Lavender flower essential oil has a long traditional history of use for anxiety and stress, but also some modern meaningful scientific research confirming its excellent effectiveness in treating general anxiety disorders. Here is yet another recent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study comparing the effects of a lavender cream and foot bathing on anxiety, stress and even depression, in pregnant women.
A group of 141 healthy pregnant women who were 25-28 weeks pregnant were randomly assigned to 3 groups: 1) placebo 2) lavender cream 3) lavender cream plus a foot bath. The lavender cream contained 1.25% lavender essential oil and the women applied 2 gm of lavender or placebo cream on their legs for 10-20 minutes in the evening, 1.5 hours before bedtime. In those women who were in the lavender plus the foot bath, they soaked their feet in 40-42 degree centigrade water at a depth of just above the ankle, for 30 minutes, after they applied the cream.
The women completed a questionnaire for anxiety, stress and depression at baseline, week 4 and week 8. After 4 weeks, there was a significant improvement in stress and anxiety in the lavender cream compared to placebo. In the lavender cream plus foot bath group, they had a significant improvement in stress scores compared to placebo. After 8 weeks, there were significant improvements in all parameters of anxiety, stress and depress the lavender cream group and in the lavender plus foot bath group, when compared to the placebo. The improvement in just the lavender cream and the cream plus foot bath were similar.
Commentary: While this study excluded women with severe depression, severe anxiety or severe stress, this simple safe treatment approach during pregnancy is worth noting, as mild to moderate symptoms are common during pregnancy. It is appealing to have a pregnancy safe topical treatment. Given the similar results between the cream and the cream plus foot bath, and the more cumbersome nature of instituting a nightly foot bath, I will likely just recommend the lavender cream. I will also think of this treatment for mild to moderate anxiety, depression and stress in non-pregnant women and add this to my lavender delivery options, that include an oral essential oil of lavender product ( called “Lavela”for the professional market from Integrative Therapeutics, and “ Calm-Aid” in the retail setting from Nature’s Way)- an impressively proven product for general anxiety disorder comparable to prescription anti-anxiety medications and a prescription SSRI, a topical essential oil for aroma therapy and (I usually use doTERRA products), and a lavender flower pillow.
Effati-Daryani F, Mohammed-Alizaeh-Charandabi S, Mirghafouvand M, et al. Topical lavender cream alleviates anxiety, stress and depression in pregnant women. J Caring Sci 2015;4(1):63-73.