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Lavender lattes are popular at Starbucks and other coffee shops. Are they good for you?

Lavender coffee is becoming increasingly popular, but is it good for you?
Lavender coffee is becoming increasingly popular, but is it good for you? (Getty Images)

With spring on the horizon, lavender is not only starting to bloom, but it’s also finding its way into your favorite morning brews. Lavender coffee is becoming increasingly popular and that shows no signs of slowing anytime soon, especially with Starbucks recently launching its Iced Lavender Oat Milk Latte, featuring a proprietary lavender powder. Lavender lattes can also be found online and at other coffee shops, such as Alfred Coffee, which uses a housemade lavender syrup and lavender tea in some of its signature drinks. Aside from the sweet, floral notes and caffeine these drinks provide, are there any benefits to drinking lavender coffee? Here’s what nutritionists have to say.

What are the benefits of lavender?

While lavender is best known for its calming effects, it has long been used in herbal medicine and has several health benefits, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Registered dietitian Erin Davis tells Yahoo Life, “Lavender has powerful plant compounds, like linalool, that have been sought after for generations because of their capability to 'relax' the nervous system.”

Research shows that lavender aromatherapy — inhaling lavender scent — may help reduce stress, promote better sleep and help lower blood pressure. It may even relieve pain associated with labor and cancer. There’s also good evidence that lavender aromatherapy can help reduce anxiety and depression.

Are there benefits of drinking lavender coffee?

Not necessarily, say experts. “While the scent of lavender may make you reminiscent of spring, adding lavender to a caffeinated beverage may not have much benefit,” says Davis.

Coffee itself, however, contains antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties, along with potential health benefits, such as reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and protecting the liver. However, registered dietitian Lauren Manaker cautions that coffee drinks, particularly caffeinated ones, can make some people feel anxious and negatively impact their sleep. Whether lavender can calm and counter those effects is unclear. “It’s not known if the relaxing properties of lavender outweigh the stimulating properties of caffeine,” Megan Byrd, registered dietitian and blogger at Coffee Copycat, tells Yahoo Life.

Nutritionally, these trending lavender coffees are often made with milk or milk alternatives, providing some protein, vitamins and minerals. But keep in mind most of the lavender syrup or powders contain quite a bit of sugar, with up to 26 grams in a 20-ounce Starbucks lavender oat milk latte. Despite little understanding of the benefits of lavender coffee, Manaker says that incorporating lavender into drinks or dishes adds a unique flavor.

It may also be worth swapping out lavender coffee for lavender herbal tea: Adults 60 years and older reported less depression and anxiety after drinking lavender tea twice a day for two weeks. Manaker adds that lavender can aid in digestion, helping to soothe stomach discomfort and alleviate symptoms of bloating and indigestion.

How much lavender is in these coffees?

Starbucks hasn’t disclosed the exact amount of lavender in its proprietary lavender powder. According to its website, it includes sugar, salt, natural lavender flavor, color from carrot and black current juice concentrates and soybean oil. While lavender powder is typically made by blending lavender buds into a fine powder and may include lavender essential oil for added scent, it's uncertain if this blend contains any real lavender.

Davis points out that the lavender content in syrups or powders varies by brand. “There are products available that do contain lavender, but most just resemble lavender because of the added artificial scent and flavors,” she points out.

Byrd adds: “After making lavender syrup myself with real lavender flowers, it is pretty obvious there isn't a ton of actual lavender in the syrup. It is very similar to ginger ale in which the syrup is scented with lavender, but doesn't contain much of the lavender itself.”

What’s the best way to use lavender?

If you’re looking to get some rest and relaxation, Byrd says the best way to experience the benefits of lavender is to consume it, such as in tea or as a supplement, or inhale its aroma, such as using essential oils in your home. Davis suggests putting lavender essential oil in a diffuser or simply placing a few drops on your pillowcase to help get some peaceful sleep. Experts recommend choosing products that contain actual lavender rather than artificial flavorings to reap the most benefits.

If you want to get adventurous in the kitchen, you can also use food-grade lavender to ensure it’s safe for consumption. Try adding a lavender-infused honey or sugar to sweeten drinks or baked goods, or toss in lavender buds — both fresh and dried — as an aromatic addition to salads, suggests Manaker.

When it comes to lavender coffee, Manaker says: “Unfortunately, without knowing how much lavender is included, it is hard to know if people will truly reap benefits from choosing this coffee.” However, if you crave a soothing and uplifting beverage, experts say you can give lavender coffee a try.

Maxine Yeung is a dietitian and board-certified health and wellness coach.