Lavender, long popular in the realms of horticulture, gastronomy, and aromatics, is now accumulating extensive study and making waves in the scientific community.
Clinical studies of historically renowned plants have been conducted by my teams at Dilston Physic Garden, where I serve as a director. I am pharmacognosy who studied the science of plants as medicines at King’s College London. Lavender is frequently presented as a queen among medicinal plants, and I can confidently explain why.
Just a few words about lavender This Mediterranean and Middle Eastern evergreen perennial woody plant is visually similar to rosemary. A lot of suns and well-drained soil are also necessities for this plant, much like rosemary. It has a fresh, clean, fragrant, and sweet aroma from both its pinnate, silvery-green leaves and its purplish-blue blossoms. From researching the constituents of lavender essential oil, I learned that the herb rosemary is a close cousin to the lavender aroma. The midsummer blossoming of this meter-tall (3 1/4-foot) bushes creates a stunning visual effect. Growing it: Lavender is a herb that is native to the Mediterranean, but I have found that it grows rather well in my Northern European medicinal garden.
Lavender is hardy in containers but thrives in the (non-waterlogged) ground, and it is easier to cultivate from plant plugs than from slow-growing seeds. Annual pruning prevents unruly, woody growth that finally dies out. You can use plant rows as dividers for your beds or as little hedges.
It was believed that glovemakers in the sixteenth century who used the herb to scent their products were immune to the cholera pandemic. The plague didn’t strike tomb robbers who washed their hands in lavender in the seventh century. Traveling gypsies in the 19th century sold bouquets of lavender in London as an amulet against bad luck. During St. John’s Day celebrations in Spain and Portugal, lavender was historically scattered around church floors and burned in bonfires to ward off evil spirits. It was common practice in Tuscany to wear a sprig of lavender on your lapel as protection from the evil eye. Every day, vases of fresh lavender decorated the table of England’s Queen Elizabeth I.
The name “lavender” is used to refer to many different species in the genus Lavandula, which is in the mint family. In particular, the species Lavandula angustifolia (real lavender or common lavender) is what most people have in mind when they hear the word “lavender,” thanks to its fragrant blooms and essential oil, which may be utilized in cosmetics, perfumes, and even medicine. Flower colors range from purple to pink to white. Lavender can also be used to describe very light purples and violets. About 25–30 distinct Lavandula species exist.
Although lavender flowers are primarily used for the plant’s reproduction, they also have many ecological, commercial, aesthetic, and therapeutic uses. Flowers offer an easy way for bees to get nectar. Lavender flowers have been used for perfume making for generations, and their beauty has made them a popular choice for decorating with and including in gardens and floral arrangements. The essential oil from the lavender plant has been used as an antibacterial, in aromatherapy, to promote relaxation and even to treat a variety of medical disorders, in addition to its traditional uses of warding off unwanted insects and adding flavor.
You can find Lavandula growing wild in the Canary Islands, North and East Africa, South Europe, the Mediterranean, Arabia, and India. Garden escapees can be discovered considerably outside of their natural range, a consequence of the widespread cultivation of these species.
Herbaceous, subshrub, and shrubby plants are all included in this genus. The appearance and fragrance of different Lavandula species might differ slightly from one another. True lavender has commercial use in the perfume business and is cultivated in gardens, while Spanish and French lavender was most commonly employed by the Romans to perfume their washing water and is now mostly utilized as a decorative plant.
Small, tubular, mostly mauve-blue (occasionally white) blooms form in whorls of six to ten atop a terminal spike on lavender plants, which have square stems. The blossoms are a favorite of bees and a valuable source of nectar, and they typically bloom anytime between June and August. The needle-like, downy, and often light silver-gray evergreen leaves are lanceolate in shape and grow in pairs on opposite branches.
The oil glands in the leaf and the flower produce the essential oil that is sold commercially. Therapeutically useful chemical components found in the plant include tannins, coumarins, flavonoids, triterpenoids, and volatile oil.
Lavandula intermedia, sometimes known as silver edge lavender, is a hardy, disease-resistant plant.
The Romans (and the ancient Greeks) used lavender blossoms to smell bath water, which is why the word lavender comes from the Latin word for “to wash,” lavage. After the Syrian city of Nerada, the ancient Greeks coined the name Nardus for the lavender herb. Nard was another common name for it.
During Roman times, a pound of flowers would fetch 100 denarii, which was roughly equivalent to a month’s salary for a farm laborer or fifty trips to the barbershop. Lavender was employed as a water fragrance in Roman baths because it was believed to be skin-rejuvenating. After conquering much of southern Britain, the Roman Empire brought lavender with them.
It was believed that if glove producers in Grasse scented their leathers with lavender oil during the height of the Plague, the disease would be contained. When you consider that fleas, the vectors of the Black Death, are also repelled by lavender, you can see how this tale has some credibility.
Medicinal, decorative, insect-repellent, and pest-control uses are just a few of the many ways lavenders are put to use. They serve an important ecological function by collecting nectar from flowers and transforming it into honey.
