If there is a superstar in the plant realm, it has to be lavender.
Not only is the herb the one of the most beautiful and pleasant-smelling plants in the world, it is among the most versatile.
The first person known to document therapeutic uses for Lavandula anugustfolia (also known as English lavender) was a French scientist named René Gattefossé (1881 – 1950). He treated it with lavender oil, and was impressed with the results:
“The external application of small quantities of essences rapidly stops the spread of gangrenous sores. In my personal experience, after a laboratory explosion covered me with burning substances which I extinguished by rolling on a grassy lawn, both my hands were covered with a rapidly developing gas gangrene. Just one rinse with lavender essence stopped “the gasification of the tissue”. This treatment was followed by profuse sweating, and healing began the next day (July 1910).” (source)
Gattefossé went on to collaborate with doctors who treated French soldiers for war injuries using lavender and other essential oils.
Since then, research has confirmed that inhaling the scent of lavender can produce calming, soothing, and sedative effects.
Essential oil, extracted from the plant’s fresh flowers, can be used for medicinal purposes.
A number of studies have reported that lavender essential oil may be beneficial in a variety of conditions, including insomnia, alopecia (hair loss), anxiety, stress, and postoperative pain. However, most of these studies have been small. Lavender is also being studied for antibacterial and antiviral properties. Lavender oil is often used in other forms of integrative medicine, such as massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic manipulation.
Scientific evidence suggests that aromatherapy with lavender may slow the activity of the nervous system, improve sleep quality, promote relaxation, and lift mood in people suffering from sleep disorders. Studies also suggest that massage with essential oils, particularly lavender, may result in improved sleep quality, more stable mood, better concentration, and reduced anxiety.
As if those benefits weren’t impressive enough, here’s a list of ___ more uses for lavender:
1) MINOR burns: After cooling the burned area by running under cold water for a least five minutes, a balm of honey and lavender can help soothe the pain, fight infection, and speed the healing process. Lavender contains Linalyl Acetate (24-45%) and Linalol (25-38%) which have local analgesic and anesthetic effects. It also contains Terpinen-4-ol (2-6%) which, like Linalol, is an antibacterial agent. These two contribute to lavender’s anti-bacterial properties, which in the case of a burn is very important.
2) Skin irritations: Apply on clean, unbroken skin to soothe pain and aid in healing.
3) Ringworm: Lavender’s anti-fungal effect can help cure this fungal skin infection.
4) Acne: Lavender can inhibit the bacteria that causes acne, but must be used carefully to avoid skin irritation.
5) Insect repellent AND relief for bites: Unlike humans, bugs aren’t a fan of the smell of lavender. Use the diluted oil on skin to repel them or use a natural lavender insect repellant spray. The oil can also be used to soothe bites if they occur.
6) Sunburn relief: Dilute the essential oil in water and place in a spray bottle to make a mist to spray on the skin.
7) Sinusitis: Put two drops of lavender (add optional thyme oil) to a bowl of near-steaming water and inhale slowly and deeply, with a towel over your head and the bowl.
8) Achy muscles and tension: If you are lucky enough to have someone who can give you a massage, have them use a lavender massage oil. Alternatively, add several drops of the oil to your bath. Or, use a lavender bath soak.
9) Earaches: Dilute lavender oil in a carrier oil (explained below) and massage on the skin around the ears and throat. Or, place a few drops of the oil on a warm compress and use it to massage those areas.
10) Eczema: Diluted oil can be gently applied to patches of eczema to soothe dryness and irritation.
12) Menstrual cramps: Massage diluted lavender oil on the lower abdominal region, or apply the oil (this can be done by hand or with a warm compress).
13) Relieve anxiety and improve concentration: Apply diluted oil to your temples, or rest with an eye pillow.
14) Deodorant: Lavender oil can kill odor-producing bacteria. Plus, it has a clean, fresh scent. Here are some options.
15) Headaches: Gently massage a few drops of diluted oil on the temples and back of the neck. Or, sprinkle a few drops of the oil on a warm compress and apply that to the forehead and back of the neck.
What you need to know before using essential oils
Essential oils are highly concentrated and can be harmful if they aren’t used properly. There are a few very important things to remember regarding their use:
- Do NOT take essential oils internally.
- Never use undiluted essential oils on the body. They need to be combined with other oils (“carrier” oils like almond or coconut oil), or shea or cocoa butter. A helpful list of options is included in AromaWeb’s article What are Carrier Oils? For dilution instructions, use this handy guide.
- Consult a physician prior to using essential oils during pregnancy or while breastfeeding (some experts say not to use the oils at all during those periods).
- Never use an undiluted essential oil on a baby or child. For external use on children, experts say to use HALF the amount of essential oil that a particular recipe recommends. Lavender is considered to be among the safest of herbs, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, right?
- Keep the oil out of the reach of children. If ingested, seek emergency medical care.
- Choose therapeutic-grade essential oils, or make your own.
Lavender oil is a first aid kit must-have. When properly used, it is among the safest of the essential oils. Be sure to add this wonderful remedy to your natural first-aid arsenal.
The following are high quality, therapeutic grade essential oils.