Here at Soapwalla, we love lavender! As we’ve discussed before on the blog, lavender is an MVP in our kitchen. Today, we chat with former intern and current chemist, Juliette Strasser, about the science behind what makes this magical ingredient so soothing.

Soapwalla: Thanks for joining us, Juliette! We miss you here at the studio. 

Juliette Strasser: I’m excited to talk to you! I miss being at Soapwalla in person, but I’m glad we get to chat virtually about some cool chemistry.

Soapwalla: So, let’s dig into lavender. As you remember from your years of pouring oils and mixing toning mists, lavender is one of the most popular ingredients in our kitchen. Besides the benefits for our skin, can you share some of lavender’s therapeutic qualities?

Juliette Strasser: Over the last ten years, lavender has been gaining popularity as a reliable method of soothing anxiety. Lavender as a calming method isn’t just anecdotal – there’s tons of research that shows lavender helps with calming after surgery, soothing elderly patients with dementia, and assisting anxiety in women

SW: But how and why does lavender work so well?

JS: Lavender essential oil contains linalool, a small molecule that packs a big punch. Linalool is a type of terpenoid alcohol, an aromatic compound that is found in many plants, including lavender, clary sage, cilantro, basil, and petitgrain. Other terpenoids include geraniol and citronellol. Your clients probably recognize some of these names from your ingredient lists as naturally occurring in essential oils. Plants use terpenoids for a wide variety of applications – attracting bees, deterring predators, and keeping bacteria and fungi away. To humans, terpenoids are what give plants their smell, but their effects don’t just stop there. 

SW: Exactly! That’s what we love about using botanical goodness in all of our products. Rachel chooses the ingredients for their therapeutic benefits to our body and mind, not just because they smell divine (but that’s a big plus, too). Natural skincare is rooted in aromatherapy and connecting all of our senses to create a holistic experience. Can you tell us more about linalool?

JS: In several studies, inhalation of linalool has been shown to have significant effects on anxiety. If there ever was a time for lavender to shine, it’s this year. For example, it was observed that inhaling linalool vapors led to fewer fights between a group of mice, indicating a calmer demeanor. Similar effects have also been shown in humans, where inhaling linalool showed a dramatic anxiety-reducing effect when compared to other compounds. 

SW: Let’s just say we could all use a big inhale of lavender right about now. Do we know why inhaling the linalool in essential oils is so relaxing?

JS: The effect of linalool on the brain is still being studied, but scientists are getting closer to figuring out how linalool is so calming. To understand the calming effect of linalool, we need to talk about brain chemistry. Our brains “talk” with our bodies via chemical signals called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters send signals to make us move, remind us to breathe, and even control our moods. Scientists think that linalool acts like a neurotransmitter by affecting the brain in a way similar to serotonin. When the brain feels the effects of serotonin, it stops receiving messages that signal it to feel stressed. This is likely why the presence of linalool ultimately helps to relieve some feelings of stress.

SW: That’s fascinating, Juliette! It’s amazing how such a teeny molecule can have such a positive effect on our mental health. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we will be running to the shelf and applying a healthy dose of our lavender body oil. Thanks for chatting with us today!

In  addition to smelling great, lavender may have a quantifiable positive effect on your brain chemistry. While using essential oils won’t replace seeing a doctor, the chemicals in them may help calm you down after a stressful day. You can find lavender in many Soapwalla products, including  Lavender & Eucalyptus Everyday Wash, Lavender Vanilla Mint Luxurious Body Oil, and Lavender & French Clay Cleansing Bar

*Our content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.