Lavender is appreciated for its blue-violet flowers and light fragrance, but this plant also serves medicinal purposes. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the essential oil in the blooms has been shown to reverse alopecia, to improve eczema, to reduce pain after surgery and to treat ailments such as headaches, depression and insomnia. However, lavender's oil is potent and sometimes causes allergic reaction when applied to the skin, inhaled or ingested.
An allergic reaction to lavender oil can present in a multitude of symptoms, according to National Institutes of Health online medical encyclopedia Medline Plus. The most common symptoms include skin rash, burning sensations in the eyes or throat, headache, blurred vision, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, chills and difficulty breathing. Seek immediate medical attention in the event of an exposure -- contact the National Poison Control Center or the local emergency department.
Causes and Prevention
Allergic reactions to lavender oil stem from inhalation, application to the skin and ingestion, according to Derm Net. Lavender oil is commonly inhaled during aromatherapy or when using commercial deodorizers and candles. Skin reactions occur when using the oil for massage or when applying lotions, perfumes, soap products or other cosmetics containing lavender. Gastrointestinal reactions commonly occur when ingesting the oil as a flavoring agent in tea, confections or other food products. Consult your physician before using lavender oil, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Check with your doctor about possible drug and medicine interactions. Check with your doctor if you are using lavender oil with children, especially young boys who have not reached puberty. Research shows that lavender can disrupt developing male hormones and cause gynecomastia, abnormal breast growth in males, according to a study in the "New England Journal of Medicine." This research has been disputed, though, so check with your primary care physician.
Lavender oil has not been linked to interactions with conventional medicine. However, lavender oil sometimes causes excessive drowsiness and sleepiness if used in conjunction with medicines containing chloral hydrate or with sedative medications containing barbiturates such as amobarbital, butabarbital, mephobarbital, pentobarbital and phenobarbital. Lavender oil could potentially interact with sedative medications containing central nervous system depressants such as narcotics for pain like morphine or oxycodone or anti-anxiety medications such as Ambien, Klonopin or Ativan. Always consult your doctor to ensure lavender oil is safe for use with your medications.
Seek medical treatment if you experience an allergic reaction to lavender. Medical professionals will check your vital signs and possibly administer activated charcoal for body cleansing and detoxification, fluids through an IV or anti-inflammatory drugs such as diphenhydramine or prednisone. Nurse, emergency responders or poison control personnel may advise you to drink water or milk and to vomit.