Very few essential oils evoke the passionate response that people have towards fragrances as lavender essential oil does.
People either love it passionately or hate it just as passionately. When the latter group is asked what it is that makes them hate it… usually it has to do with a cranky grandmother who used lavender scent in her underwear drawer!
Love it or hate it, lavender essential oil has more uses and benefits than just about any other essential oil on the planet.
This article will focus especially on its uses for cancer patients and provide some helpful tips for using lavender essential oil.
The botanical name of true lavender is Lavandula angustifolia. Although other types of lavender may also have beneficial uses, most of the research is on Lavandula angustifolia and it is the most highly regarded and therapeutic form of lavender.
Historical Use of Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender essential oil holds a special place in the world of herbs and has long been regarded for its wonderful healing properties.
Its history goes back some 2,500 years to the ancient Egyptians and Phoenicians who used it for healing, embalming, and perfume.
The Romans were known to use lavender for its medicinal and cleansing properties, scenting baths, as an insect repellent, and even for smoking!
During the times of the Black Death in England, lavender was used for protection against the plague.
People actually fastened stalks of lavender to their wrists and ankles to protect them against the disease, not understanding the exact reason for that protection. Now we know why it worked… lavender repels the fleas that carried the plague!
In times of war when medicines and antibiotics were not readily available, soldiers were often given lavender oil to ease the pain of injuries and to kill any bacteria in their wounds.
We have now discovered hundreds more uses for lavender. It is known to be calming and relaxing to the nervous system, it eases depression, and improves cognitive performance.
Lavender essential oil heals burns, eases allergy symptoms, kills bacteria, neutralizes the itch of insect bites, is a natural antiseptic and antifungal, and so much more.
One of the most interesting aspects of lavender essential oil, however, is how it helps cancer patients.
The 4 Best Benefits of Lavender Essential Oil for Cancer Patients
1. As an anti-tumoral. One of the active phytochemicals (plant chemicals) within lavender is perillyl alcohol. In 2015, researchers found that perillyl alcohol administered via nasal inhalation was an effective treatment for glioblastoma patients.
These patients had become unresponsive to standard cancer therapies and faced a “dismal prognosis.” The study indicated that long-term inhalation of perillyl alcohol was very well tolerated over several years of daily use. (Several years means the patients lived much longer than expected!)
Another phytochemical within lavender is linalool. Recent (2016) research on linalool indicated it has “significant” cytotoxic (cancer cell killing) and apoptotic (programmed cell death) activity against epithelial ovarian cancer cells.
In addition, researchers found that combining linalool with paclitaxel significantly decreased tumor weight, compared with the use of paclitaxel alone.
2015 research on linalool against human melanoma cells revealed that linalool had an inhibitory effect on the growth of these cells.
A 2014 study demonstrated that Lavandula angustifolia essential oil exhibited significant cytotoxic effects against malignant cervical cancer cells. It had the same effect on both estrogen- and progesterone-receptor positive breast cancer cells.
In another study from 2013, researchers found that Lavandula angustifolia decreased the viability of Hodgkin’s lymphoma cells. Lavender inhibited cell proliferation (rapid growth) and induced apoptosis (programmed cell death, lacking in cancer cells).
Tips for use: Using a therapeutic grade lavender oil, massage oil directly into affected areas. Used transdermally (through the skin), essential oils are absorbed into the bloodstream within about 20 minutes.
Lavender essential oil can also be diffused into the room using a cool mist diffuser. Never heat essential oils as it ruins their therapeutic properties.
2. Relief of anxiety and stress. Lavender is excellent for its ability to calm the nervous system and ease stress and anxiety.
It also helps improve the quality and depth of sleep. A 2009 study confirmed lavender’s ability to improve mood, and to reduce anxiety and depression.
Tips for use: Drip a few drops of lavender oil into your hands, rub hands together, and deeply inhale the scent for a minute or two to enjoy its calming effects.
Lavender oil can also be diffused into the room using a cool mist diffuser. It can be applied to the soles of the feet prior to retiring to bed for the night. A drop or two of lavender oil can be applied directly on the pillow.
3. Improvement of immune system function. Studies show that the anti-bacterial effects of Lavandula angustifolia help to protect the immuno-compromised cancer patient from opportunistic bugs, even the dreaded Staphylococcus aureus, or golden staph.
It influences the body’s macrophages and phagocytes, part of the immune system, and influences genetic activity to help fight the infection.
Tips for use: Massage lavender oil into the skin, making sure to use a therapeutic or medicinal grade of oil.
The soles of the feet have the largest pores of the body, so this is a good place to apply essential oils, especially before going to bed at night. Lavender oil can also be diffused via a cool mist diffuser into the room where you work or study.
4. Pain relief. Lavender has long been used for pain relief. A small 2007 study using lavender examined the pain medication requirements of 54 patients undergoing laparoscopic gastric banding. Eighty-two percent receiving just a placebo required pain medication.
Only 46% of those who received lavender by inhalation required pain medication. Also, significantly less pain medication was required by those receiving lavender as compared with a placebo.
Tips for use: Lavender can be inhaled directly from the hands or via a cool mist diffuser. Massage it into the skin of the affected area or soles of the feet.
Precautions When Using Lavender Essential Oil
1. Make sure your lavender essential oil is derived from true lavender, Lavandula angustifolia, and not lavandin.
Lavandin is often substituted by makers of cheaper essential oils because it yields more oil than true lavender. Lavandin is not a legitimate substitute for Lavandula angustifolia as it does not possess the same healing properties and should never be used on burns.
2. The use of lavender may increase or potentiate both the narcotic and sedative effects of other drugs because of its calming effect on the central nervous system.
3. Be cautious about using lavender together with anticoagulant drugs because the combination may increase the risk of bleeding.
4. Never apply essential oils anywhere near the eyes or inside the ears.
5. It is not recommended to use essential oils as a sole treatment for cancer. But used in combination with other therapies (both conventional and alternative), essential oils can play a huge role in helping a person to heal.
By Marnie Clark / References:
- Essential Oils and Anxiolytic Aromatherapy
- Preclinical Development and Clinical Use of Perillyl Alcohol for Chemoprevention and Cancer Therapy
- Linalool-incorporated Nanoparticles as a Novel Anticancer Agent for Epithelial Ovarian Carcinoma
- Antiproliferative Effect of Linalool on Rpmi 7932 Human Melanoma Cell Line: Ultrastructural Studies
- Comparative Studies of Cytotoxic and Apoptotic Properties of Different Extracts and the Essential Oil of Lavandula Angustifolia on Malignant and Normal Cells
- Aqueous Extract of Lavender Angustifolia Inhibits Lymphocytes Proliferation of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Patients
- Lavandula angustifolia Mill. Essential Oil Exerts Antibacterial and Anti-Inflammatory Effect in Macrophage Mediated Immune Response to Staphylococcus aureus
- Treatment with Lavender Aromatherapy in the Post-anesthesia Care Unit Reduces Opioid Requirements of Morbidly Obese Patients Undergoing Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding
About the author: Marnie Clark has been passionately studying natural medicine since 1995 when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Marnie herself went through breast cancer in 2004 and learned how to heal using both conventional and natural medicine.
She now teaches what she learned on her journey, along with patient empowerment and how to thrive during and after breast cancer using food and natural medicine. Marnie is a natural therapist, bodyworker, aromatherapist, mother of one, and grandmother of two. You can find out more about Marnie on her website: MarnieClark.com