- History of the Use of Lavender
- Vitamins and Compounds in Lavender
- How to Use the Different Forms of Lavender
- Health Benefits of Lavender
Many grow lavender because of its beauty and fragrance, but this plant is also quite medicinal. There are many health benefits of lavender that are derived from the flower and oil. Herbal medicine uses this herb in aromatherapy, tea and topical use.
History of the Use of Lavender
Health benefits of lavender are known for quite some time. Ancient cultures such as the Egyptians used lavender oil in the mummification process. Later it was added to baths in Greece, Rome and Persia, since they believed it purified the body and mind. The word lavender comes from the Latin word “lavare” which means “to wash”.
In ancient times bundles of dried lavender were used during childbirth to calm the mother during contractions. This works since I did it!
Lavender is mentioned in the Bible. Adam and Eve took it to protect themselves from evil when expelled from the garden of Eden. Mary, mother of Jesus, placed his clothes on a lavender bush to dry. She also used it anoint his feet as a child and during his burial. Many houses still place a cross made of lavender over the door for protection.
The oldest records of the health benefits of lavender came from Dioscorides, a Greek physician, in 77 AD. He studied the medicinal properties of herbs. In his study he wrote about the health benefits of lavender which could treat headaches, sore throats and digestion problems. And that it had antiseptic properties when placed on the skin as a treatment for wounds or burns.
English royalty loved lavender during the Middle Ages. Linens and furniture were washed with lavender water. It was also sprinkled on a lover’s head to get the person to remain faithful. Its powerful antibacterial properties were quite useful to fight plague related diseases.
Queen Victoria used it as a perfume during the Victorian Era, so its use became popular in other women of high class. In the 1920s, Rene-Maurice Gattefosse (a French perfume developer) burned his arm while working and plunged it into the first liquid he found, which was lavender oil. This provided immense relief and his hand healed quickly with very little pain and no scarring. Scientists later proved this health benefit of lavender.
Vitamins and Compounds in Lavender
Many health benefits of lavender come from phytonutrients found in the plant. Season your meals with a lavender spice blend or drink it in tea. One serving of lavender provides 2 mg of iron (you need 9-10 mg per day). Iron is essential for producing hemoglobin and myoglobin in the blood.
Lavender has 278 IU of vitamin A that improves eye health, including the prevention of cataracts, dry eyes and night blinds. It also maintains mucous membranes and healthy skin. This herb also provides 215 mg of calcium which helps your bones stay strong.
How to Use the Different Forms of Lavender
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender essential oil is derived from the nectar of the flowering plant. Keep in mind not all types of lavender produce this oil. Health benefits of lavender from oil can be obtained by diffusing it, spraying it or massaging it on the skin (test a small patch first to discard possible reactions). This essential oil should not be ingested.
This essential oil is hypnotic, anxiolytic, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory. Apply topically to clean and disinfect cuts and scratches. It also helps alleviate the itch from mosquito and bug bites. Lavender helps heal sunburns and first degree wounds, add fresh aloe vera if possible. Place on pillows or baths to ease the mind.
According to a study done in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, applying lavender (plus sage and rose) topically could reduce the severity of menstrual cramps.
This relaxing tea can help with anxiety and sleep. It can be purchased in bags or loose tea. Those who grow lavender can steep the fresh buds in hot water.
Lavender tea can be used topically for tears in the perineum after childbirth. Do a strong infusion of flowers and place it in a sitz (seated) bath. Vaginal douche for yeast infections are another of the health benefits of lavender.
Health benefits of lavender can be obtained in a supplement. Keep in mind that supplements are not regulated so make sure to buy high quality ones.
Those who have fresh lavender flowers can chop them to release the essential oils and pack them in a clean jar. Cover it with grain alcohol like vodka. Dried flowers can be used too, but they need to be bruised by a rolling pin or mortar and pestle. Let this mixture steep in a dark and cool place between two to six weeks. Strain with a cheesecloth and store the (dark) bottle out of sunlight. Lavender tincture can also be bought.
Health Benefits of Lavender
The most known of all the health benefits of lavender is its ability to relax, since it is a gentle sedative that helps with insomnia, stress and anxiety. Lavender has a faster effect than other antidepressants and adaptogens. It is so powerful that it is commonly included in meditation techniques. Lavender helps clear the mind of negative thoughts.
Lavender is used to treat headaches, both by drinking tea or rubbing the essential oil on the temples. The National Cancer Institute states that aromatherapy can help manage side effects of cancer treatment. It can also help those who suffer from dementia. Scientists have studied the effect of lavender on brain wave patters which can help those with Alzheimer’s.
Lavender tea can be combined with lemon balm and/or lemon verbena to lift the spirits. For grief it can be mixed with rose, mimosa and flowers of hawthorn. Those that suffer from insomnia can combine lavender tea with chamomile, rose petals, mint or passionflower.
Of the lesser known health benefits of lavender is its digestive properties which can treat nausea, intestinal gas, and irritable bowel syndrome. It is safe for use in children and elderly as it is quite gentile. Drink it in a tea or chew lavender leaves to ease stomach discomfort. Other similar digestive aids include lemon balm, chamomile and catnip.
Lavender has been used to wash clothes for centuries. This is not just because of its pleasant smell, but it also has antiseptic components and its a great insect repellent. In modern times we have a lot more hygiene and comfort than our ancestors had, which were exposed to dangerous insects like fleas and lice in their daily lives. Dried lavender flowers sachets are still used in closets and drawers to repel moths and other insects. For this same reason you will find that many cleaning products include lavender.
Skin and Hair Conditions
Using lavender oil topically can help treat a condition called alopecia aerate, which makes patches of hair fall out. You can buy shampoos and conditioners which include organic lavender or brew tea and apply it to your hair, similar to rosemary tea.
Lavender oils help with diaper rash, eczema, and sunburns. Health benefits of lavender include the control of acne since it prevents bacterial infection and controls sebum excretion. This essential oil can fight acne scars. It is also helpful in treating fungal infections.
Another of the health benefits of lavender is the reduction of pain including backaches, sprains, lumbago and rheumatism. Massaging lavender essential oil eases joint pains.
Lavender essential oil is a natural stimulator that works to eliminate phlegm from the body. It can be used in inhalers or vaporizers to treat a cold or the flu. Apply to the chest and neck when congested. It can help with a range of respiratory diseases including asthma, bronchitis and sinus congestion.
Safety and Precautions
Lavender is considered safe in normal amounts. It is best to consult with your doctor before taking advantage of the health benefits of lavender if you are pregnant, nursing or taking prescription medication. This herb is not consider an allergenic, but be careful if you have an allergy in the mint family. Lavender essential oil can be used topically, but make sure to try a small patch first since some people can develop redness and irritation from its use.