Somewhere with lavender
The aesthetic and aromatic qualities of lavender have led to its widespread cultivation. The plant has been grown since ancient times in perfumery, and as an aromatic herb has been thought to boost the soul and chase sorrow. Women have traditionally held sprigs of lavender to give them strength and confidence during childbirth. Dried flower arrangements make good use of flower spikes. Both the blooms and the blossom buds, which are a delicate purple color, are used in aromatic potpourris.
Lavender’s fumigant characteristics make it a popular choice for use as an insect repellent. When dried and packed in pouches, these herbs can be found amid folded clothes to provide a pleasant scent and protect them from moths.
Beekeepers can get a good harvest of high-quality honey from the nectar of lavender blossoms. Mon floral lavender honey is mostly produced in Mediterranean countries and exported around the world. Candied lavender flowers are a lovely addition to any sweet treat. Both lavender and herbs de Provence employ lavender as a herb. Besides being used to flavor sugar (thus the name “lavender sugar”), lavender flowers are also sometimes offered as a blend with black tea
This herb has been used by French chefs in and around the Provence region of France for generations. Most meals benefit from lavender’s floral, slightly sweet, and refined flavor. Dried lavender buds (or flowers) are typically used in food preparation, while some chefs have also tried using fresh leaves.
The blossoms of this plant are used to make an aromatic oil called lavender. The antibacterial, perfume, aromatherapy, and medical uses for this essential oil are many. Lavender’s distinctive flavor and aroma come from the essential oil found in the plant’s buds.
The Lavandula angustifolia plant, often known as common lavender or English lavender, produces an essential oil that is highly effective and has very sweet overtones; this oil finds several uses in balms, salves, perfumes, cosmetics, and topical applications. Lavandula stenches, or Spanish lavender, are not utilized for medical purposes but rather as an ornamental plant in gardens.
The blossom of the Lavandula starches plant, sometimes known as Spanish lavender.
In herbalism, lavender is a staple.
The lavender essential oil has been shown to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects. During WWII, it was utilized to sanitize hospital rooms and other public areas. It has been used as a local disinfectant for wounds, and studies have shown that lavender oil, when used in large enough concentrations, can eliminate many common bacteria, including those responsible for typhoid, diphtheria, streptococcus, and pneumococcus.
The essential oil has long been used as a headache cure due to its sedative, antispasmodic, and tranquilizing effects. To alleviate tension headaches, you can rub it on your temples, drink it as an infusion, or inhale it like smelling salts.
It is said that drinking an infusion of lavender would relieve itching and swelling from bug bites. Folklore also attributes its success as a treatment for the bite of certain poisonous snakes.
Seeds and flowers of the plant are placed on pillows, and an infusion of three flowerheads added to a cup of hot water is recommended as a calming and restful night drink. Some lavender species’ essential oil has been suggested to alleviate the discomfort of neuralgia when added to an Epsom salt bath as part of hydrotherapy.
When diluted 1:10 with water, rosewater, or witch hazel, lavender oil (or extract of Lavender) is said to treat acne. It’s also applied topically to soothe irritated skin and heal burns (It is a traditional treatment for these in Iran).
Be wary of your health!
Some lavender treatments, especially those with an anti-inflammatory effect, have been supported by scientific research. The tea has a minor sleepy effect, although it is safe to drink in moderation. On the other hand, similar to other essential oils, excessive or prolonged use can be harmful to the kidneys and the liver. It’s also worth noting that lavender oil is a potent allergy. Lavender should not be consumed orally by a pregnant or lactating woman for obvious reasons. Herbs contain active components like other herbs, vitamins, and pharmaceuticals that might cause negative interactions and even side effects when used together.
Shampoos, soaps, and body lotions containing lavender and tea tree oils have been linked to “hormonal imbalances and breast growth in young boys,” according to preliminary research presented at a meeting hosted by the Endocrine Society in June 2006.
A 2002 study looking into the calming effects of lavender showed that test subjects who smelt the herb performed worse than those who scented nothing.
Use by traditional healers
Discords, a Greek physician who served in the Roman army, claimed that ingesting lavender may treat a variety of ailments, including indigestion, sore throats, headaches, and open wounds. Lavender’s calming and antiseptic properties led the Romans to give the plant its name (“lava” meaning to wash). Lavender was “particularly good use for all griefs and pains of the head and brain,” as the English herbalist John Parkinson put it in the 1600s, and King Charles VI of France ordered it be included in his pillow every night so he could sleep well. You may still find lavender-scented pillows in stores nowadays.
Lavender has long been utilized in Asian traditional medicine for its “cooling” effect and for healing the “Shen,” or mind, by cooling the heart and so easing mental and emotional strain that manifests physically. Concurrently, a French biochemist named Marguerite Maury pioneered a special technique for delivering these oils to the skin via massage; this technique, now known as aromatherapy massage, is widely practiced all over the world.
Although studies have shown potential health benefits, the FDA does not oversee or control the quality or purity of essential oils. Essential oils can have a wide range of effects, so it’s best to consult a doctor before starting treatment and learn as much as possible about the brand you plan to use. Before using an unfamiliar essential oil, it’s smart to give it a test run on a small area of skin.
