Use of essential oils such as lavender oil for psoriasis is not a new concept. Those silvery white (or dark red) psoriasis patches on various parts of the body makes a significant impact on a person’s psyche. The impact would multi fold if you have lesions on rather visible body parts such as face, neck, ears, scalp and limbs. Skin dryness and inflammation further worsen the scenario.
Before I turned to holistic healing approach to manage my psoriasis, I was dealing with a moderate to severe psoriasis- face, forehead, neck, area inside and behind the ears, scalp- all these highly visible body parts were quite covered with lesions. That’s why- even though psoriasis is mainly a gut related disorder, I always advocate fellow people dealing with psoriasis to use effective topical solutions to reduce the visible symptoms so that they can face the outer world with confidence.
In this post, we would discuss about lavender essential oil and how to use it in combination with other healing oils to reduce the visibility of psoriasis lesions along with reduction in skin dryness and inflammation.
What are Essential Oils
Lavender oil comes under the category of essential oils. Essential oils are extracted from various parts of the plants -leaves, stems, flowers, roots and bark- using steam distillation method. Essential oil contains the essence of the plant it has been derived from. Pure essential oils are quite concentrated in nature and only a few drops would be used for the desired effect. Use of essential oils for therapeutic purposes is in practice since ages. Along with aromatherapy, various products for skin care, beauty and household cleaning contain essential oils for enhanced results.
Although these are referred as “oils”, but they don’t contain any fatty acids and they are not prone to rancidity even on prolonged storage. Generally, essential oils are not as thick or greasy as conventional oils.
Essential oils should not be confused with fragrances or perfumes. Essential oils are natural liquids derived from plants whereas most of the perfumes are artificially manufactured and unlike essential oils, they don’t contain any therapeutic benefits.
For therapeutic benefits, either you have to inhale the essential oils or apply them externally on the skin. Due to highly concentrated pure form, essential oils are diluted by mixing them with carrier oils before topical application.
Carrier oils are nothing but vegetable oils with skin healing properties such as almond oil, olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, avocado oil and many more. Instead of carrier oils, you can mix essential oils with vegetable butters like cocoa butter and shea butter also.
I am not sure about the total number of essential oils used in aromatherapy. But, definitely it is a long list and I can pen down at least 10 of them- Tea tree oil, Lavender oil, Rose oil, Geranium oil, Patchouli oil, Thyme oil, Eucalyptus oil, Lemongrass oil, Peppermint oil, Juniper oil and Bergamot oil.
Before going further
Friends, I am not an aromatherapist- I am just another guy exploring ways to manage my psoriasis in a safe and effective manner so that it doesn’t drive my life anymore. Hence, when I started reading and researching on the Internet about various essential oils for psoriasis, I got to know a few things:
- There are no research evidences to prove the specific worth of any of the essential oil for psoriasis healing. The best way forward is to rely on personal experiences shared by psoriatic people across the internet.
- Most of the essential oils seem to have quite similar benefits. For instance, a research study was conducted at the University of Kiel, Germany to check the efficacy of 13 different essential oils against a combination of multi-drug resistant bacteria strains. Interestingly, all the essential oils demonstrated antibacterial properties.
- Health benefits of essential oils comes due to their anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Also, the soothing floral aroma of these oils help to relieve stress and promotes a harmonious state of mind body relation.
- Essential oils would not do any magic. They are simply the helping hands. When you mix them with shampoos, moisturizers and other healing oils- they enhance the healing effect.
- If your psoriasis is giving you tremendous stress or sleepless nights due to continuous itching and irritation- in that case, use of a soothing essential oil would definitely help you.
Why Lavender oil
Whether it is genetic or not, stress is certainly one of the most prominent triggers for all of us. When you get stressed, your psoriasis flares up and vice versa. In such a scenario, if I tell you about an essential oil which is widely used in aromatherapy for a relaxed mind and body backed with research evidences- it certainly makes some sense. Isn’t it?
Yes, I am talking about lavender oil. Among all the essential oils, lavender oil is certainly the most popular and versatile one as far as therapeutic benefits are concerned. Lavender oil is popular for its sedative properties to relieve stress. It helps to calm your mind and improve the sleep quality.
Various studies prove that inhalation of lavender oil slows down the brain waves to reduce anxiety and stress which in turn promote sleep quality.
Two of the main constituents of lavender essential oil- linalyl aldehyde and linalool- reduces the perception of pain, itching and inflammation.
According to the International Federation of Aromatherapists, it is a good practice to add a few drops of lavender oil to warm water bath for women after childbirth. The stress relieving and anti-bacterial properties of lavender oil help relieve the pain, anxiety and prevent infection.
Let us know Lavender essential oil
The plant, Lavender is in the Mint family and found across the world, particularly in the USA, Australia and southern parts of Europe. Lavender oil is extracted from the flowers (and leaves) of this plant. As per Wikipedia, Bulgaria is the biggest producer of Lavender oil in the world. It is clear in color with slight yellowness. Not viscous, easy to flow. It has a mild, camphor like smell.
