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English Lavender

This image of lavender comes from the first edition of De historia stirpium commentarii insigne, a book produced by Leonhart Fuchs in 1542. This book was one of the most celebrated herbals from the sixteenth century, which features over 500 woodcut illustrations, all of which were hand-colored.  This book can be found in the John R. Martin Rare Book Room in Hardin Library.

English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Lavender is native to the Mediterranean region, the Arabian Peninsula, and Russia (Lavender, 2007). In ancient Rome lavender was used to scent bathwater; the name lavender comes from the Latin verb “lavare” which means “to wash” (Prusinowska & Smigielski, 2014). The aroma of lavender is popular and this evergreen plant is used in perfumes, cleaning products, and potpourri. Medicinally, lavender oil capsules are used to treat mild to severe anxiety and a few clinical studies have shown it to be similarly effective as medications commonly used to treat anxiety (Kasper et al., 2010, 2014, 2014; Uehleke et al., 2012; Woelk & Schlafke, 2010). Lavender aromatherapy is used to treat depression and some evidence has shown that it is helpful in reducing symptoms, particularly in women experiencing postpartum depression (Conrad & Adams, 2012; Kianpour et al., 2016; Xiong et al., 2018). One study has shown lavender oil, in a combination with essential oils from cedarwood, thyme, and rosemary, to be successful in improving hair growth (Hay et al., 1998).  

Historical Use

Historically, the medicinal properties of lavender have been described in many herbal texts. This excerpt, from A nievve herbal, produced in 1578 by Rembert Dodoens, describes the virtues of lavender. The text indicates that lavender may be taken alone or mixed with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves to “[cure the beating of the heart.]” 

Similarly, this excerpt from The Herbal by John Gerard, produced in 1633 promotes mixing lavender in compositions for “head-ace of long continuance” and promotes drinking a decoction of the husks and flowers for “cleansing and driving forth all evill and corrupt humors.” 

Latest Research


Conrad, P., & Adams, C. (2012). The effects of clinical aromatherapy for anxiety and depression in the high risk  postpartum woman—A pilot study. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice18(3), 164–168. 

Hay, I. C., Jamieson, M., & Ormerod, A. D. (1998). Randomized trial of aromatherapy. Successful treatment for alopecia areata. Archives of Dermatology134(11), 1349–1352. 

Kasper, S., Gastpar, M., Muller, W. E., Volz, H.-P., Moller, H.-J., Dienel, A., & Schlafke, S. (2010). Silexan, an orally administered Lavandula oil preparation, is effective in the treatment of “subsyndromal” anxiety disorder: A randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial. International Clinical Psychopharmacology25(5), 277–287. 

Kasper, S., Gastpar, M., Muller, W. E., Volz, H.-P., Moller, H.-J., Schlafke, S., & Dienel, A. (2014). Lavender oil preparation Silexan is effective in generalized anxiety disorder—A  randomized, double-blind comparison to placebo and paroxetine. The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology17(6), 859–869. 

Kianpour, M., Mansouri, A., Mehrabi, T., & Asghari, G. (2016). Effect of lavender scent inhalation on prevention of stress, anxiety and depression in the postpartum period. Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research21(2), 197–201. 

Lavender. (2007, March 1). NCCIH. 

Prusinowska, R., & Smigielski, K. (2014). Composition, biological properties and therapeutic effects of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia L.). A review. Herba Polonica60(2), 56–66. 

Uehleke, B., Schaper, S., Dienel, A., Schlaefke, S., & Stange, R. (2012). Phase II trial on the effects of Silexan in patients with neurasthenia, post-traumatic stress disorder or somatization disorder. Phytomedicine : International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology19(8–9), 665–671. 

Woelk, H., & Schlafke, S. (2010). A multi-center, double-blind, randomised study of the Lavender oil preparation Silexan in comparison to Lorazepam for generalized anxiety disorder. Phytomedicine : International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology17(2), 94–99. 

Xiong, M., Li, Y., Tang, P., Zhang, Y., Cao, M., Ni, J., & Xing, M. (2018). Effectiveness of Aromatherapy Massage and Inhalation on Symptoms of Depression in Chinese Community-Dwelling Older Adults. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (New York, N.Y.)24(7), 717–724. 

Other Resources

Natural Medicines record: Lavender (Access to UI only) 

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: