8 Ways to Use Lavender Essential Oil to Reduce Anxiety
The use of essential oils confounded me for years. It was unclear to me how to use them, or if I should use them, or what I should use them for. I bought a few bottles on one optimistic afternoon, resolved to use them for soaps or… something. After 5 years of them sitting in my cupboard unused, I threw them out; however, recently, I have decided to get serious about easing my anxiety. In coming up with a self-care routine, I kept coming across one thing: essential oil from lavender is really good at promoting relaxation, reducing anxiety, and even helping with sleep.
I resolved my self to get over my anxiety about essential oils and just figure out what the deal with them was. It wasn’t easy. There is a lot of information out there, a lot of which contradicts other information, but below is a general guide to using lavender oil to help reduce anxiety. I hope that it helps you.
Here is the bullet points to answer the question of “How do you use lavender essential oil to help reduce anxiety?”:
- A Bath
- A Diffuser
- A Spray
- Dry Evaporation
- Skin Application
- A Car Diffuser
- Lavender supplements (an essential oil alternative)
Read on to find out exactly how each of these methods works.
Why Use Lavender
Before we go further, let’s first look at whether or not lavender even helps with anxiety (Spoiler: it does!)
Lavender has many health benefits. If you want to explore all of the benefits, you can click here. For our purposes, what we are most interested in is how lavender affects anxiety. The research shows that lavender has a “notable” effect on decreasing anxiety. This effect was demonstrated in 5 studies, which had very high consistency in results.; for example, one the 5 studies found that “10 weeks ingestion of 80mg Silexan (Lavender oil) is able to reduce anxiety and, vicariously through that, improve sleep in persons with minor anxiety”.
In addition to decreasing anxiety, some studies show that lavender decreases restlessness, insomnia, depression, while increasing relaxation, sleep quality, sedation and subjective well-being. Sign me up!
Preparing the Essential Oil
Essential oil needs to be diluted. A common way to dilute an essential oil is add it to a carrier oil. Some examples of carrier oils are as follows:
- Coconut Oil, (Fractionated or Virgin)
- Grapeseed Oil
- Olive Oil, Virgin
- Sesame Oil
- Sunflower Oil
There are a lot of differing opinions on the ratio of carrier oil to essential oil. It can be confusing; for example, my bottle of lavender essential oils recommends 5-35 drops per 10ml for “local application”. This is quite a large range! What should you do 5? 35? My theory is that they give you such a large range, so that you use more and have to replace it sooner, so the bottom range is the better bet. A generally agreed upon ratio for carrier oil to essential oil is 2 Tablespoons carrier oil for 12-15 drops of carrier oil, which is the same as 10ml to 5 drops.
If you stick with the ratio of 2 teaspoons to 5 drops/15 drops to 2 Tablespoons, and just alter the amount that you make for the method you are using, you should be fine.
1 A Bath
The first thing to know about essential oils is that they are highly concentrated parts of a plants, such as leaves, petals, and buds. You need to always dilute essential oils if they are going to come into contact with your skin, as they can irritate or burn your skin.
You can usually purchase essential oils at health stores. To use the bath/oil method, you simply add 12-15 drops of the lavender oil to 2 tablespoons (30ml) of a carrier oil. Then, you add the mixture to the bath water. You will want to stir it around, if possible.
Preparing your Bath
You want the bath water to be warm (but not hot). A recommendation for the ideal bath temperature is between 92 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit (33 and 37.7 degrees Celsius). One good way to test the temperature of the water is by placing your wrist in the water. The reason for using your wrist is that your wrist is quite sensitive. If the water is too hot for your wrist, then it is too hot! You want the water to feel roughly the same temperature as your wrist. Not too hot. Not too cold.
You may also want to add epsom salts to the bath, as they also help promote relaxation. If you choose to add epsom salts, you simply add in a cup of the salts to the bath. They will dissolve in the water.
To ensure the full effects of the essential oils, stay in the tub for 30 minutes. You may want to play relaxing music to help you relax.
2 A Diffuser
Another option for using lavender oil for aromatherapy is to purchase a diffuser. A major benefit to a diffuser is that it lats for multiple hours, helping you stay calm for the day. It also doesn’t take any time out of your day, like a bath would. Diffusers are fairly inexpensive. Each diffuser is different, so you’ll have to read the directions to determine how/if the essential oil would need to be diluted; for example though, I have a small diffuser (which can also be used in my car), and it only needs 1-3 drops of essential oil. My diffuser came with several replacement filters, which need to be changed after roughly every 90 hours of use.
The studies on lavender oil aromatherapy all involve exposing people to at least 30 minutes of the aromatherapy. A diffuser is a good way to get the desired therapeutic effect.
Note: Some essential oils are dangerous for some pets. I use mine in a room where my cat is not allowed, and keep the door closed. Diffusers should also be kept away from children.
