How Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) Works

// Corey Schuler, MS, DC, CNS

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How Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) Works

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a member of the Lamiaceae (Mint) family. Other members of the mint family include rosemary, sage, peppermint, skullcap, and catnip. Botanical characteristics of lavender include a stalk that is square and simple with irregular flowers. The calyx or sepals is five-toothed and two-lipped. The calyx (bud) is the tubular structure that remains to produce seed. The calyx color is what gives dried lavender buds their color. It flowers between July and September and the seeds ripen between August and October.

Synapse Graphic for Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)Lavender is considered easy to cultivate especially for someone who is new to growing a medicinal garden. Stem-cutting is one method of propagation. Lavender flowers contain volatile oil containing linalyl acetate and linalool,1 geraniol,2 cineole,3 limonene,4 and sesquiterpenes.5

Therapeutic Actions of Lavender

The purported therapeutic actions of lavender are as a carminative which means it affects gastrointestinal gas production.*6 It also affects muscle tension7 and mood.*8,9 Lavender is thought to dilate capillaries and increase blood circulation via topical application and inhalation,10,11 provide gastric soothing properties,12 and is additionally categorized as a nervine meaning it supports the nervous system.*13 Interestingly, the essential oil of lavender is noted in the Materia medica as one phytotherapeutic not to be used internally. However, newer research offers a contrary point of view with human clinical trials supporting the use of oral lavender essential oil.

Mechanism of Oral Lavender

The mechanism of how oral lavender works is a matter of conflict. In contrast to initial speculations that the anxiolytic action of lavender oil is caused by an effect on the GABAA receptors similar to conventional agents14 a more recent study did not identify any interaction of oral lavender to known targets of conventional agents such as the GABAA-receptor, norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine transporters, or monoamine-oxidase-A (MAO-A).* Instead, oral lavender caused a potent inhibition of voltage dependent calcium channels (VDCCs) in synaptosomes.*15

Voltage-dependent calcium channels regulate the intracellular calcium concentration and contribute thereby to calcium signaling. The opening of these channels is primarily regulated by the membrane potential, but is also modulated by a wide variety of hormones, protein kinases, protein phosphatases, toxins, and drugs. These channels are an essential part of many excitable and non-excitable cells.16

The term “synaptosome” was first mentioned in a paper published in 1964.17 Synaptosomes are membranous sacs that contain synaptic components. They contain the complete presynaptic terminal, including mitochondria and synaptic vesicles, along with the postsynaptic membrane and the postsynaptic density (PSD).18

The primary action of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) which supports mood is thought to take place in hippocampal neurons.* This mechanism of action when stated in this way may sound familiar to conventional agents which are known to support comfort. However, upon closer evaluation, it is now known that the mechanism of action of lavender is, in fact, unique as it does not bind to certain binding sites that the conventional agents do.19

The stress response of the central nervous system and of the hippocampus in particular20 where the inhibition by oral lavender was shown to be mainly mediated via N-type and P/Q-type VDCCs is linked to mood.* In another clinical trial in healthy volunteers, oral lavender significantly reduced the serotonin-1A receptor (5-HT1A) binding potential in the brain clusters encompassing the temporal gyrus, the fusiform gyrus, the hippocampus, the insula, and the anterior cingulate cortex.*21

Corey Schuler, MS, DC, CNS

Corey Schuler is the Director of Clinical Affairs for Integrative Therapeutics. He is a certified nutrition specialist, licensed nutritionist, and chiropractic physician board-certified in clinical nutrition. He has earned degrees in nursing and phytotherapeutics, and has a private integrative medicine practice in Hudson, Wisconsin.

Dr. Schuler is an adjunct assistant professor at the School of Applied Clinical Nutrition at New York Chiropractic College. He volunteers for the Board of Certification for Nutrition Specialists and is a member of Institute for Functional Medicine, American College of Nutrition, and American Nutrition Association. He has conducted dozens of national seminars, media, and podcast interviews including CBS-WCCO and other radio stations, Intelligent Medicine, Underground Wellness, Five to Thrive Live, Aging but Dangerous, Rebel Health Tribe, and countless online summit appearances. He is on the board of directors for the International Probiotics Association and an advisor to Functional Medicine University.