Lavender oil is a stress buster
Cortisol is a primary stress hormone. During the times of excessive stress such as examination time, busiest days at the office, job interviews- excessive release of cortisol hormone can lower the body immunity to make you suffer more. Lavender oil can inhibit the flow of cortisol in your bodies to tame stress and anxiety.
In a case study published in the magazine Psychiatry Today, February 2007 edition- inhalation of lavender oil for as low as 5 minutes reduces the level of cortisol in saliva.
In a case study published in the American Journal of Critical Care, January 2014 issue- inhalation of lavender oil found to be quite effective in improving sleep quality of patients admitted in the intermediate care unit of Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
In another case study published in the Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal, April 2015 issue- inhalation of lavender fragrance oil improved sleep quality in postpartum women (after childbirth). Zanjan University of Medical Sciences conducted this case study on 158 mothers in postpartum phase.
Antibacterial properties of Lavender oil
There are some research studies to confirm the antibacterial properties of lavender oil. But, further studies are required to establish a clearer picture.
In a research study published in the Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research, 2015, volume 7- lavender oil has been found pretty effective against selected strains of bacteria including E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus. E. coli refers to bacteria strains which are found in intestine, getting overpopulated, which may cause intestinal health issues.
In another research study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, March 2009- four varieties of lavender oils were found to be effective in inhibiting the growth of two complex bacteria strains which are resistant to many antibiotics, namely MSSA and MRSA. This research study itself advocated further investigation before using lavender oil in antibacterial products.
Good to know
Lavender oil when applied on skin, improves the circulation system to revitalize the skin cells by providing more of oxygen and extra nutrients. It would result in generation of healthy skin cells to enhance the glow of your skin.
Few of the most common therapeutic uses of lavender oil includes:
- Stress reliever to improve sleep quality
- Bug repellent
- Skin care- Acne, chapped lips, minor burns and cuts, bruises, psoriasis, eczema
- Hair care – Dandruff, lice, dry scalp
Use of lavender essential oils in air fresheners, skin case, bath and household cleaning products is pretty common.
How to use Lavender oil for Psoriasis
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder where the faulty immune system results in rapid growth of skin cells to develop silvery white (or red) patches on various parts of the body. The exact cause is still unknown. The probable list of culprits is quite a big one:
- Faulty genes
- Faulty digestive tract (Impaired liver, chronic constipation and indigestion, food intolerance, disturbed gut flora)
- Nutritional deficiency (Vitamin D, Omega 3 fats, Vitamin B12, Zinc, Selenium)
- Faulty Lifestyle (Chronic stress, unhealthy diet, irregular meal timings, obesity, too much consumption of alcohol and tobacco, sedentary lifestyle, improper sleep)
- Others (Over consumption of steroids and antibiotics, infection or injury)
There is no “once for ever” treatment of psoriasis is available, but, it can be managed up to an extent that it doesn’t drive your life anymore. The long term, effective healing of psoriasis would always address the internal body matters with the help of a restricted psoriasis diet, positive lifestyle, consumption of dietary supplements and stress management measures.
Use of natural topical treatment solutions- oils, moisturizers and shampoos- surely plays a vital role in this long term journey of psoriasis healing. When you add a few drops of lavender essential oil in these stuffs, it just increases the healing effect- a potent stress buster with antibacterial properties.
Lavender oil calms your mind, reduce the itching sensations and inflammation and promotes relaxation.
There are three different ways to use lavender oil for psoriasis:
- Using Lavender oil in bathtub (soaking bath)
- Mixing lavender oil in your topical oil/ skin moisturizer
- Mixing lavender oil in your scalp shampoo/ hair oil
Warm water bath with added lavender oil
Soaking warm water baths are used worldwide by psoriatic patients to reduce inflammation and itching. Also, it softens the psoriasis lesions for their easy removal. Soak for 20 to 25 minutes followed by a short rinse. Then pat your skin dry and immediately apply a natural moisturizer (or moisturizing oil such as virgin coconut oil) to keep your skin hydrated and moist for a longer time.
A typical warm soaking bath recipe would be:
- Dead Sea Salt or Epsom Salt– 1 to 2 cups (Dead sea salt is better, but costly than Epsom salt)
- Baking Soda (optional) – 2 to 4 teaspoons (to reduce itching)
- Lavender essential oil – 5 drops
- Ginger (optional) – half teaspoon (grated ginger would stimulate sweating to enhance the detox)
- Neem oil (optional) – 5 to 10 drops (potent antimicrobial oil)
Add lavender oil just before entering into the bathtub because it is evaporating in nature and it may lose some strength with time.
Lavender oil as a topical oil
One teaspoon = 5 ml (approximate)
One ounce = 30 ml = 6 teaspoons
Half ounce = 15 ml = 3 teaspoons
- If you are allergic to peanuts, use castor oil in place of peanut oil
- When using shea butter, you may need to warm it a little for proper blending with essential oils
- Transfer the oil mixture in an airtight glass bottle/ container and store at a cool, dark place
Option 1 (my favorite) – Lavender oil + Tea tree oil + Coconut oil
- Around 50% of virgin coconut oil is lauric acid which is present in breast milk also. Lauric acid is a medium chain fatty acid with powerful anti-bacterial properties. Also, virgin coconut oil provides ample moisturizing to your skin without getting too sticky.
