Lavender oil is an essential oil obtained by distillation from the flower spikes of certain species of lavender. Two forms are distinguished, lavender flower oil, a colorless oil, insoluble in water, having a density of 0.885 g/mL; and lavender spike oil, a distillate from the herb Lavandula latifolia, having density 0.905 g/mL. Lavender flower oil is a designation of the National Formulary and the British Pharmacopoeia. Like all essential oils, it is not a pure compound; it is a complex mixture of naturally occurring phytochemicals, including linalool and linalyl acetate. Kashmir Lavender oil is famous for being produced from lavender at the foothills of the Himalayas. As of 2011, the biggest lavender oil producer in the world is Bulgaria.
Lavender oil, which has long been used in the production of perfume, can also be used in aromatherapy. The scent has a calming effect which may aid in relaxation and the reduction of anxiety and stress. Lasea capsules containing lavender oil with a high amount of linalool and linalyl acetate, termed Silexan by the manufacturer, are approved as an anxiolytic in Germany. The approval is based on a finding that the capsules are comparable in effect to low-dose lorazepam.
Use in alternative medicine
In terms of phototoxicity, a 2007 investigative report from European researchers stated that:
"Lavender oil and sandalwood oil did not induce photohaemolysis in our test system. However, a few reports on photosensitivity reactions due to these substances have been published, e.g., one patient with persistent light reaction and a positive photo-patch test to sandalwood oil."
Oil of spike lavender has also occasionally been used as a solvent in oil painting, mainly before the use of distilled turpentine became common. For instance Francisco Pacheco mentions the use of lavender oil in his book "Arte de la pintura" (1649).
Lavender oil has been implicated in gynecomastia, the abnormal development of breasts in young boys. Denver endocrinologist Clifford Bloch hypothesized the link after three boys presented with enlarged breasts. Subsequently, Derek Henley and Kenneth Korach of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C., discovered in lavender and tea tree oil the presence of compounds which both suppress male hormones and mimic female hormones.
Because sex hormone levels normally are low prior to puberty, young boys and girls particularly are sensitive to estrogenic and androgenic compounds. The discovery of the gynecomastia link in boys has led some researchers to suspect lavender and tea tree oils, which are present in various personal care products including shampoos and lotions, may also contribute to the increased incidence of early breast development in girls.
The conclusion that the gynecomastia actually was caused by the essential oils in the products used by the three boys is disputed by the Natural Artisan Perfumers Guild and Cropwatch on the claimed basis of insufficient evidence. In one in vivo test for estrogenic activity, lavender oil "gave no evidence of estrogenic activity".
The conclusion that gynecomastia was caused by lavender was disputed. Based on the data from her study, lavender oil, at dosages of 20 or 100 mg/kg, was not active in the rat uterotrophic assay.
The primary components of lavender oil are linalool (51%) and linalyl acetate (35%). Other components include α-pinene, limonene, 1,8-cineole, cis- and trans-ocimene, 3-octanone, camphor, caryophyllene, terpinen-4-ol and lavendulyl acetate. The composition of lavender essential oil as obtained by chromatography:
|28.92 %||49.47 %|
- Bulgarian lavender producers worried about demand drop, China Post, 14 July 2011
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- See the article in the July 1, 2006 issue of Science News for further information on this study.
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- Politano, V. T.; McGinty, D; Lewis, E. M.; Hoberman, A. M.; Christian, M. S.; Diener, R. M.; Api, A. M. (2013). "Uterotrophic assay of percutaneous lavender oil in immature female rats". International Journal of Toxicology 32 (2): 123–9. doi:10.1177/1091581812472209. PMID 23358464.
- A. Prashar, I. C. Locke, C. S. Evans (2004). Cytotoxicity of lavender oil and its major components to human skin cells. Cell Proliferation 37 (3), 221–229.