Lavender is considered a herbaceous perennial plant that is native to the Mediterranean regions and northern Africa, along with parts of Asia and India. Lavender looks like a shrub and belongs to the mint family. Lavender is most commonly used commercially for production of essential oils although it can be used in cooking as well. Although most people think that lavender is light shade of purple in colour, its colour can range from lilac, violet, blue, yellow to almost black purple. The most recognizable lavender plant is called Lavandula Angustifolia or the Old English Lavender. There are other common ones too, such as French Lavender and Spanish Lavender.
Lavender herb is best grown in dry, well drained and gravely soil in full sun. Most lavender is harvested by hand and times to harvest can differ due to intended use of lavender.
Lavender has sweet scent that is very fragrant and has been traditionally used in making perfumes, along with various gels, soaps, lotions and infusions.
Lavender is mass grown commercially for production of essential oil. Lavender essential oil is known for its anti-septic and anti-inflammatory ingredients and is used to naturally repel mosquitoes. Lavender essential oil is oil that is most commonly used in aromatherapy due to ability to provide stress relief while promoting calmness and relaxation at the same time. Its oils are used for bathing and cosmetics products, such as body lotions, oils, bath bombs, bath salts, creams etc. The essential lavender oil has been used in the hospitals since World War I to promote healing of wounds and prevent inflammation.
Lavender has been used in cooking for centuries, and bees make high quality honey that is called Monofloral honey, which is produced primarily around Mediterranean regions. Lavender is also used in tea and may be combined with other herbs to promote calming and restorative effects when people are feeling anxious.
There are some health precautions that the U.S. National Institute of Health warns about when it comes to lavender. While it is mostly considered safe when used in food or medicinal quantities, use of lavender is NOT recommended while pregnant or breastfeeding as lavender oil contains estrogen and may have hormonal effects on pre-puberty boys leading to enlarged growth of breast tissue before puberty or gynecomastia. Lavender may also irritate skin and cause contact dermatitis and could be poisonous if eaten.
Lavender should not be combined with:
- drugs that are used as sleeping aid such as Ambien, benzodiazepines and barbituarates
- drugs that are used to lower blood pressure such as enalapril, captopril or losartan
Talk to your doctor or medical provider if you consider taking lavender either internally or externally for possible drug interactions. DO NOT use lavender products on pre-puberty boys.
Research has shown that inhaling lavender essential oil reduces anxiety on the spot. People feel calmer instantly. There is also evidence that aromatherapy oils that contain lavender will aid people suffering from insomnia. Just pour few drops of lavender oil on a cotton ball and place it by your pillow. It should help you sleep better and reduce time being awake during night. Lavender essential oil will make you drowsy so do not use it if you operate any machinery or while doing anything for which you need to be completely alert. Elderly patients have reported more regular sleeping patterns when their sleeping medicine is being replaced with lavender aromatherapy during night.
Lavender has been known to reduce emotional stress and has positive effects on depression symptoms. One study has shown that people that took lavender oil and rosemary oil together before taking a test had enhanced cognitive function and performed better on the test when compared to control group.
Studies have shown that lavender oil has positive effects on:
- cancer prevention
- blood circulation
- hair growth
- increased urine flow
- helps with respiratory issues
- treats acne
- relieves pain
- bug repellent
As per list above, lavender herb has many different uses, both culinary and medicinally. While in majority cases is considered safe to use lavender oil, discuss with your doctor or medical provider if you have any concerns. Keep in mind that lavender essential oil should not be used undiluted on the skin as it can cause atopic dermatitis. Always dilute essential oil in carrier oil before applying it to the skin. Carrier oil can be olive oil, grapeseed oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil etc.
There are many great benefits to using lavender oil for treatment of anxiety and depression. If anything, aromatherapy alone is extremely helpful and promotes the sensation of calmness and serenity. Inhale it often throughout the day to feel more happy and relaxed.
Lavender Butter Recipe
- 2 tbsp of coconut oil
- 1 tbsp of shea butter
- 1 tbsp of grapeseed or olive oil
- 2 tbsp of pure unscented Aloe Vera gel
- 1/2 tsp of Vitamin E oil
- 20 drops of lavender essential oil
Directions: Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and blend evenly. Pour in a glass jar and store in cool and dark place. Use after bath while skin is still moist for better absorption. Use within one month.