- Tea tree oil, known for its powerful anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties, can make a pair with lavender oil. Just like lavender essential oil, tea tree oil is also very strong in nature and you need it to dilute it before applying to skin. After dilution, tea tree oil concentration should not be more than 5% to assure that it doesn’t burn or irritate your skin.
- When you mix a few drops of lavender and tea tree essential oils with virgin coconut oil- you get a powerful skin moisturizing oil combination having stress relieving and antimicrobial properties.
Lavender oil for Scalp Psoriasis
For scalp psoriasis, take one ounce of warm olive oil and add essential oils in it- 5 drops of lavender oil plus 10 drops of tea tree oil. Apply this oil mixture thoroughly to the scalp. Leave it for at least 20 to 30 minutes (for best results, leave it for overnight) and then wash it off using a natural shampoo.
Obviously, you can’t do this massage session every day. In that case, every time you wash your scalp, simply add a few drops of lavender oil in your shampoo.
How to inhale Lavender oil
Simply put 2 to 3 drops of the oil on a tissue and inhale the soothing aroma. Don’t push too hard, take a pause after a few seconds and then inhale again. Don’t touch the tissue with your nose.
Alternatively, you can put a few drops of lavender oil on your pillow (or a cotton ball) near to your bed and enjoy the inhalation effect throughout the whole night.
How many drops of Essential oil to add
There is no standard measurement of essential oils to be mixed with carrier oils before application.
I browsed across various websites regarding aromatherapy and what they have recommended is:
For adults- 2 to 2.5% concentration (12 to 15 drops per ounce of carrier oil)
For children- up to 1% concentration (up to 6 drops per ounce of carrier oil)
Let us do some mathematics to understand it:
Essential oil Carrier oil %age Concentration
3 drops 1 ounce (30 ml) 0.50%
6 drops 1 ounce (30 ml) 1.0%
12 drops 1 ounce (30 ml) 2.0%
15 drops 1 ounce (30 ml) 2.5%
If you are using a combination of essential oils- such as lavender oil and tea tree oil together, then for a 2.5% concentration solution- add 5 drops of lavender oil and 10 drops of tea tree oil.
First of all, do NOT ingest lavender oil. It is best used for inhalation and topical application- taking it internally would not give any more benefits. Ingestion may cause nausea, vomiting and stomach upset as preliminary side effects.
Although, there are tons of information available on the Internet where ingestion of lavender and other essential oils is promoted to neutralize Candida and other harmful bacteria from your gut. But, there are almost no research evidences to prove the worth of these claims. Whatever research evidences I can collect, they all involve either topical application or inhalation. Also, even if it is natural and antibacterial, how to confirm if internal consumption would not have a deteriorating effect on the healthy microbes in your gut? Hence, not to make the things more complex, don’t gulp lavender or any other essential oil unless advised by a professional health expert.
Lavender essential oil is a natural liquid, with very little side effects. But, to be on the safer side- pregnant women, nursing ladies and people having a history of allergic reactions to perfumes and oils should consult their physician before using it.
To check if you are allergic to lavender essential oil, do a simple skin patch test. Add 2 drops of lavender oil in half teaspoon of any carrier oil (coconut oil, almond oil, olive oil or any other oil). Now, pour this oil solution on your inner forearm, leave it for few hours and do notice if it cause any irritation or itching. If it is not the case, then lavender oil is safe for you.
There are evidences that lavender oil, due to its sedative properties, can help improve sleep quality during later stages of pregnancy. But, during initial three months of pregnancy, lavender oil may increase the menstrual flow to cause miscarriage. Hence, just because it is natural, don’t take it granted and consult your physician.
- Pure lavender essential oil is concentrated and evaporating in nature. It is important to keep the lid closed after every use and store it at a cool, dry place- preferably in the refrigerator. If you are living in a warm climate, it becomes more important to keep your the essential oil bottle in the refrigerator shelf. It has a certain degree of inflammability also, hence, keep it away from direct flame.
- Never transfer the pure, concentrated lavender or any other essential oil in a plastic container as it may melt the plastic.
- Even after diluting with carrier oils, it is better to store the blended oil solution in a glass bottle/ container and store it in refrigerator. During winter, you may keep it in a storage cabinet instead of fridge.
From Where to Buy
Always opt for pure, cold pressed, therapeutic grade Lavender essential oil of a reputed brand. You can buy it from an herbal store near to you. Otherwise, get it from Amazon.
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The bottom line is
- Psoriasis is mainly a gut related issue and healing long term healing would be from inside-out.
- The external treatments- shampoo, oils, creams, moisturizers- would help manage the physical symptoms like itching, dryness, scaly appearance and inflammation.
- There are so many essential oils to choose from. It is more of a personal choice based on experiences. In my experience and opinion, the combination of lavender and tea tree essential oils would bring quite good results. Use this along with your scalp shampoo, oil and skin moisturizer to get recognizable improved skin.