1 Liao X, Wang Q, Fu JH, Tang J. [Main Components of Xinjiang Lavender Essential Oil Determined by Partial Least Squares and Near Infrared Spectroscopy]. Guang Pu Xue Yu Guang Pu Fen Xi. 2015 Sep;35(9):2526-9.
2Deng XY, Xue JS, Li HY, et al. Geraniol produces antidepressant-like effects in a chronic unpredictable mild stress mice model. Physiol Behav. 2015 Dec 1;152(Pt A):264-71.
3Carrasco A, Martinez-Gutierrez R, Tomas V, Tudela J. Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula latifolia Essential Oils from Spain: Aromatic Profile and Bioactivities. Planta Med. 2016 Jan;82(1-02):163-70.
4Carrasco A, Martinez-Gutierrez R, Tomas V, Tudela J. Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula latifolia Essential Oils from Spain: Aromatic Profile and Bioactivities. Planta Med. 2016 Jan;82(1-02):163-70.
5Lemberkovics E, Kéry A, Marczal G, Simándi B, Szöke E. [Phytochemical evaluation of essential oils, medicinal plants and their preparations]. Acta Pharm Hung. 1998 May;68(3):141-9.
6Lis-Balchin M, Hart S. Studies on the mode of action of the essential oil of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia P. Miller). Phytother Res. 1999 Sep;13(6):540-2.
7Lis-Balchin M, Hart S. Studies on the mode of action of the essential oil of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia P. Miller). Phytother Res. 1999 Sep;13(6):540-2.
8Effati-Daryani F, Mohammad-Alizadeh-Charandabi S, Mirghafourvand M, Taghizadeh M, Mohammadi A. Effect of Lavender Cream with or without Foot-bath on Anxiety, Stress and Depression in Pregnancy: a Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial. J Caring Sci. 2015 Mar 1;4(1):63-73.
9Kasper S, Volz HP, Dienel A, Schläfke S. Efficacy of Silexan in mixed anxiety-depression - A randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2016 Feb;26(2):331-40.
10Shimada K, Fukuda S, Maeda K, et al. Aromatherapy alleviates endothelial dysfunction of medical staff after night-shift work: preliminary observations. Hypertens Res. 2011 Feb;34(2):264-7.
11Shiina Y, Funabashi N, Lee K, et al. Relaxation effects of lavender aromatherapy improve coronary flow velocity reserve in healthy men evaluated by transthoracic Doppler echocardiography. Int J Cardiol. 2008 Sep 26;129(2):193-7.
12Lis-Balchin M, Hart S. Studies on the mode of action of the essential oil of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia P. Miller). Phytother Res. 1999 Sep;13(6):540-2.
13Ghods AA, Abforosh NH, Ghorbani R, Asgari MR. The effect of topical application of lavender essential oil on the intensity of pain caused by the insertion of dialysis needles in hemodialysis patients: A randomized clinical trial. Complement Ther Med. 2015 Jun;23(3):325-30.
14Huang L, Abuhamdah S, Howes MJ, et al. Pharmacological profile of essential oils derived from Lavandula angustifolia and Melissa officinalis with anti-agitation properties: focus on ligand-gated channels. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2008 Nov;60(11):1515-22.
15Schuwald AM, Nöldner M, Wilmes T, Klugbauer N, Leuner K, Müller WE. Lavender oil-potent anxiolytic properties via modulating voltage dependent calcium channels. PLoS One. 2013 Apr 29;8(4):e59998.
16Hofmann F, Lacinová L, Klugbauer N. Voltage-dependent calcium channels: from structure to function. Rev Physiol Biochem Pharmacol. 1999;139:33-87.
17Whittaker VP, Michaelson IA, Kirkland RJ. The separation of synaptic vesicles from nerve-ending particles ('synaptosomes'). Biochem J. 1964 Feb;90(2):293-303.
18Bai F, Witzmann FA. Synaptosome Proteomics. Sub-cellular biochemistry. 2007;43:77-98.
19Schuwald AM, Nöldner M, Wilmes T, Klugbauer N, Leuner K, Müller WE. Lavender oil-potent anxiolytic properties via modulating voltage dependent calcium channels. PLoS One. 2013 Apr 29;8(4):e59998.
20Satpute AB, Mumford JA, Naliboff BD, Poldrack RA. Human anterior and posterior hippocampus respond distinctly to state and trait anxiety. Emotion. 2012 Feb;12(1):58-68.
21Baldinger P, Höflich AS, Mitterhauser M, et al. Effects of Silexan on the serotonin-1A receptor and microstructure of the human brain: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, cross-over study with molecular and structural neuroimaging. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2014 Oct 31;18(4). pii: pyu063.

 

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†† For homeopathic products: these indications are based solely on traditional homeopathic use. They have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration.
* For dietary supplements: this statement has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


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