Stress-related Conditions Perhaps of the greatest value, and what makes lavender unique in comparison to other oils such as tea tree, is its pronounced regulating effect on the nervous system Within both the physical and psychological realm lavender is a ‘reconciler of opposites’, having an essentially balancing and harmonizing nature. In an age of extremes, it is this quality above all which may account for the strength of the popularity of lavender today! It is also this area of application which is receiving the closest examination in research studies and trials.
Of all essential oils, lavender seems to represent ‘the middle way’ – being neither ‘yin’ nor ‘yang’ in the extreme. This ‘neutral’ quality may also account for why lavender blends so readily with other essential oils – it also tends to increase the overall effectiveness of a remedy when used in combination with it. In this respect, lavender is a supreme ‘adaptogen’, i.e. it can have a restorative effect in cases of listlessness or weakness, yet has a calming effect on those prone to hyperactivity or agitation. This is why it is recommended for what appears to be such a diverse variety of symptoms including shortness of breath, depression and nervous exhaustion as well as palpitations, hysteria and hypertension. In his work with psychiatric patients, Prof. Rovesti1 noted that some essential oils, including lavender, were useful for treating both anxiety and depression or, indeed, a combination of the two:
It is obviously not possible to define precise limits between the two aromatherapeutic actions of nerve stimulants and nerve sedatives because of their particular type of physiological action, which Kobert has defined as simultaneously both stimulating and sedative.
This regulating action can be seen most clearly with regard to the action of lavender oil on the nervous system as a whole. It is well known that lavender can have either a tonic or/and a sedative effect on the central nervous system depending on the state of the individual concerned. This makes it one of the most valuable oils for all types of stress-related conditions, where the nervous system can ofen be both depleted and over-stimulated simultaneously. Stress also depletes the immune system, and can be the cause or the precipitating agent for all types of secondary conditions such as digestive or circulatory problems – a fact which is being increasingly recognized by the orthodox medical establishment today. Lavender is consequently particularly valuable in psychosomatic conditions of this type, where a physical condition is closely related to an underlying psychological state.
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Lavender essential oil has also been shown to inhibit both sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system functioning, depending on which system is dysfunctional. Sympathetic hyperfunctioning is triggered more by physical stress, while parasympathetic overactivity is caused more by emotional stress – although both reactions can produce similar symptoms such as muscular cramp, indigestion, spasms or restlessness. By selectively inhibiting either the sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous excess, lavender can assist the body’s response to unproductive stress of any kind. Yet lavender will not interfere with the body’s response to a productive type of stress, which is a normal and even desirable part of life.
In a similar fashion, lavender can exert either a cooling or warming effect on the entire system, depending on the temperament and condition of the individual in question. For a person with a hot, acute condition such as a fever or an inflammation, a small amount of lavender will have a cooling effect. On the other hand, for someone suffering from a cold condition such as a chill, muscular cramp or nervous debility, a more generous application of lavender will generate warmth and activity, both local and systemic. Thus, by creating an equilibrium within the body, lavender can effect both physical and the psychological changes, thereby enhancing an individual’s overall health.3