Ahead, two experts unpack a few of the key benefits of lavender. And later: discover creative ways to incorporate the herb in your next meal, snack, or beverage.
- Uma Naidoo, MD, Harvard-trained nutritional psychiatrist, professional chef, and nutritional biologist
4 lavender benefits
1. It helps reduce stress and anxiety
Lavender is famed for its abilities to alleviate stress and promote a sense of inner peace. “Due to its natural compounds linalool and linalyl acetate, lavender has been shown to have calming effects on the nervous system, which reduces stress levels,” says Brooke Mader Ganev, MS, CNS, LDN, a functional clinical nutritionist at Den Mother in Venice, California.
Oral consumption of lavender even shows promise to help alleviate anxiety. According to Uma Naidoo, MD—a Harvard-trained nutritional psychiatrist, professional chef and nutritional biologist, and author of This Is Your Brain on Food as well as the forthcoming Calm Your Mind with Food—supplementation with lavender oil is “thought to help anxiety most likely due to the way it binds serotonin receptors in the brain.” Similarly, randomized controlled trials show that lavender aromatherapy has a substantial effect in reducing anxiety and depression.
2. It can promote a better night’s rest
Given its de-stressing, pro-relaxation qualities, it makes sense that lavender offers a built-in benefit of supporting your shuteye. “Consuming lavender can promote better sleep quality, which can help you not only fall asleep quicker but also promote a more restful sleep,” Ganev shares. Lavender tea is frequently cited as one of the best sleep teas for this very reason.
Note: Evidence backing lavender consumption for sleep in particular isn’t as robust as it is for other remedies, such as chamomile tea. That said, it can still be an enjoyable component of a pre-ZZZ routine, and it may very well work for some people to drift off into dreamland with greater ease.
Evidence backing lavender consumption for sleep in particular isn’t as robust as it is for other remedies, such as chamomile tea. That said, it can still be an enjoyable component of a pre-ZZZ routine, and it may very well work for some people to drift off into dreamland with greater ease.
3. It can boost cognitive function
According to Ganev, the benefits of lavender go beyond combatting stress and improving sleep. “Research suggests that lavender consumption may improve cognitive function, memory, and concentration,” she shares. “The herb’s potential neuroprotective properties and ability to reduce oxidative stress in the brain may contribute to these cognitive benefits.” Moreover, she says that the aromatic compounds of lavender have a positive influence over the limbic system, which controls emotions, behaviors, and instinctual drives.
4. It can be good for your gut
Ganev cites lavender’s anti-inflammatory properties, which can work to your advantage in several ways—including by alleviating digestive discomfort. “Incorporating lavender tea into your daily routine can aid in reducing bloating, indigestion, and other GI issues,” she explains. In addition, she notes that lavender is antimicrobial; as such, it “may aid in maintaining a healthy microbial balance in the gut.”
Creative ways to enjoy culinary lavender
Before you head to your diffuser and add a few dabs of lavender essential oil to your tea, smoothie, or snack… don’t. Dr. Naidoo cautions that not all lavender is suitable for ingestion. “While not all lavender can be eaten, lavender tisane [i.e., lavender tea] is one of my favorite ways to enjoy it,” she shares. For any food prep beyond the likes of ready-to-steep tea, be sure to seek out clearly cited culinary lavender, which typically comes from Lavandula angustifolia plants (aka English lavender). “It has less oils than an aromatic form of lavender used in a fragrance,” she adds.
Once you have fresh or dried culinary lavender on hand, Ganev suggests getting creative with your intake by:
- Infusing water overnight to add floral notes to your hydration routine
- Infusing honey with lavender buds for a few days, then drizzling it onto yogurt or into tea
- Blending lavender in a fruit smoothie (tip: Ganev says it complements blueberries, strawberries, and peaches in particular)
- Topping baked goods with edible lavender flowers
- Sprinkling fresh lavender flowers over salads, especially paired with fruit or citrus dressings
- Mixing dried lavender with sea salt, which Ganev says pairs well with roasted veggies and grilled meats
Of course, you’re not limited to culinary exploration to experience the benefits of lavender for yourself. Go ahead and put that essential oil to proper use in its diffuser, or burn a lavender-scented candle. To help you unwind at night, Ganev also suggests “creating a calming and therapeutic steam bath by adding dried lavender with Epsom salts.” Thereafter, you can slather on lavender-scented lotions or body oils to your heart’s—and (zenned out) mind’s—content.
- Kasper S, Gastpar M, Müller WE, Volz HP, Möller HJ, Dienel A, Schläfke 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 Dec;160(21-22):547-56. doi: 10.1007/s10354-010-0845-7. PMID: 21170695.
- Kim M, Nam ES, Lee Y, Kang HJ. Effects of Lavender on Anxiety, Depression, and Physiological Parameters: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Asian Nurs Res (Korean Soc Nurs Sci). 2021 Dec;15(5):279-290. doi: 10.1016/j.anr.2021.11.001. Epub 2021 Nov 12. PMID: 34775136.
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