Lavender: Nootropic Benefits, Uses, Dosage, & Side Effects

An artistic interpretation of neural connections in the brain being enhanced by the nootropic compound lavender.

Lavender is a fragrant herb renowned for its calming and relaxing properties.

Recent research has unveiled lavender’s potential as a natural nootropic, offering cognitive benefits such as reduced anxiety and stress, improved sleep quality, enhanced memory and attention, and neuroprotection.

This article explores the science behind lavender’s nootropic effects and provides practical information on its uses, dosage, and potential side effects.

What is Lavender?

A photorealistic image of lavender flowers in full bloom.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a flowering plant in the mint family, native to the Mediterranean region.

It’s prized for its distinctive purple flowers and fragrant essential oil.

Lavender has been used for centuries in herbal medicine, aromatherapy, and cosmetics for its calming, soothing properties.

What Are the Different Types of Lavender Plants?

There are several species of lavender, but the most common types used for their cognitive benefits include:

  1. English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): Known for its sweet fragrance and calming effects. Most often used in aromatherapy and herbal preparations.
  2. French Lavender (Lavandula stoechas): Has a strong, camphor-like scent. Contains higher concentrations of certain bioactive compounds.
  3. Lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia): A hybrid of English and Portuguese lavender. Produces more essential oil than other varieties.

What Are The Bioactive Compounds in Lavender?

Lavender contains several bioactive compounds that contribute to its nootropic effects:

  1. Linalool: A terpene alcohol with sedative, anxiolytic, and neuroprotective properties. Makes up 25-45% of lavender essential oil.
  2. Camphor: A terpene with stimulating effects on the nervous system. Higher in French lavender.
  3. 1,8-Cineole: Also known as eucalyptol. Has anti-inflammatory and cognitive-enhancing effects.
  4. Rosmarinic acid: A polyphenol with antioxidant and neuroprotective properties.

How Bioavailible is Lavender?

The bioavailability of lavender depends on the form and route of administration:

InhalationWhen inhaled, linalool and other volatile compounds can directly impact the brain via the olfactory system. Effects are rapid but short-lived.
OralLavender essential oil is poorly absorbed when taken orally. Linalool has an oral bioavailability of only 1.8% in rats. Teas and tinctures may be more bioavailable.
TopicalLavender essential oil can be absorbed through the skin, but bioavailability is low (around 5% for linalool). Using a carrier oil may enhance absorption.

What Are the Cognitive Benefits of Lavender?

A photorealistic image of lavender and its neurological impact on the brain in landscape format.

Research suggests lavender can provide several cognitive benefits:

  1. Reduces anxiety and stress
  2. Improves sleep quality
  3. Enhances memory and attention
  4. Provides neuroprotection

How Does Lavender Reduce Anxiety and Stress?

Lavender reduces anxiety and stress by modulating neurotransmitter activity in the brain.

Lavender essential oil contains linalool, a compound that interacts with GABA receptors, promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety.

Linalool also lowers cortisol levels, the primary stress hormone.

A systematic review by Phytomedicine found that lavender aromatherapy significantly reduced anxiety scores in clinical settings.(1)

How Does Lavender Improve Sleep Quality?

Lavender improves sleep quality by promoting relaxation and reducing sleep disturbances.

A randomized controlled clinical trial done in New York found that lavender essential oil inhalation improved sleep quality and reduced mental fatigue in college students.(2)

Lavender has also been shown to increase slow-wave sleep, the most restorative stage of sleep.

Additionally, another study concluded that lavender aromatherapy could be an effective and safe complementary therapy for insomnia.(3)

How Does Lavender Enhance Memory and Attention?

Lavender enhances memory and attention by improving cognitive function and reducing oxidative stress.

A study by the International Journal of Neuroscience found that lavender aromatherapy improved working memory and reaction times in healthy adults.(4)

Lavender has also been shown to protect against scopolamine-induced memory impairment in mice.(5)

How Does Lavender Provide Neuroprotection?

