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Aromatherapy - Lavender in aromatherapy

by Paul Bergner

Medical Herbalism 10-31-95 7(3): 20

In the Schizophrenia case study featured in this issue, Chanchal Cabrera used essential oils in bath water for aromatherapy treatment. Aromatherapy can be very useful in the emotional component of medical conditions, a fact recognized by conventional medicine in Europe, most notably in France, where aromatherapy is a common part of hospital care.

Conventional scientists (mainly those in the field of nursing), have recently taken an interest in aromatherapy, especially in lavender oil, which Cabrera also used in her case. Lavender is antiseptic and sedative. The greatest challenge for conventional scientists is to separate the effects of the fragrance from the placebo effects of its method of administration, such as massage, touch, or bath. Some recent clinical trials with lavender effectively demonstrate the efficacy of the fragrance itself.

Intensive Care

One hundred-twenty-two patients in an intensive care unit were divided into three groups, which received either massage, aromatherapy using the essential oil of lavender, or a period of rest. Patients receiving the aromatherapy had a statistically greater improvement in mood, and lower perception of anxiety. The effect was not sustained or cumulative (Dunn et al). The trial effectively distinguished between the effects of massage, rest, and aromatherapy.

Postnatal pain

Six-hundred-thirty-five new mothers received either lavender oil or a placebo substance in their bath for ten days following normal childbirth. No statistical differences in postnatal pain or discomfort were found between the groups, but the lavender groups reported consistently less pain from days 3-5 of the trial. No side effects were found (Dale and Cornwell).

Post surgical stress

In a double-blind trial, twenty-eight post-surgical patients in two randomized groups received the essential oils of one of two different species of lavender. Emotional and stress levels were evaluated before and after treatment on two consecutive days. The therapeutic effects of the two lavenders were different: one oil was almost twice as effective as the other. The only difference in treatment was the plant species, demonstrating that the oil and not placebo effects were responsible for the different outcomes (Buckle).
Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner    13


    Medical Herbalism: Clinical Articles and Case Studies


Four nursing home residents were treated with lavender oil as a substitute for sleeping pills, and were able to stop taking the pills completely. Three of the patients had been taking sedatives to sleep. The medications were discontinued for several weeks, and then lavender scent was administered before sleep. None of the patients had to start taking the sedatives again. The fourth subject, who had not been taking medications, reported much better sleep with lavender (Stretch).


Buckle J. “Aromatherapy” Nuts Times 1993 May 1925;89(20):32-5

Dale A, Cornwell S. “The role of lavender oil in relieving perineal discomfort following childbirth: a blind randomized clinical trial.” J Adv Nurs 1994 Jan; 19(1):89-96

Dunn C, Sleep J, Collett D. “Sensing an improvement: an experimental study to evaluate the use of aromatherapy, massage and periods of rest in an intensive care unit.” J Adv Nurs 1995 Jan;21(1):34-40

Stretch D. Lancet. 8 Sep 95 (Letter)
Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner    14