What we can learn from science
Essential oils were proposed as “multi-potent medicines against neurological illnesses with greater efficacy, safety, and cost-effectiveness” in a 2017research published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.
Can we, then, prevent the devastating effects of neurological diseases? All approaches to preventative plant medicine have their advocates. Furthermore, we can now approach plant life with an eye toward scientific inquiry. In most studies, the essential oil is taken orally, breathed, or applied topically.
The future of lavender appears bright, notwithstanding the tiny sample sizes of several of these research. The benefits of lavender, according to studies, include the following:
Produces a soothing effect and improves one’s disposition.
- One of the few alternative medications for GAD that has been proven effective through rigorous scientific evaluation is lavender, paired with the relaxing kava.
- Lavender, like traditional medications for anxiety, has been shown to reduce anxiety and accompanying restlessness in clinical trials.
- Similarly, a controlled trial indicated that lavender was as effective as the SSRI paroxetine in treating depression. Lavender enhanced the effects of imipramine (a tricyclic antidepressant) when administered together.
- Lavender’s calming aroma has been studied for its potential to improve communication and trust between people.
- Tea made from this herb has both a Trusted Source (in a gaming context) and a Bonding (although Temporary) Effect.
- Credible Informant for Moms and Newborns.
Inhaled lavender has been shown to help persons in critical care or with cancer sleep better in controlled studies. A decrease in restless leg syndrome was shown in preliminary tests, and students who had trouble sleeping reported feeling more rested afterward.
It helps with memory.
Other small-scale studies have found that while breathing lavender can hurt working memory under normal conditions, it can have the opposite effect when people are under stress.
Useful as an antiseptic. Lavender’s soothing properties make it a useful topical remedy for a variety of injuries. When it comes to maternal injuries sustained after birth, controlled trials have shown that this treatment is particularly helpful.
Efficacy against insects. The use of a lavender oil topical on humans has also shown promising results in treating fleas and lice (and other animals).
Rejuvenating properties for the skin. As an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, and wound-healing agent, it can be useful for the skin.
Gentle touch during massage is seen by many to have a healing effect all its own. However, recent studies have shown that the skin is an effective route for the absorption of several bioactive plant compounds into the bloodstream and, ultimately, the brain.
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Why is lavender so effective?
Lavender, like most medicinal plants, contains a variety of active compounds, and it is the synergistic actions of these chemicals that allow the plant to function like a master auto mechanic, able to fine-tune the entire system to peak performance.
Linalool and linalyl acetate is the primary stress-relieving ingredients. Other plants with calming aromas, such as citrus fruits like bitter orange, also contain these compounds (neroli).
Cineole and camphor, two terpenes, are also found in lavender oil. European sage and rosemary, both known to improve memory, contain them.
Inquire as to the chemical makeup of the lavender oil you intend to buy. Essential oils can differ in composition from one batch to the next for several reasons (such as the time of harvest), and some oil may even be contaminated with synthetic compounds.
Tips for incorporating lavender into your decor
Always check with a certified medical herbalist and let your doctor know about any medications or health conditions you’re currently dealing with before using any plant medicinally.
While it may be helpful in low doses, you shouldn’t rely on it exclusively. Please continue to take any medications as directed. Likewise, you should verify the plant’s authenticity and stick to the stated dosage.
Lavender has been used medicinally for over a thousand years, so it’s no wonder that it’s also used in everything from cosmetics to aromatherapy to food.
I use it more than almost any other essential oil in my house. To help relax my children, I put some in their baths, some in their diffusers, and some on their pillows. It’s what I reach for whenever I need anything to soothe the sting of an insect bite or treat an infection on my skin.
Plus, the medicinal benefits of lavender are yours to reap at no cost if you grow it yourself. As the essential oil content of leaves and flowers is highest shortly before they blossom, it is best to collect them at that time. You may make tea and tinctures from either the fresh or dried version.
A Method for Making Tinctures
Ingredients: Add 25 milliliters of 40% alcohol to 5 grams of dried lavender and let it sit overnight.
One teaspoon, three times a day, is the recommended medical dosage.
The blooms and leaves can be used in aromatherapy in the form of baths, oils, and fragrances. It works well in roasts, especially lamb, but can also be used in cookies and sweets like creme Brule. Drinks like smoothies and cocktails benefit greatly from its inclusion. If you want to add a unique flavor to your vodka or champagne cocktail, try adding a drop or two of lavender essential oil or lavender syrup.
Lavender, like other therapeutic herbs and many pharmaceuticals, may have varied effects on different people. It has varying effects depending on the dose, and some people are more susceptible to it than others. Some can help you unwind, while more can get your blood pumping. The effectiveness can decline with repeated use.
In addition to being one of the least dangerous plants in general, the lavender essential oil has a similarly low toxicity profile when used appropriately. Small, undiluted amounts can also be rubbed directly into the skin.
It has some potential downsides, though.
As an example, those with hypersensitive skin may experience irritation. Sedatives and anticonvulsants may have an additive effect when combined with lavender. Additionally, consistent use isn’t suggested for young males due to the hormone-disrupting effects. Reliable Sourcing.