Lavender provides neuroprotection by combating oxidative stress, inflammation, and neurotoxicity.

A study found that lavender essential oil exhibited strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, protecting brain cells from damage.(Batiha, Gaber El-Saber et al. “A review of the bioactive components and pharmacological properties of Lavandula species.” Naunyn-Schmiedeberg’s archives of pharmacology vol. 396,5 (2023): 877-900. doi:10.1007/s00210-023-02392-x))

Lavender has also been shown to attenuate neurotoxicity induced by aluminum chloride in rats.

Additionally, a review from 2021 highlighted lavender’s potential in preventing and treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.(6)

What Are The Nootropic Uses of Lavender?

Lavender is well-known for its calming and soothing properties, but it also has potential nootropic uses, which refer to its benefits in enhancing cognitive function. Here are some key nootropic uses of lavender:

  1. Stress and Anxiety Reduction: Lavender is widely used for its anxiolytic effects. By reducing stress and anxiety, lavender can help improve focus and mental clarity.
  2. Improved Sleep Quality: Good sleep is crucial for cognitive function. Lavender has been shown to improve sleep quality, which can enhance memory, learning, and overall brain function.
  3. Mood Enhancement: Lavender’s calming effects can improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression. A positive mood is associated with better cognitive performance and mental flexibility.
  4. Neuroprotection: Some studies suggest that lavender has neuroprotective properties. Its antioxidants can help protect brain cells from oxidative stress and inflammation, which are linked to cognitive decline.
  5. Pain Relief: Lavender has analgesic properties that can help reduce headaches and migraines. By alleviating pain, it can help maintain mental clarity and focus.
  6. Memory Enhancement: There is some evidence that lavender can enhance memory and learning. Aromatherapy with lavender has been shown to improve cognitive performance, particularly in tasks involving memory and attention.
  7. Cognitive Function in Neurodegenerative Diseases: Preliminary research indicates that lavender might have potential benefits for conditions like Alzheimer’s disease by reducing neuroinflammation and oxidative stress.

How Can Lavender Be Grown for Cognitive Enhancement?

Growing your own lavender for nootropic use is relatively easy:

  1. Choose a sunny location with well-draining soil. Lavender thrives in dry, rocky soil.
  2. Plant lavender seedlings or propagate from cuttings in spring or fall. Space plants 1-3 feet apart.
  3. Water deeply but infrequently, allowing soil to dry between waterings. Avoid overwatering, which can cause root rot.
  4. Prune plants annually in early spring to promote bushiness and flower production.
  5. Harvest flowers just before they fully open. Dry bundles upside down in a cool, dark place for use in teas or tinctures.
  6. Collect essential oil by steam distillation of fresh flowering tops. Approximately 50-60 pounds of flowers yield 1 pound of oil.

Dosage recommendations for lavender vary depending on the form and intended use:

Essential oil1-4 drops inhaled or diluted in a carrier oil for topical use. Avoid taking essential oils orally without professional guidance.
TeaSteep 1-2 teaspoons of dried lavender flowers in 8 oz of boiling water for 10-15 minutes. Drink 1-3 cups daily.
TinctureTake 30-40 drops (1.5-2 mL) of a 1:5 tincture in 60% alcohol, 1-3 times daily.
Capsules20-80 mg of lavender oil in capsule form, taken 1-3 times daily. Use products standardized to 25-45% linalool.

Can Lavender Be Used in A Nootropic Stack?

Yes, lavender can be combined with other nootropics for synergistic effects:

  • Lavender + L-theanine: Enhances relaxation and reduces anxiety without causing drowsiness.
  • Lavender + Bacopa monnieri: Improves memory and attention while reducing stress.
  • Lavender + Lemon balm: Promotes calmness and improves sleep quality. The combination is found in many natural sleep aids.
  • Lavender + Ashwagandha: Reduces cortisol levels and enhances stress resilience.

