Are lavender leaves toxic?

Lavender is a popular herb used for its floral fragrance and therapeutic properties. All parts of the lavender plant, including the leaves, are used for various purposes. However, there has been some debate around whether lavender leaves are toxic, especially when consumed or applied topically. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the safety and toxicity concerns around lavender leaves to help you understand the facts.

Quick Answers

Are lavender leaves toxic?

Lavender leaves are generally considered non-toxic and safe for most people when used appropriately. There is no conclusive evidence that lavender leaves are toxic to humans. However, concentrated essential oils from lavender may cause toxicity when ingested in excessive amounts.

Can you eat lavender leaves?

Yes, lavender leaves are edible and can be safely consumed when eaten in small amounts as a flavoring or garnish. They have a sweet, floral taste that pairs well with fruits, beverages, baked goods, and more. However, eating large quantities of lavender leaves may cause digestive upset in some people.

Are lavender leaves safe for skin?

Lavender leaves are considered gentle and non-irritating for most skin types. Many herbalists recommend topical use of lavender leaves infused in oil or water for skin health. However, test a small area first to check for any allergic reactions. Dilute essential oils before applying lavender leaves to skin.

Can lavender leaves be toxic to dogs and cats?

While lavender itself is non-toxic, essential oils concentrated from lavender may be toxic to dogs and cats when ingested. Contact your vet if your pet ingests lavender leaves or products containing lavender essential oil. Otherwise, light exposure to lavender is unlikely to harm pets. Monitor for any signs of toxicity.

Are Lavender Leaves Toxic to Humans?

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that lavender leaves are toxic dangerous to humans. All parts of the lavender plant, including the leaves, stems, and flowers have been used safely both internally and topically for centuries. However, there are some important toxicity considerations to keep in mind.

Ingestion of Lavender Leaves

Lavender leaves are not toxic when ingested in small culinary amounts. They have been traditionally used as a flavoring and garnish for food and drinks. The sweet, floral taste of lavender pairs well with beverages like lemonade, chocolate, baked goods, and more. Lavender leaves can be brewed fresh or dried to make herbal teas and infusions. Teas offer relaxation, anti-inflammatory, and mild sedative properties.

However, some people may experience nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea when consuming moderate to large amounts of lavender leaves. This is likely due to the complex organic plant compounds in lavender. Start with small quantities when cooking with lavender leaves to assess your individual tolerance.

Essential Oil Toxicity

Pure lavender essential oil is much more concentrated than the leaves. Essential oil is typically extracted through distillation at high heat, which produces high levels of active compounds like linalool and linalyl acetate. When ingested in excess, lavender essential oil can be toxic to humans and may cause serious side effects like:

– Central nervous system depression
– Slowed breath and heart rate
– Low body temperature
– Sleepiness, fatigue, and weakness
– Muscle tremors and ataxia (loss of muscle control)
– Hypotension (low blood pressure)

Always dilute essential oil and use sparingly to prevent toxicity. Essential oil should not be ingested internally without guidance from a trained aromatherapist or herbalist.

Skin Irritation

For most people, topical use of lavender leaves is very gentle on skin. Lavender has natural anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial actions that make it beneficial for many skin types when used appropriately. Rubbing a lavender leaf between your fingers releases the oils, which can impart soothing properties.

However, those with very sensitive skin may experience contact dermatitis, redness, or irritation from topical use, especially with prolonged exposure. Test a small patch on your inner arm before wider application. Dilute with a carrier oil or water if applying concentrated lavender essential oil. Avoid contact with open wounds or burns.

Overall, human research indicates lavender is very well tolerated. But it’s still important to use careful dosage and proper dilution to prevent adverse lavender leaf toxicity effects.

Are Lavender Leaves Toxic to Dogs and Cats?

While lavender leaves are non-toxic for most pets, the essential oils concentrated from lavender plants can be toxic to dogs and cats when ingested in excessive amounts. Here is an overview of lavender safety considerations for pets:

Lavender Leaves

The leaves, stems, and flowers of lavender contain only small, diluted amounts of essential oils. Ingestion of small amounts of the lavender plant is generally not dangerous and may even provide benefits like calming anxiety. However, some pets may experience mild nausea or diarrhea from eating larger quantities. Monitor your pet for any signs of illness.

