No suspension of disbelief required

Unlike the practice of acupuncture or homoeopathy, the belief system underlying the use of plants as medicines is not necessarily different to the use of single substances, or “drugs”. For sure, herbalist and doctor may have very different approaches to healing disease, and the concept of synergy is one that remains almost totally unexplored in conventional medicine (perhaps a missed opportunity…).

But, medicines of both types can be described using similar pharmacological terminology – anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antibacterial and so on. Therefore, no suspension of disbelief is required – no fundamental paradigm shift  – no reinvention of the laws of physics or chemistry. Yes, there exist a number of energetic systems, Ayurveda, TCM and others, but plant medicine is also chemical medicine, even if it is somewhat complex, involving as it does the synergistic and antagonistic interactions of many substances.

Lavender oil is often described as relaxing, calming, sedative. There is no argument about what these terms mean, although “sedative” might be inappropriate, as the research suggests that lavender oil improves sleep quality, but is not as strong a sedative as prescription sleeping pills. The effect of lavender oil has been described as “weak”, or “poor” by those firmly within the allopathic camp. This may be intended as criticism, but really there is no argument here – yes, as a “sedative”, lavender has only a mild effect.

LaseaHowever, as an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) medicine, its effect is more notable, and lavender oil capsules have recently been licensed for use in Germany, under the brand name Lasea. The related research – see below – describes the medicine under the name Silexan, but basically it is lavender oil in capsule form. And no, it’s not a placebo effect.

This-for-that plant medicine (this remedy for that problem) is perhaps not the holistic ideal, but it’s still hugely important, and I would much rather advocate the use of lavender oil than benzodiazepines. Most doctors won’t promote Lasea, any more than they have promoted Mintec or Colpermin (both peppermint oil capsules that have been around for decades). Yes, “we” can provide “you” with good evidence that plant medicines can be both safe and effective. But will “you” take any notice when we do?

There are two distinct challenges – the problem of “scientism” – I believe only in science, and plant medicine does not sound like science to me – and the problem of the pharmaceutical companies’ stranglehold on healthcare providers. But, it’s time for people to start taking notice of the opportunities now being made available. Don’t suspend your disbelief, just your anxiety.

Kasper S, Gastpar M, Müller WE et al 2010 Silexan, an orally administered Lavandula oil preparation, is effective in the treatment of ‘subsyndromal’ anxiety disorder: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial. International clinical psychopharmacology 25:277-287

Woelk H, Schläfke S 2010 A multi-center, double-blind, randomised study of the Lavender oil preparation Silexan in comparison to Lorazepam for generalized anxiety disorder. Phytomedicine 17:94-99

7 comments to No suspension of disbelief required

  • Thanks Robert for sharing this information! I think it is really terrific that there is data to back this up. Moving forward with vision and action!

  • claudia

    I started Lasea 3 weeks ago, suffering a depression since summer 2010. Besides that, I had heatflushes continuously due to the menopause which I entered in March last year. The depression has melted away a big deal, expecting no miralces at all that is fantastic to start with. I sleep better (used to wake up 3, 4 times a night from heatflushes and horrible thoughts) and I get NO more heatflushes from my menopause since more than one week now. I am relieved! Magical effects I’d say. Great product.

  • Johnathon

    Where in the U.S can I buy this? I have lavender essential oil and have considered buying my own capsules but I have read that this is more potent.

  • Maggie Smith

    My daughter has had hives for the last 2 months, linked to chemical allergies. (she bought a new couch) She has been advised to take essential oils internally for candida. Won’t the essential oil capsules add additional burden to her liver.

  • robert

    Hi Maggie, I think the most useful comment I can make is that there’s no reason to take any essential oils internally for hives. They are not likely to be any help.

  • kim

    The same company that owns Lasea also owns Nature’s Way. Nature’s Way has the same product called Calm Aid that you can get without prescription in the US.

  • robert

    Thank you Kim for adding this! (The original post was before Calm Aid appeared.)

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