Plant Profiler

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Synonyms / Common Names / Related Terms
Camphor, common lavender, English lavender, garden lavender, Lavandula angustifolia, Lavandula burnamii, Lavandula dentate, Lavandula dhofarensis, Lavandula latifolia, Lavandula officinalis, Lavandula stoechas, limonene, linalool, linalyl acetate, perillyl alcohol, pink lavender, POH, true lavender, white lavender.

Mechanism of Action
  • Constituents: Lavender is comprised of over 100 constituents, including linalool, perillyl alcohol, linalyl acetate, camphor, limonene, tannins, triterpenes, coumarins3,4,5, cineole, and flavonoids.
  • Analgesic effects: Based on human study, lavender oil may have analgesic effects for pain reduction.11
  • Antianxiety effects: In women and men, lavender scent resulted in higher vigor-activity scores and lower tension-anxiety and confusion-bewilderment scores than scent, independent of pleasantness of the scent.12
  • Antibacterial effects: Gabbrielli et al. demonstrated in vitro activity of lavender oil (L. angustifolia and L. latifolia) against various strains of non-tubercular Mycobacterium.2 Nelson et al. found documented activity of 2% to 0.12% (v/v) lavender oils against both methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE).1
  • Anticancer effects: Components of lavender appear to have cytotoxic properties. Fulton et al. demonstrated cell-proliferating effects of on smooth muscle cell cultures.19 Both limonene and POH have been shown to inhibit tumor growth in rats by blocking initiation and by promoting apoptosis.15,16,17 In vitro study evaluated the effects of POH in lung carcinogenesis and described an inhibitory effect on farnesylation, a step towards activation of the oncogene K-ras.20
  • Antifungal effects: In vitro study found that lavender oil inhibited growth of Candida albicans and Trichophyton rubrum strains, as did its component linalool.13,21
  • Antioxidant effects: Caffeic acid, a constituent of lavender, has been demonstrated to possess antioxidant effects in vitro.22
  • Cardiovascular effects: In women, lavender fragrance stimuli increased the parasympathetic tone as determined by electrocardiographic monitoring.23 Also in women, lavender resulted in a reduction in blood pressure, although the effect of lavender alone is unclear.14
  • Hypolipidemic effects: The lipid-lowering effect of lavender has been attributed to the constituent cineole, a cyclic monoterpene which lowers cholesterol in rats via inhibition of the HMG-CoA enzyme.6 The lavender constituent perillyl alcohol (POH) has been shown to inhibit the conversion of lathesterol to cholesterol.7
  • Neurologic/CNS effects: In women, lavender fragrance stimuli increased arousal and relaxation based on positron emission tomography of various brain sections.23 Linalool has been shown to reduce motor activity in mice due to a dose-related binding to glutamate, a primary excitatory neurotransmitter of the central nervous system, and it has been suggested that hypnotic and anticonvulsant effects of lavender may be due to the potentiation of the neurotransmitter GABA.24
  • Sedative effects: In healthy individuals, lavender oil aroma at bedtime increased the percentage of deep or slow wave sleep in men and women and increased light sleep and decreased rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and the amount of time to reach wake after first falling asleep in women.10 Also in human study, sucking a lozenge containing lavender oil, in addition to hops, lemonbalm, and betaglucan, resulted in changes in brain activity indicative of a more relaxed and attentive state.25
  • Spasmolytic effects: The mechanism of lavender's spasmolytic activity has not been fully elucidated. Gamez et al. studied the antispasmodic effect of L. dentate (a lavender species) in vitro.26 An observed antagonism of acetylcholine-induced muscle contractions was attributed largely to cineole. Lis-Balchin et al. observed that the linalool and linalyl acetate in L. angustifolia oil can induce cAMP-mediated relaxation of guinea pig ileum smooth muscle.18 The authors postulated a cAMP-based mechanism for lavender's purported physiological effects on sympathetic nervous system activity.

  • Topical: Lavender oil is quickly absorbed by the skin. The constituents linalool and linalyl acetate are detectable in the blood five minutes after topical application, peak at 19 minutes, and largely disappear from the blood within 90 minutes.27
  • Oral: The constituents limonene and are metabolized into perillic acid (PA) and dihydroperillic acid (DHPA). In rats fed a diet containing POH or limonene, peak levels of PA can be seen at 1-2.5 hours, peak levels of DHPA are noted at 2-3.5 hours, and half-lives for each metabolite are 1-2 hours.16 POH, PA, and DHPA are detectable in subjects' urine following high doses of POH ingestion. Approximately 9% of the total dose can be recovered in the first 24 hours. PA is the major metabolite found, with <1% of recovered POH.
  • The absorption of POH does not appear to be affected by concomitant ingestion of foods.8,9

