The truth about lavender and stress

I have a pillow spray I use every night before bed. It’s become such a staple in our house that my kids ask me to spray it on their pillows as well…

I’ve found that its scent helps me to relax and fall asleep faster than when I forget to use it.

The key ingredient in the spray is lavender and when I get really stressed, I take it a step further and add lavender oil to a diffuser to scent the whole room and help calm my mind.

In fact, I know a lot of people who use lavender to destress yet I know just as many more who claim that essential oils don’t work and are all just a hoax.

Well, the debate has finally been settled (at least when it comes to lavender) by a new study from scientists at Kagoshima University in Japan.

A safe alternative to anxiety medication

The research, reported in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, studied the effects of lavender by analyzing how linalool (the compound that gives lavender its scent) works in the brain of mice.

And, they discovered that lavender really does exert an anti-anxiety effect in your brain.

The researchers even found that linalool the same receptors in your brain — known as GABAA receptors — that anti-anxiety drugs like benzodiazepines target. And, it did without the side effects these drugs can cause, like dizziness, weakness, drowsiness, headaches and memory problems.

Read: 8 essential oils for health and wellness

The scientists proved these effects showing that when mice were given a drug that blocks these receptors, the linalool had no effect and their anxiety wasn’t reduced.

What’s really interesting is that the study even proved how lavender works in your body.

You see, scientists used to believe that the compound was absorbed through the lungs and into the bloodstream when it was inhaled where it could then affect receptors in the brain but the study proved different.

When the scientists exposed mice without a sense of smell to linalool, the compound didn’t produce the same anxiety quelling effects as it did in mice that could smell the lavender.

Read: Essential oils and breast cancer

The Japanese researchers discovered instead of entering your bloodstream when you inhale the soft scent of lavender, it actually works via smell, affecting your olfactory bulb.

In other words, as Dr. Hideki Kashiwadani, co-author of the study notes “These results suggest that linalool does not act directly on GABAA receptors like benzodiazepines do — but must activate them via olfactory neurons in the nose in order to produce its relaxing effects.”

Lavender each day to keep the stress away

So, embrace the scent of lavender to melt away your stress.

You can use a lavender pillow spray to help you sleep better at night or add it to a diffuser as I do, add lavender essential oils to coconut oil to make a calming body cream, apply lavender oil to your temples or simply rub it into your palms and take a deep breath.

Whatever you choose, the linalool in lavender is sure to help you feel more calm and stress-free.


  1. Benzodiazepines — RxList
  2. Does lavender really help with anxiety? — Medical News Today


Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.