Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is one of my favorite herbs to relax stress, but it also does much more…
Lavender is part of the mint family, and is well known for its light fragrance and beautiful flowers.
It grows wild in Mediterranean countries from Spain to North Africa, and is cultivated all over the world today for therapeutic use.
Ancient Egyptians used lavender in mummification practices, perfumes, and massage oils.
Cleopatra was said to employ lavender to attract her lovers like Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony.
Lavender is even mentioned in the bible in the “Song of Solomon” where it’s referred to as “spikenard.”
Few herbs can rival lavender’s popularity in cleansing practices throughout the ages.
The name lavender is derived from the Latin “lavare” which means “to wash.” The Greeks and Romans included lavender as an antiseptic in their famous bathhouses.
Soldiers in the Roman army carried lavender to cleanse wounds and encourage healing during battles.
The medieval French scattered lavender flowers on floors and in the streets to purify the air. During the Bubonic Plague, they tied lavender around their wrists for disease protection.
Medieval laundry women were actually called “lavenders” because they dried their clothing on lavender bushes.
Medieval grave robbers added lavender to “Four Thieves” vinegar to help prevent them from contracting disease. Sprinkling lavender water over a woman’s head was even thought to keep her virginal!
Today, lavender is one of the top essential oils used in Aromatherapy. Inhaling the scent of lavender helps to calm the mind and relax the body quickly.
Research shows lavender oil decreases anxiety and pulse rate in nursing students taking exams.
It’s a good choice for people who get uncomfortable in crowded spaces. It also eases motion sickness related to anxiety.
Lavender has sleep enhancing properties for people with insomnia. Recent research reveals it can increase the time spent in deep sleep, particularly for women.
Lavender has mild mood elevating benefits for depression. Some research suggests it may reduce depression’s severity in combination with anti-depressant drugs.
Lavender is a key herb for pain relief. Lavender has amazing muscle relaxing properties, and is routinely added to massage oils for pain relief.
Research shows it decreases pain after a C-section and in women with menstrual cramps. Just 1-2 drops of the oil applied to the temples fights headaches, too.
In one study, using lavender oil in a foot massage was found to decrease blood pressure, wakefulness, and pain in ICU patients, 50% of whom were receiving artificial respiration.
Lavender is soothing anti-inflammatory for minor skin irritations, eczema, sunburns, acne, and insect bites. Add a few drops to jojoba oil and apply to the affected area 2-3 times daily.
If you have dry scalp or dandruff, adding 3 drops of lavender to your favorite shampoo can work wonders.
It’s also nice infused into a natural lotion for dry skin protection in wintertime.
Lavender essential oil: Like all essential oils, lavender oil is very potent. A little goes a long way.
Just add a few drops to a massage oil, diffuser, or hot bath for natural pain relief, skin therapy, and stress reduction.
Lavender blossoms/flowers: Try a lavender blossom pillow to fight insomnia. I keep a lavender sachet in my drawers and linen closet for freshness and light fragrance.
Lavender works well in small amounts in cooking. Herbs de Provence (with lavender) is widely used in French cuisine with recipes with chicken and fish.
A small amount of lavender also adds a nice flavor to cookies, shortbread, and herbal teas.
For general relaxation and self-care, I recommend 1-2 tsp. of dried lavender blossoms in a relaxing tea by itself or combination with chamomile or rosebuds.
If you like tinctures, consider the lightly fragrant lavender in Calm Mind Daily Tonic, a high quality blend designed to relax mild anxiety and improve mental focus.