Anxiety is one of the uprising psychiatric disorders of the last decades and lavender administration has been traditionally suggested as a possible treatment. The objective of this review is to assess the efficacy of lavender, in any form and way of administration, on anxiety and anxiety-related conditions.
The PRISMA guidelines were followed. Retrieved data were qualitatively and quantitatively synthesized. Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) and Non-Randomized Studies (NRSs) which investigated the efficacy of lavender, in any form and way of administration, on patients with anxiety, involved in anxiety-inducing settings or undergoing anxiety-inducing activities, compared to any type of control, without language restrictions, were identified through electronic database searches. Medline via PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, Cochrane Library, EMBASE, and Google Scholar were systematically searched. All databases were screened up to November, 2018. Risk of bias was assessed with the Cochrane risk-of-bias tool and the following domains were considered: randomisation, allocation sequence concealment, blinding, incomplete outcome data, selective outcome reporting, and other biases.
65 RCTs (7993 participants) and 25 NRSs (1200 participants) were included in the qualitative synthesis and 37 RCTs (3964 participants) were included in the quantitative synthesis. Overall, the qualitative synthesis indicated that 54 RCTs and 17 NRSs reported at least a significant result in favor of lavender use for anxiety. The quantitative synthesis showed that lavender inhalation can significantly reduce anxiety levels measured with any validated scale (Hedges’ g = − 0.73 [95% CI − 1.00 to − 0.46], p < 0.00001, 1682 participants), as well as state anxiety (Spielberger's state-trait anxiety inventory (STAI)-State mean difference = − 5.99 [95% CI − 9.39 to − 2.59], p < 0.001, 901 participants) and trait anxiety (STAI-Trait mean difference = − 8.14 [95% CI − 14.44 to − 1.84], p < 0.05, 196 participants). Lavender inhalation did not show a significant effect in reducing systolic blood pressure as a physiological parameter of anxiety. A significant effect in diminishing anxiety levels was also found in favor of the use of oral Silexan® 80 mg/die for at least 6 weeks (Hamilton Anxiety Scale mean difference = − 2.90 [95% CI − 4.86 to − 0.95], p = 0.004, 1173 participants; Zung Self-rating Anxiety Scale mean difference = − 2.62 [95% CI − 4.84 to − 0.39], p < 0.05, 451 participants) or of the administration of massage with lavender oil (Hedges’ g = − 0.66 [95% CI − 0.97 to − 0.35], p < 0.0001, 448 participants).
The most important limitation of this review is the low average quality of available studies on the topic. The majority of included RCTs were characterized by a high overall risk of bias. Another limitation regards the heterogeneity of study designs, especially with regard to non-oral ways of administration. Overall, oral administration of lavender essential oil proves to be effective in the treatment of anxiety, whereas for inhalation there is only an indication of an effect of reasonable size, due to the heterogeneity of available studies. Lavender essential oil administered through massage appears effective, but available studies are not sufficient to determine whether the benefit is due to a specific effect of lavender. Further high-quality RCTs with more homogeneous study designs are needed to confirm these findings. Available information outlines a safe profile for lavender-based interventions, although more attention should be paid to the collection and reporting of safety data in future studies. Considering these findings, since treatments with lavender essential oil generally seem safe, and, in the case of inhalation, also simple and inexpensive, they are a therapeutic option which may be considered in some clinical contexts.
The present systematic review was not funded and was registered in PROSPERO under the following number: CRD42019130126.