  1. Nelson R. R. In-vitro activities of five plant essential oils against methicillin- resistant Staphylococcus aureus and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium. J Antimicrob Chemother 1997;40(2):305-307. 9302003
  2. Gabbrielli G, Loggini F, Cioni PL, and et al. Activity of lavandino essential oil against non-tubercular opportunistic rapid grown mycobacteria. Pharmacol Res Commun 1988;20 Suppl 5:37-40. 3247349
  3. Rychlik, M. Quantification of free coumarin and its liberation from glucosylated precursors by stable isotope dilution assays based on liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometric detection. J Agric Food Chem 2-13-2008;56(3):796-801. 18197622
  4. Shimizu, M., Shogawa, H., Matsuzawa, T., Yonezawa, S., Hayashi, T., Arisawa, M., Suzuki, S., Yoshizaki, M., Morita, N., Ferro, E., and . Anti-inflammatory constituents of topically applied crude drugs. IV. Constituents and anti-inflammatory effect of Paraguayan crude drug "alhucema" (Lavandula latifolia Vill.). Chem Pharm  Bull (Tokyo) 1990;38(8):2283-2284. 2279292
  5. BROWN, S. A. Biosynthesis of coumarin and herniarin in lavender. Science 9-21-1962;137:977-978. 13873722
  6. Clegg, R. J., Middleton, B., Bell, G. D., and White, D. A. The mechanism of cyclic monoterpene inhibition of hepatic 3-hydroxy-3- methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase in vivo in the rat. J Biol Chem 3-10-1982;257(5):2294-2299. 7061423
  7. Ren, Z. and Gould, M. N. Inhibition of ubiquinone and cholesterol synthesis by the monoterpene perillyl alcohol. Cancer Lett 1-30-1994;76(2-3):185-190. 8149348
  8. Ripple GH, Gould MN, Stewart JA, and et al. Phase I clinical trial of perillyl alcohol administered daily. Clin Cancer Res 1998;4(5):1159-1164. 9607573
  9. Ripple, G. H., Gould, M. N., Arzoomanian, R. Z., Alberti, D., Feierabend, C., Simon, K., Binger, K., Tutsch, K. D., Pomplun, M., Wahamaki, A., Marnocha, R., Wilding, G., and Bailey, H. H. Phase I clinical and pharmacokinetic study of perillyl alcohol administered four times a day. Clin Cancer Res 2000;6(2):390-396. 10690515
  10. Goel, N., Kim, H., and Lao, R. P. An olfactory stimulus modifies nighttime sleep in young men and women. Chronobiol Int 2005;22(5):889-904. 16298774
  11. Kane, F. M., Brodie, E. E., Coull, A., Coyne, L., Howd, A., Milne, A., Niven, C. C., and Robbins, R. The analgesic effect of odour and music upon dressing change. Br J Nurs 10-28-2004;13(19):S4-12. 15573017
  12. Burnett, K. M., Solterbeck, L. A., and Strapp, C. M. Scent and mood state following an anxiety-provoking task. Psychol Rep 2004;95(2):707-722. 15587240
  13. D'Auria, F. D., Tecca, M., Strippoli, V., Salvatore, G., Battinelli, L., and Mazzanti, G. Antifungal activity of Lavandula angustifolia essential oil against Candida albicans yeast and mycelial form. Med Mycol 2005;43(5):391-396. 16178366
  14. Hur, M. H., Oh, H., Lee, M. S., Kim, C., Choi, A. N., and Shin, G. R. Effects of aromatherapy massage on blood pressure and lipid profile in korean climacteric women. Int J Neurosci 2007;117(9):1281-1287. 17654092
  15. Elegbede, J. A., Elson, C. E., Qureshi, A., Tanner, M. A., and Gould, M. N. Inhibition of DMBA-induced mammary cancer by the monoterpene d-limonene. Carcinogenesis 1984;5(5):661-664. 6426810
  16. Haag, J. D. and Gould, M. N. Mammary carcinoma regression induced by perillyl alcohol, a hydroxylated analog of limonene. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol 1994;34(6):477-483. 7923558
  17. Mills, J. J., Chari, R. S., Boyer, I. J., Gould, M. N., and Jirtle, R. L. Induction of apoptosis in liver tumors by the monoterpene perillyl alcohol. Cancer Res 3-1-1995;55(5):979-983. 7867007
  18. Lis-Balchin, M. and Hart, S. Studies on the mode of action of the essential oil of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia P. Miller). Phytother Res 1999;13(6):540-542. 10479772
  19. Fulton GJ, Barber L, Svendsen E, and et al. Oral monoterpene therapy (perillyl alcohol) reduces vein graft intimal hyperplasia. J Surg Res 1997;69(1):128-134. 9202658
  20. Lantry LE, Zhang Z, Gao F, and et al. Chemopreventive effect of perillyl alcohol on 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1- (3-pyridyl)-1-butanone induced tumorigenesis in (C3H/HeJ X A/J)F1 mouse lung. J Cell Biochem Suppl 1997;27:20-25. 9591189
  21. Cassella JP, Cassella S, Ashford R, and Siddals E. Antifungal activity of tea tree and lavender essential oils in the treatment of Trichophyton rubrum infection. Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies 2001;6(1):74.
  22. Hohmann J, Zupko I, Redei D, and et al. Protective effects of the aerial parts of Salvia officinalis, Melissa Officinalis and Lavandula angustifolia and their constituents against enzyme-dependent and enzyme-independent lipid peroxidation. Planta Med 1999;65(6):576-578. 10532875
  23. Duan, X., Tashiro, M., Wu, D., Yambe, T., Wang, Q., Sasaki, T., Kumagai, K., Luo, Y., Nitta, S., and Itoh, M. Autonomic nervous function and localization of cerebral activity during lavender aromatic immersion. Technol Health Care 2007;15(2):69-78. 17361051
  24. Elisabetsky, E., Marschner, J., and Souza, D. O. Effects of Linalool on glutamatergic system in the rat cerebral cortex. Neurochem Res 1995;20(4):461-465. 7651584
  25. Dimpfel, W., Pischel, I., and Lehnfeld, R. Effects of lozenge containing lavender oil, extracts from hops, lemon balm and oat on electrical brain activity of volunteers. Eur J Med Res 9-29-2004;9(9):423-431. 15546807
  26. Gamez MJ, Jimenez J, Navarro C, and et al. Study of the essential oil of Lavandula dentata L. Pharmazie 1990;45(1):69-70. 2333318
  27. Jager W, Buchbauer G, Jirovetz L, and et al. Percutaneous absorption of lavender oil from massage oil. J Soc Cosmet Chem 1992;43:49-54.

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