When stacking nootropics, start with low doses of each ingredient and monitor your response.

What Are The Side Effects and Risks of Using Lavender?

A photorealistic image of lavender and its molecular structure in landscape format.

Lavender is generally safe and well-tolerated, but it can cause side effects in some people:

  • Skin irritation or allergic reactions from topical use. Always dilute essential oils and do a patch test before applying to skin.
  • Headache, nausea, or gastrointestinal upset from oral ingestion of lavender oil. Avoid taking essential oils orally.
  • Hormone-like effects. Lavender oil contains compounds that mimic estrogen and block androgens. Excessive use may cause hormonal imbalances, especially in prepubescent boys.

Warning: Lavender essential oil is toxic if ingested in large amounts. Keep all lavender products out of reach of children and pets.

Who Should Avoid Lavender?

Certain individuals should avoid using lavender or use it with caution:

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women, due to lack of safety data and potential hormone-like effects.
  • Children, especially boys, due to risk of hormonal disruption. Avoid using lavender oil on children without medical supervision.
  • People with allergies to lavender or other plants in the Lamiaceae family, such as mint, sage, or rosemary.
  • Individuals with estrogen-sensitive conditions like endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or certain cancers.

If you have any pre-existing health conditions or take medications, consult your healthcare provider before using lavender for cognitive enhancement.

Does Lavender Cause Any Interactions With Medication?

Lavender may interact with certain medications, especially those that act on the central nervous system:

  • Sedatives and hypnotics: Lavender may enhance the effects of drugs like lorazepam, zolpidem, and phenobarbital, increasing the risk of drowsiness and respiratory depression.
  • Anticonvulsants: Linalool and other compounds in lavender may lower the seizure threshold and reduce the effectiveness of anticonvulsant medications.
  • Blood thinners: Lavender contains coumarin, which may increase the risk of bleeding when combined with anticoagulants like warfarin.
  • Hormonal medications: The phytoestrogens in lavender may interfere with the action of birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, or hormonal cancer treatments.

Note: Stop using lavender at least 2 weeks before any scheduled surgery.

Sources, Studies, and Scientific Research
  1. Donelli, Davide et al. “Effects of lavender on anxiety: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” Phytomedicine : international journal of phytotherapy and phytopharmacology vol. 65 (2019): 153099. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2019.153099
  2. Lillehei, Angela Smith et al. “Effect of Inhaled Lavender and Sleep Hygiene on Self-Reported Sleep Issues: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.) vol. 21,7 (2015): 430-8. doi:10.1089/acm.2014.0327
  3. Lee, Inn-Sook, and Gyung-Joo Lee. Taehan Kanho Hakhoe chi vol. 36,1 (2006): 136-43. doi:10.4040/jkan.2006.36.1.136
  4. Moss, Mark et al. “Aromas of rosemary and lavender essential oils differentially affect cognition and mood in healthy adults.” The International journal of neuroscience vol. 113,1 (2003): 15-38. doi:10.1080/00207450390161903
  5. Rahmati, Batool et al. “Antidepressant and anxiolytic activity of Lavandula officinalis aerial parts hydroalcoholic extract in scopolamine-treated rats.” Pharmaceutical biology vol. 55,1 (2017): 958-965. doi:10.1080/13880209.2017.1285320
  6. Fernandes, Luciana Cristina B et al. “Essential Oils in Experimental Models of Neuropsychiatric Disorders: A Systematic Review.” Current neuropharmacology vol. 19,10 (2021): 1738-1759. doi:10.2174/1570159X19666210421091734

Jacob Kovacs is a cognitive neuroscientist and author at WholisticResearch, specializing in nootropics and neuroactive peptides. His expertise in neuroscience and psychopharmacology bridges cognitive science with drug development. Kovacs’ work focuses on enhancing cognitive functions and brain health through innovative, efficient neuroactive compounds that overcome traditional pharmacokinetic challenges. His contributions are pivotal in advancing the understanding and treatment of neurological diseases.