Lavender Essential Oil Myths

Lavender Essential Oil Myths

Lavender is perhaps the most commonly used and versatile Essential Oil. It has well documented benefits to the skin and is known to be cleansing, anti-septic, anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory; often used for burns, bites, stings, cuts, alongside athlete’s foot and eczema. 

It is very gentle, skin soothing, sedative and a mood calming essential oil - suitable for children - and one of the rare few which can occasionally be applied *neat to the skin e.g. to soothe a burn or an insect sting. It is useful for all sorts of irritating skin conditions and so beneficial for skin prone to eczema and dermatitis.  

Interestingly, it has demonstrated synergistic effects with many essential oils, which means that it often enhances the actives of the other; the combined action of the mixed oils can be considerably more effective (though not in every case) than those same oils when used separately (Bensouilah J & Buck P. 2006). The oil blend could therefore be said to be ‘more than the sum of its parts.’  (phrase: Aristotle)

For example: "The synergistic activity of using two or more essential oils together can result in an even stronger anti-microbial activity.. "(Pengelley, 2004, 2nd ed. p112).

Despite there being many research studies, which collectively associate Lavender oil with all sorts of beneficial attributes (Khan I. & Abourashed E, 2010, 3rd ed) there are, nevertheless, persistent myths which circulate the internet, challenging its safety with regard to its use during pregnancy, feared to promote miscarriage, and also unwarranted concerns with oestrogen activity and possible effects upon children's development. 

I would urge any concerned readers to look up Robert Tisserand’s website - here - who helps to identify and debunk these. He is a world renowned expert on the subject of aromatherapy, chemistry and safety of Essential Oils - having worked in this field for over 30 years.  

"Proving safety in pregnancy is always a challenge, but all the indications are that lavender oil is completely safe to use. It is certainly not a uterine stimulant – in any dose". ('Lavender Oil and Pregnancy' Robert Tisserand: myth busting blog here.)

"Lavender oil does not mimic estrogen nor does it enhance the body’s own estrogens. It is therefore not a ‘hormone disruptor’, cannot cause breast growth in young boys (or girls of any age), and is safe to use by anyone at risk for estrogen-dependent cancer". ('Lavender Oil is not Estrogenic.' Robert Tisserand - here ).

Robert Tisserand has also collated and reviewed a vast source of research into the chemistry and effects of many Essential Oils and this work has been published into an enormous volume, with a newest 2nd edition released in 2014:  “Essential Oil Safety,” which he has co-authored with Rodney Young. Here they outline which Essential Oils should be avoided during pregnancy and those not to use with children - but Lavender Oil is considered to be a safe essential oil and suitable for both. These conclusions are also corroborated by (Bensouilah J & Buck P. 2006).

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NB* Applying any neat (undiluted) essential oil to the skin, no matter how gentle the oil is presumed to be, is not recommended and particularly never on a regular basis. This is especially to be avoided with children. This, alongside frequent heavy use of favoured essential oils, rather than varying the range of oils used, increases the risk of developing future skin irritations and sensitisations (Bensouilah J & Buck P. 2006).

Further, Essential Oils each carry individual safety concerns with potential constituent allergens and so great care should be taken to follow the recommended dilutions for each essential oil - and this will vary depending upon where it is used on the body and who it is being applied to.

"Dilution cannot be overemphasized when it comes to all essential oils.." Robert Tisserand (2015) 'New Survey Reveals Danger of Not Diluting Essential Oils" - an important article on this very issue - please click here


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References:

Bensouilah J & Buck P. (2006) “Aromadermatology,” Radcliffe.

Davis P. (2005) “Aromatherapy An A-Z,” Vermillion.

Khan I. & Abourashed E (2010, 3rd ed) "Leung's Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs & Cosmetics," Wiley. 

Lawless J. (2002) “The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils,” Thorsons.

Pengelley, (2004, 2nd ed.) "The Constituents of Medicinal Plants", Allen & Unwin.

Rose J. (1999) “375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols,” Frog Ltd. 

Sellar W. (2005) “The Directory of Essential Oils,” Vermillion.

Tisserand R. (1988) “Aromatherapy for Everyone,” Penguin.

Tisserand R. (1977) “The Art of Aromatherapy,” The C.W.Daniel Co. Ltd.

Tisserand R. & Young R. (2014) “Essential Oil Safety, 2nd ed.” Churchill Livingstone.

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Article written by © Na Smyth 2015 for Nooma Blog @ Nooma Organics Natural Skincare.

Photograph taken by Claire Jones for © Nooma Organics Natural Skincare. 

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