Is Lavender Oil as Effective as Lorazepam for Anxiety?

Benzodiazepines – like lorazepam – are often prescribed for anxiety, but they can cause excessive sleepiness, cognitive impairment, and when used long-term, they can increase the risk for dependence and addiction. On the other hand, lavender oil has been used for centuries to reduce anxiety, and it may be effective in bringing about feelings of calm when used daily. The good news is it does not carry the same risk for dependence and addiction as may be seen with benzodiazepines like lorazepam. Lavender oil and benzodiazepines are similar in that they both act on GABA receptors in the brain to bring feelings of calm.

A study from 2010 revealed that an 80 mg preparation of lavender oil – Silexan – was at least as effective as 0.5 mg lorazepam in improving anxiety in men and women with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) over 6 weeks. Specifically, 52.5% of study participants in the lavender oil group reported a 50% overall improvement in anxiety symptoms, while only 40.5% of those in the lorazepam group reported the same improvements. Additionally, 40% in the lavender oil group reported complete remission from their GAD, while only 27% of those taking lorazepam reported the same. Both the lavender oil and lorazepam groups reported similar improvements in mental and physical anxiety, worry, ability to fall asleep, and length of sleep during the study.

The big takeaway? Lavender oil may be a great choice for combatting the anxiety many of us experience!

Phytomedicine, February 2010