Sarah's Health Notes: How Lavender Can Help Anxiety

Sarah's Health Notes: How Lavender Can Help Anxiety

Little story: when my formerly dotty and very neurotic horse (Arab cross thoroughbred, an inflammable combination) had to travel in a horsebox, which he loathed, we used to dab lavender oil under his nostrils. He didn't become a Dobbin but he did become much calmer.

I was telling Ayurvedic practitioner Sebastian Pole, co founder of Pukka Herbs, about this and he foraged in his pocket and pulled out a teeny bottle of lavender essential oil. He told me he always has it with him for a quick sniff at stressy moments. (I like Natural by Nature Organic Lavender Oil, £5.95 for 10ml.)

Lavender has a long history as a medicinal plant. Many of us are familiar with lavender as a key essential oil in aromatherapy, applied topically for its properties of reducing stress, nervousness and mild anxiety, also helping sleep. But research in the last two decades suggests that lavender oil capsules, taken orally, are as effective as medication (lorazepam and paroxetine) for anxiety. (The brand name is Silexan which is marketed in the UK as Kalms Lavender One-A-Day Capsules, with 80mg lavender oil, the amount used in research.)

A few years back, I was invited to meet psychiatrist Professor Siegfried Kasper of the Medical University of Vienna who had been researching lavender oil capsules in patients with mild anxiety and also Generalised Anxiety Disorder. He told me that while long term measures, including talking therapy, are vital to help patients manage underlying problems, the lavender oil capsules help soften the anxiety so they can really benefit.

Dr Tara Swart, a neuroscientist and medical doctor, says ‘Lavender is nature’s strongest neuromodulator allowing it to contribute to reducing anxiety as well as lifting mood. Silexan [Kalms] does not cause drug interactions so it can be used as an adjunct to other anxiety treatments, or alone depending on the severity of symptoms.’