You can buy pre-made “stress relief” sprays that include lavender. These sprays typically also include other essential oils. With the spray method, you spray the bottle above your head several times, and the scent stays on you.
There is also a DYI option for this this method, which works by putting the essential oil into a spray bottle with some water, shaking it, and spraying it. One brand of lavender essential oils suggests adding 30 drops of the oil to 30ml of water, in a spray bottle; however, you should exercise caution with this method. The reason for this caution is in two parts:
1)Oil and water DO NOT MIX: Have you ever heard the expression “Get along like oil and water.”? It is not a good thing. You can shake the bottle to mix the mixture, but it won’t mix very well.
2) Concentrated essential oil can burn or irritate your skin. Since the oil is not dispersed through the water, with the spray method, you could end up with a concentrated oil on your skin.
There is away around the problem of the oil and water not blending. You can make it safer by adding an emulsifier; however, this is a long and complicated process. This process could be useful for making other products with essential oils, but with so many other safer, easier options to utilize lavender for anxiety, you might just want to skip this one method, or buy a pre-made spray. If you have do want more information on using emulsifiers to create a spray, there is a pretty good webpage on the topic here.
If using a spay, you may want to consider if this method would allow the scent to linger for 30 minutes, to ensure exposure to the aroma. In my experience, the scent dissipates sooner than 30 minutes, but this could just be because of desensitization.
4 Dry Evaporation
Another option is to use a dry evaporation. For this method, place a few drops of lavender essential oil onto a cotton ball, and place the cotton ball in a bowl. The essential oils will evaporate into the air. You will want to stay close to the cotton ball for at least 30 minutes.
5 Skin Application
For skin application, lavender essential oil is usually added to massage oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, face lotion or body lotion. Because lavender oil can irritate or damage the skin, you may want to avoid this method.
This is a method where drops of essential oil are added to a bowl of boiling water. You then put a towel over your head and lean over the bowl.
This is not an ideal method for aromatherapy. It can be quite hot and uncomfortable. Since you’ll want to be exposed to the essential oils for at least 30 minutes, this really isn’t a viable solution. It may be a useful method for other oils if, for example, you want to use an oil for clearing out your respiratory system. It is not a very good option for using lavender for aromatherapy.
7 A Car diffuser
Rush hour traffic can make even the most calm person extremely anxious! A quick way to combat this anxiety is to plug in a diffuser right into you car. You’ll get the calming effects of the lavender, and you won’t need to take any additional time out of your day. There are some diffusers that you can use in the car or at home. Two for the price of one!
Note: If lavender makes you drowsy, this may not be a good option for you, since it may make it unsafe to operate a vehicle.
8 Lavender Supplements (an alternate to essential oils)
Another way to get the calming effects of lavender is through a supplement.
Pros of Using a Lavender Supplement
A major pro to using lavender supplements are that they are far and away the easiest way to get lavender into your body. They are also the mode of delivery that most studies on lavender use, so that may give you more confidence that you are getting what you need to feel better.
You also don’t have to worry about skin allergies or irritations. It is also good if you don’t like the smell of lavender.
Cons of Using a Lavender Suppement
A con to using supplements to essential oils is that a bottle of essential oils will last you a lot longer than a bottle of supplements, as most ways to use essential oils only requires a few drops, will last you a while. With a diffuser, you will also need to buy replacement filters periodically. On the other hand, supplements would be an ongoing monthly expense. You would also miss out on the lovely smell of lavender, but if the smell isn’t for you, or you are looking for something quick and simple to add to your daily routine, supplements might be right for you.
Dose for a Lavender Supplement
According to the research, the recommended dose is 80 – 160 mg of a supplement containing 25 – 46% linalool. One study found that “80mg of lavender oil (Silexan) is able to reduce anxiety over 6 weeks as effectively as the active control lorazepam at 500mg without sedation. (Lorazepam is a medication that is used for the short-term relief of anxiety.).
Potential Health Risks
- Essential oils should not be placed directly on your skin. They must be properly dilluted
- Children, pregnant woman, people with low blood pressure, and the elderly need to be careful with essential oils (check with your Doctor)
- Essential oils should not be ingested
- Pregnant women and indivindials with heart conditions should check with their Doctor before taking a hot bath
- People with Diabetes should not use Epsom salts
- Lavender essential oil may cause irritation or an allergic reaction in some individuals. If you experience nausea, vomiting, or a headache after using lavender, discontinue use immediately.
Other Benefits of Lavender
There are a lot of various other claims about the health benefits of lavender. Being that this article (as well as my self-care efforts) are focused on anxiety reduction, I didn’t research other benefits; however, when I purchased my most recent bottle of lavender essential oils, I did notice a a sign by the bottle that listed the following additional health benefits of lavender, so I wanted to share those quickly as well:
- Popular for acne and hair
- Soothes burns and minor skin inflammation, insect bites, and bruises
- Reduces Blood Pressure
- Helps with headaches
If you found this article useful, you may also like an our article on other anxiety-busting techniques.