No shade to coconut oil, but we hear about it all the time as a coveted oil with many skin, hair, and health benefits. However, besides coconut oil, lots of beautiful and amazing homegrown things from the earth can be beneficial to us in a multitude of ways. Example? Lavender oil. This pretty, purple plant has powerful benefits. Some studies have shown it's even an effective treatment for medical conditions dealing with neurological disorders of the nervous system, while others have shown that lavender essential oil can help with insomnia, hair loss, anxiety, stress, and postoperative pain.
The hardworking herb comes in many forms, so we talked to holistic skincare expert Mariska Nicholson, who is the founder of Olive + M, an ethical and all-natural skincare line, about how to navigate the lavender oil pool. "Not all lavender is created equal," says Nicholson. "The kinds that can be found at many drugstores and grocery stores are made with low-grade oils that aren't pure or have been diluted with fillers and synthetic ingredients. Be sure to do your research."
Fortunately, Nicholson pointed out the major difference between types of lavender oils that are important to be aware of. "There's a difference between lavender essential oil or lavender oil. If a label does not clearly state that it is an 'essential oil,' then it is not an essential oil and should not be used or treated as such. Lavender oils are simply perfume oils that are unlikely to contain any beneficial properties that are found in lavender essential oils. Lavender oil is not even derived from a lavender plant."
Just to give you an idea of the volume of the herb on the market, "There are over 40 species of lavender discovered to date and over 400 varieties," says NIcholson. "These have been cultivated to yield different types of lavender essential oils. These different kinds of lavender produce oils with differing chemical compositions, resulting in essential oils that can be more suitable for particular issues than others."
To determine the authenticity of an oil or company, Nicholson suggests looking at the pricing of lavender essential oils—if it's cheap, it's safe to say it's probably low-grade or diluted by production and manufacturing practices used by the company. "Therapeutic grade does not mean an oil is safe, pure, ingestible," warns Nicholson. "There is no 'FDA' of essential oils, meaning there is no regulation, process, or requirements to label or market an essential oil as 'therapeutic grade.'"
Lavender (or Lavandula angustifolia) is a favorite essential oil of many for its versatility. "It has a relaxing effect on the body, and therapeutic-grade lavender has been highly regarded for the skin," explains Nicholson. Read on for all the benefits of lavender oil you'll love.
Benefits of Lavender Oil
Soothe the Nervous System
Studies show the inhalation of lavender has a soothing and calming effect on the nervous system, making it a great alternative for alleviating stress, anxiety, depression, and fatigue.
Lavender also stimulates blood circulation, so it can greatly improve hair growth when applied to the scalp in an olive oil mixture.
Warning: Some internet sources may tell you that lavender oil in your mascara promotes lash growth with strengthening, volumizing, and lengthening lashes, but according to Nicholson, this is not true. "Do not use undiluted lavender oil near your eye," says Nicholson. "There is no evidence to back up these claims. Even diluted is not encouraged."
Ed. note: Check with your doctor before using essential oils to treat any medical concerns.
This post has been updated by Sarah Yang and Drew Elovitz.
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions. See our full health disclaimer here.