Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a herb that is traditionally used as a calmative. The plant contains a distinctive essential oil that gives the plant its characteristic smell and this oil may have properties that allow it to affect the central nervous system. In particular the essential oil from lavender may reduce excitability in the central nervous system and this has a calming effect. For example, in one study researchers gave young infants a bath with or without lavender scented bath oil. The researchers observed that the mothers in the lavender scented bath water were more relaxed and smiled and touched their infants more during the bath. In addition, the infants in the lavender scented bath water also looked at their mothers more during the bath, cried less and slept more following the bath. The researchers also observed that the cortisol levels of the infants and mothers in the lavender scented baths were significantly lower compared to the control infants suggesting that the lavender had conferred a significant anti-stress effect.
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