Lavender Essential Oil

The ASPCA lists lavender essential oil as toxic to dogs and cats. The concentrated oils may cause liver damage and central nervous system depression when ingested, especially in large amounts. Cats are particularly sensitive due to their inability to efficiently metabolize and excrete certain oil compounds.

Diffusers and Topical Products

Airborne lavender essential oil molecules released from diffusers are unlikely to cause major toxicity issues. However, some pets may experience respiratory irritation. Do not apply topical lavender products like essential oil to your pet’s skin or fur coat without veterinary guidance. Grooming products may be ingested when the pet grooms themselves.

Signs of lavender essential oil poisoning in pets may include:

– Vomiting, drooling, diarrhea
– Tremors, difficulty walking, lethargy
– Fast heart rate, respiratory distress

Contact your vet immediately if ingestion is suspected. Most cases can be managed with supportive veterinary care and monitoring. Prevent access to lavender products and see the vet if you have any concerns over lavender safety for your furry companions.

Are Lavender Leaves Toxic to Livestock like Horses and Chickens?

Lavender leaves, when eaten in normal quantities, are not toxic and are generally safe for consumption by livestock like horses, chickens, cows, and other farm animals. In fact, many farmers intentionally cultivate lavender to provide benefits when added as a supplement to livestock feed or bedding.

Here is an overview of how lavender typically affects common farm animals:


– Lavender leaves and flowers can be fed to horses safely in small amounts. Lavender may help relieve mild anxiety, stress, or restlessness in horses.

– Dried lavender can be added to feed up to 1% of total ration. Too much may cause loose stools or diarrhea.

– Lavender essential oil should not be fed to horses due to toxicity concerns when ingested.


– Chickens enjoy pecking at fresh or dried lavender flowers and leaves. It may boost chickens’ health, immunity, and egg laying.

– Add dried lavender to nesting boxes or coops to deter pests and create a calming environment.

– Lavender essential oil should not be added to feed or water due to toxicity risk if ingested.

Cows, Goats, and Sheep

– Lavender can be added to ruminant feeds at 0.5-1.5% to provide antioxidants. Monitor stool consistency.

– Lavender aromatherapy may help reduce stress during transport or separation from calves.

– Growing lavender near pastures or pens provides antioxidant-rich forage. Monitor grazing to avoid overconsumption.

Overall, lavender leaves are considered safe animal forage. But limit intake to normal supplementary quantities and avoid concentrated essential oils to prevent lavender poisoning in livestock. Monitor your animals for any signs of sensitivity or adverse effects.

How To Use Lavender Leaves Safely

When used appropriately, lavender leaves present very low toxicity risk. Here are some tips for safe usage:

– Consume leaves sparingly in food, teas, and herbal products. Use small amounts of lavender when cooking or brewing tea to test your individual tolerance.

– Avoid ingesting lavender essential oil internally. Essential oil is for topical or aromatic use only.

– Dilute essential oil with a carrier oil or water before applying to skin. Perform a patch test to check for irritation.

– Wash hands after handling lavender leaves and essential oil to prevent accidental eye exposure.

– Keep lavender essential oils and liquid extracts stored safely out of reach of children and pets.

– Talk to your doctor before using lavender supplements if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or on any medications.

– Give pets access to only small amounts of fresh or dried lavender plant material to prevent gastrointestinal upset.

By following basic precautions, lavender leaves can be used safely to unlock their therapeutic potential while avoiding toxicity.

Signs of Lavender Poisoning and Toxicity

Ingestion of very high doses of lavender essential oil or extracts could potentially lead to lavender poisoning. Here are some key signs of toxicity to look out for:

– Nausea or vomiting
– Diarrhea
– Abdominal pain and cramping
– Headaches or dizziness
– Weakness and fatigue
– Muscle tremors or lack of coordination
– Sleepiness
– Confusion
– Abnormally slow heart rate
– Low blood pressure
– Respiratory depression
– Seizures
– Coma

Seek immediate medical care if poisoning is suspected, especially if symptoms are severe. Lavender toxicity can be effectively managed by healthcare providers in most cases with monitoring and supportive treatments.

Call your local emergency number if you experience signs of lavender poisoning. For non-emergency lavender safety questions, contact an herbalist, aromatherapist, or the Poison Control helpline.

