.