The Amazing Properties of Lavender
By now, most people are familiar with the smell of the lavender flower. It’s often dried and used in sachets – as well as reproduced by laundry detergent and cleaning product manufacturers – for its clean, fresh pungent scent. Add to this the rising popularity of essential oils and you have a pretty widespread basic knowledge of lavender and some of its properties.
Most people find lavender soothing and calming. Some people use it to get rid of a headache. However, lavender actually has some pretty amazing medical uses, which have been the subject of serious study.
One of the first known properties of lavender was its use in purifying the skin. The word lavender comes from the Latin “lavare” which means “to wash.” Lavender blossoms are commonly dried and used in soaps, creams, and even fancy foods. The essential oil of lavender is made by distilling the flower spikes of certain species of lavender.
Lavender oil does indeed have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Those in the know use it for minor burns and bug bites. The oil has also been successfully used to treat anxiety, depression, insomnia, and restlessness.
Some studies show it can help with vomiting, nausea, gas, stomach troubles, and swelling as well as pain relief for many types of aches and pains and prevention of hair loss. It also acts as an effective insect repellant.
Lesser-known Properties of Lavender
Here are some very interesting studies on the lesser-known properties of lavender:
Destroys Fungal Infections
A study published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology showed that lavender could combat antifungal-resistant infections. Scientists from the University of Coimbra Portugal tested lavender oil against a range of pathogenic fungi and found that it was lethal to a range of skin-pathogenic strains by destroying the fungal cell’s membrane. The lavender oil was found to be highly potent and with a wide-spectrum. Work remains to show how this laboratory work can be translated to use in patients.
This study was done by researchers at Celal Bayar University in Turkey and published in a journal called Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Laboratory rats were tested with several different methods of wound closure aids: TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), saline, povidone-iodine, and lavender oil. Research showed that “wound closure progressed more rapidly in the TENS and lavender oil groups than in the control and other study groups.”
According to Dr. Siegfried Kasper (Prof., MD, from the Medical University in Austria), lavender oil can have “beneficial on typical co-morbidity symptoms of anxiety disorders, for example, disturbed sleep, somatic complaints, or decreased quality of life. Except for mild gastrointestinal symptoms, the drug was devoid of adverse effects and did not cause drug interactions or withdrawal symptoms at daily doses of 80 or 160 mg.”
Dr. Kasper wrote an article in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice after a review of data from 7 clinical trials on a treatment called Silexan, which is an 80 mg lavender oil preparation in gelatine capsules. The team found that the Silexan reduced anxiety in patients with generalized anxiety disorder or subsyndromal anxiety within two weeks.
Another study was done on patients waiting for dental work by researchers at King’s College London. Anxiety levels of 340 adult patients were measured as they waited for dental appointments. Half of the group was exposed to the scent of lavender and half were not.
The group that was exposed to the lavender reported much less anxiety than that of the group without lavender. The calming effect applied regardless of what kind of dental appointment patients were waiting for.
Used In Pain Treatment
A study conducted at the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences in Iran used aromatherapy with Lavandula angustifolia essential oil on children who had just undergone tonsillectomies (had their tonsils taken out).
The team studied 48 children ages 6-12 who were divided randomly into two groups of 24. One group received acetaminophen (Tylenol) only and one group received acetaminophen plus lavender aromatherapy.
Both groups were monitored for three days post surgery. The team watched for the frequency of acetaminophen use, nocturnal waking because of pain and measured pain intensity. It was reported in the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology that the acetaminophen plus lavender group used much less acetaminophen than the other group.
However, the amount of waking and perceptions of pain intensity were not significantly different between the two groups.
With all of these potential benefits, you might be wondering how you can get more lavender into your life. Here are a few good ideas you might not have thought of.
How to Get More Lavender into Your Life
- Room spray: 2 cups water, 2 drops each of lavender, tea tree oil, and peppermint oil in a spray bottle.
- Bath: use a few drops in a warm foot bath for a child who has a hard time going to sleep at night. Use 3-4 drops in a hot bath for yourself if you have the same problem.
- Lavender essential oil can be added to a carrier oil and used as a massage oil to help you relax or to ease aching joints or on your lower abdomen to help with menstrual cramps.
- Use crushed fresh lavender blooms as a bug repellant by spreading it on your arms and legs as you sit outside in your garden.
- Rub the oil onto your temples to relieve a headache
- Add a couple of drops of essential oil to your after-sun cream to help relieve sunburns or a few drops of lavender infused oil onto dry, itchy skin.
- Sprinkle lavender essential oil onto your pillow at night to promote relaxed sleep.
- Lavender bath salt: Mix together 1 cup Epsom salt, ½ cup sea salt, 1/4 cup baking soda and 10-20 drops lavender essential oil. Mix well and store in a sealed jar. Use 1/3 cup per bath
- Carpet cleaner: Add 5-6 drops of lavender essential oil to 1cup baking soda. Sprinkle this on the carpet an hour before vacuuming. As you vacuum, the lavender scent will permeate your living areas.
- If you make your own deodorant, use 2-3 drops of essential oil for a nice scent
- Organically grown lavender or food grade essential oil can be used in a variety of recipes: scones, salad dressing, blackberry jam, lemonade or sprinkled onto vanilla ice cream with a pinch of cinnamon.
4 Different Types of Lavender You Can Grow
If you are looking to add a little calm and relaxation to your indoor or outdoor garden, check out these 4 different types of lavender.
- English Lavender: This is the most widely known type of lavender. It can stand summer’s humidity and winter’s moisture. This is also a great herb for baking, cooking, aroma. The key to growing lavender at home is to not over water the plant and keep it in full sun.
- ‘Munstead’ English Lavender: According to Better Homes and Gardens, this variety of lavender is most gardeners’ favorite. It has made it into the hearts of gardeners everywhere because of its silvery stems and beautiful violet-purple blooms.
- Spanish Lavender: This is the perfect type of lavender to grow in a container at home because this flower cannot stand cold winter temperatures. However, with a little humidity, you have your beautiful lavender flowers. While this variety is different from its cousin the English Lavender, it is still a beauty. It has a short flower head that is topped with petals.
- “Provence” Lavender: Here is the perfect type of lavender for you to grow at home if you are looking for a strong aroma and lavender oils.
For a safe, effective way to help ease pain, sleeplessness, and anxiety naturally you can’t go wrong with lavender. You can grow it in your own garden and literally reap the benefits for years to come.
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