How To Treat Lavender Poisoning

In the event of lavender leaf or essential oil poisoning, promptly seek medical care to prevent serious complications. Treatment will focus on reducing absorption in the digestive tract, monitoring vital signs, and providing symptomatic support while the toxins leave the body.

Here are some key steps health professionals may take to treat lavender poisoning:

Eliminate Further Toxin Exposure

The patient will be advised to immediately stop ingesting or applying any more lavender if poisoning is suspected. Vomiting may be induced to expel lavender oil from the stomach if it was very recently ingested. Activated charcoal may be given to absorb any toxins remaining in the gastrointestinal system.

Support Respiratory Function

Slowed breathing rate is a major risk in lavender poisoning. Supplemental oxygen may be provided to prevent respiratory depression. Intubation and mechanical ventilation can support breathing if needed.

Support Blood Pressure

Drops in blood pressure may be treated with IV fluids and medications to improve blood circulation and heart function. Electrolyte levels will be monitored.

Control Seizures

Anti-seizure medicines will be administered if convulsions or tremors occur. Medicine choice depends on the type of seizure.

Relieve Nausea

Anti-nausea medication may provide relief from vomiting. IV fluids can help prevent dehydration. Nutrition may need to be provided if vomiting and diarrhea persist.

Monitor Heart Rhythm

Heart rate and ECG will be monitored to watch for abnormal heart rhythms. Medications or other interventions can stabilize heart function.

With proper medical management, most cases of lavender poisoning and toxicity can fully recover. Follow up care focuses on monitoring and supporting the individual as the lavender toxins are metabolized and excreted from the body.

Natural Remedies To Detox and Cleanse After Lavender Poisoning

In addition to conventional medical treatment, some natural remedies can help support the body’s detoxification process during recovery from lavender poisoning. Always check with your doctor before using herbal cleanses. Some options include:

Drink Plenty of Fluids

Staying hydrated with water, juices, teas, broths, and electrolyte solutions helps flush toxins out through urine. Avoid alcohol during the detoxification period as it can impair liver function.

Eat Cleansing Foods

Fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains promote elimination of wastes through the stool. Cruciferous veggies like kale, broccoli, and cabbage contain detox-boosting compounds.

Take Milk Thistle

Milk thistle contains the antioxidant silymarin which supports and protects the liver as it neutralizes lavender toxins in the blood. Follow dosage on supplements.

Try an Epsom Salt Bath

Magnesium sulfate Epsom salt baths may help draw toxins out through the skin. Use lavender-free Epsom salts to avoid further exposure.

Diffuse Purifying Oils

Clarifying essential oils like lemon, tea tree, rosemary, or clove may help detoxify the air when diffused aromatically after lavender poisoning. Do not ingest oils internally.

Always check with your medical provider before using natural cleansing methods. Monitor your progress and watch for any return of lavender toxicity symptoms during the recovery window.

How To Prevent Lavender Poisoning

Lavender poisoning and toxicity can be effectively avoided by:

– Using lavender leaves or oil in moderation at safe dosages

– Keeping concentrated oil out of reach from children and pets

– Properly diluting essential oil before topical use

– Avoiding ingestion of essential oil unless under medical guidance

– Monitoring animals and livestock when introducing lavender plants or supplements

– Recognizing signs of lavender intolerance or overdose

– Accessing prompt medical care if poisoning is suspected

When enjoyed wisely and with care, lavender can be used safely and enjoyably. But be sure to consult appropriate medical and veterinary professionals if you ever have concerns about lavender toxicity or experience adverse effects.

The Bottom Line

In summary, lavender leaves are generally non-toxic and safe when used sensibly, both for human and animal consumption. While lavender itself appears safe, the concentrated essential oil can become toxic in excessive doses, especially if ingested internally. Topically, lavender is well tolerated by most people but may rarely cause skin irritation or allergic reactions.

Monitor dosage and dilute essential oil appropriately. Keep concentrated forms out of reach from children and pets. Avoid ingesting essential oil internally without medical guidance. Be aware of signs of lavender poisoning and seek immediate medical care if they occur. By using proper precautions, lavender leaves can be safely enjoyed for their pleasant flavor, soothing properties, and health benefits.

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