Lavender or English Lavender is an aromatic oil extracted from the flowers or leaves of the popular garden flower, Lavandula angustifolia. Extracts, oils and teas made from lavender are used for its soothing qualities as a sedative, mild analgesic and sleep medication. Lavender has not been implicated in causing serum enzyme elevations or clinically apparent liver injury.
Lavender (lav' end der) generally describes the aromatic oil extract from the flowers and leaves of lavender plants (Lavandula angustifolia, formerly L. officinalis). English lavender is a popular ornamental plant, known for is aroma, distinctive color and ease of cultivation. The extracts contain volatile oils, consisting chiefly of monoterpenes, linalool and linalyl acetate and carohyllene epoxide. Lavender has multiple biologic effects in vitro and in vivo, including antiinflammatory, antilipidemic, antimicrobial, antineoplastic, analgesic and sedative effects. In humans, lavender has been claimed to induce relaxation and sedation and has been used to treat nervousness and insomnia. It also may have analgesic effects and is used in circulatory disorders, dyspepsia and depression as well as for hair loss. Lavender oils are commonly used in aromatherapy and are found in many skin lotions, creams, soaps and cosmetics. Lavender can also be taken as an herbal tea, inhaled or applied topically. When taken orally, it is usually diluted as a tincture with alcohol. Lavender has not been approved for use in any medical condition in the United States, but it is found in hundreds of herbal creams, lotions, bath oils and aromatic inhalants. Side effects are rare, but may include headache, constipation, dyspepsia and eructation.
Despite wide scale use, lavender has not been convincingly linked to instances of clinically apparent liver injury.
Other Names: English lavender, Common lavender, True lavender, Narrow-leaved lavender, lavanda.
REPRESENTATIVE TRADE NAMES
Lavender – Generic (OTC Products)
Herbal and Dietary Supplements
Product labeling at DailyMed, National Library of Medicine, NIH
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References updated: 08 July 2013
Zimmerman HJ. Unconventional drugs. Miscellaneous drugs and diagnostic chemicals. In, Zimmerman HJ. Hepatotoxicity: the adverse effects of drugs and other chemicals on the liver. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1999, pp. 731-4. (Expert review of hepatotoxicity published in 1999; several herbals are discussed, including comfrey, Jin Bu huan, germander, chaparral leaf, skullcap and valerian, but not lavender).
Seeff L, Stickel F, Navarro VJ. Hepatotoxicity of herbals and dietary
supplements. In, Kaplowitz N, DeLeve LD, eds. Drug-induced liver disease. 3rd
ed. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2013, pp. 631-58. (Review of hepatotoxicity of
herbal and dietary supplements [HDS]; lavender is not discussed).
English Lavender. In, PDR for Herbal Medicines. 4th ed. Montvale, New Jersey: Thomson Healthcare Inc., 2007: pp. 285-9. (Compilation of short monographs on herbal medications and dietary supplements).
Gyllenhaal C, Merritt SL, Peterson SD, Block KI, Gochenour T. Efficacy and safety of herbal stimulants and sedatives in sleep disorders. Sleep Med Rev 2000; 4: 229-251. PubMed Citation (Review of herbals used for sleep disorders; mentions that no toxicity has been reported for lavender, but it may potentiate somnolence caused by other agents).
Wheatley D. Medicinal plants for insomnia: a review of their pharmacology, efficacy and tolerability. J Psychopharmacol 2005; 19: 414-21. PubMed Citation (Review of herbals used to treat insomnia; mentions that "there would appear to be some evidence for the belief that lavender inhalations may act as an aid to sleep").
Meolie AL, Rosen C, Kristo D, Kohrman M, Gooneratne N, Aguillard RN, Fayle R, et al.; Clinical Practice Review Committee; American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Oral nonprescription treatment for insomnia: an evaluation of products with limited evidence. J Clin Sleep Med 2005; 1: 173-87. PubMed Citation (Systematic review of efficacy of nonprescription treatments for insomnia; lavender is not discussed).
Kasper S, Gastpar M, Muller WE, Volz HP, Moller HJ, Dienel A, Schlafke S. Efficacy and safety of silexan, a new, orally administered lavender oil preparation, in subthreshold anxiety disorder - evidence from clinical trials. Wien Med Wochenschr 2010; 160 (21-22): 547-56. PubMed Citation (Combined analysis of 3 controlled trials of silexan [a lavender oil preparation] in 509 patients with anxiety disorders; the only adverse events occurring more frequently in silexan group were eructation and dyspepsia; no mention of ALT levels or hepatotoxicity).
Sarris J, Panossian A, Schweitzer I, Stough C, Scholey A. Herbal medicine for depression, anxiety and insomnia: a review of psychopharmacology and clinical evidence. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol 2011; 21: 841-60. PubMed Citation (Systematic review and summary of clinical evidence of efficacy of herbals used to treat anxiety, depression and insomnia; mentions that lavender has been studied in humans, but does not rank the herbal as having evidence for efficacy in insomnia or anxiety in humans).
Drugs for insomnia. Treat Guidel Med Lett 2012; 10 (119): 57-60. PubMed Citation (Guidelines for therapy of insomnia; mentions herbal products that are claimed to have sleep inducing effects including valerian root, kava, chamomile tea, passionflower, hops, lemon balm, lavender and skull cap, but that there is no convincing evidence for their efficacy and that the purity of commercially available, over-the-counter products is suspect).
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