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Lavender and the Highly Sensitive Person

The book The Highly Sensitive Person, written by psychologist Dr. Elaine Aron, describes the personality traits that define those who are often labeled "too sensitive." This can be sensitivity to sound, light, smells, large groups, foods, or anything else in the environment that causes over-arousal. According to Aron, about 10-20% of the world's population falls into this category.


The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) tends to need a lot of time alone. HSPs often have a rich inner life (dreams, imagination) and avoid violent movies/television and the news as the images can easily become part of their inner world. Other people may label the HSP, especially a child, "shy" or aloof, as they tend to stand back and observe the world rather than engage and participate. HSPs may participate after watching for a while, but they want to know the ropes and rules first.


While Aron spends the majority of the book focusing on the psychology of the HSP, she devotes one chapter to the physiology. Since HSPs are easily stimulated, caffeine and other stimulants affect them more strongly. HSPs may develop stress-related symptoms and illnesses, can be more sensitive to conventional medication and pain, and have a higher awareness and intuition regarding symptoms and health problems. HSPs tend to have a wired central nervous system (CNS) where they live in the fight-flight-flee response causing the over-arousal of the CNS, higher cortisol levels in the system, and adrenal exhaustion. To alleviate the CNS's over-arousal, Aron discusses antidepressants, such as Prozac, and, although she does spend a few sections on serotonin, she does not mention taking it as a supplement. One brief mention is given to "'natural' herbal calming agents," and she includes lavender (Lavandula spp.; Lamiaceae), as well as passionflower (Passiflora incarnata; Passifloraceae), hops (Humulus lupulus; Cannabaceae), and oat (Avena sativa; Poaceae) teas.


Since lavender is often used for anxiety (See HC 051254-454), its use for the HSP could be of benefit. Lavender essential oil placed on the pillow, lavender tea or lavender steeped in warm milk nightly, even growing lavender in a container pot can all be of benefit in calming the HSP's sensitive nervous system.

Lori Glenn,  Managing Editor