Historically, lavender was used as an antiseptic and for mental health purposes. Today, lavender is used as a folk or traditional remedy for anxiety, insomnia, restlessness, depression, upset stomach, headache, and hair loss.

Lavender is native to the Mediterranean region. It was used in ancient Egypt as part of the process for mummifying bodies. Lavender’s use as a bath additive originated in Persia, Greece, and Rome. The herb‘s name comes from the Latin lavare, which means “to wash.”

Lavender is most commonly used in aromatherapy, in which the scent of the essential oil from the flowers is inhaled. The essential oil can also be diluted with other oils and applied to the skin. Dried lavender flowers can be used to make teas or liquid extracts that can be taken by mouth.

Some preliminary results indicate that lavender oil, combined with oils from other herbs, may help with hair loss from a condition called alopecia areata.

Side Effects and Cautions

  • Lavender oil may be poisonous if taken by mouth.
  • When lavender teas and extracts are taken by mouth, they may cause headache, changes in appetite, and constipation.
  • Using lavender with sedative medications may increase drowsiness.

Tell all your health care providers about any complementary health practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care. For tips about talking with your health care providers about complementary and alternative medicine, see NCCAM’s Time to Talk campaign