April 09, 2013

Lavender: Benefits and Uses

Lavender is a multitasking powerhouse which is antibiotic, antiseptic, antidepressant, sedative and detoxifying. Its fragrant, beautifying and cleansing properties make lavender an extremely useful and healing plant.
The word lavender stems from latin "lavo" meaning "to wash" because it was so widely used in antiquity for soaps and toiletries A member of the mint family, lavender is a flowering shrub native to the mediterranean and England. 
Lavender oil works wonderfully when used topically for a wide variety of skin issues including bug bites, burns, rashes, eczema  fungal infections, acne and small cuts. The oil promotes healing of wounds and irritations by stimulating cells to regenerate while also inhibiting hormonal reactions that cause inflammation and pain.
Interestingly, lavender essential oil can be both stimulating and soothing. When used sparingly, lavender oil tends to calm, but used in greater quantities, it perks you up. To help heal bronchitis, add   lavender oil to vapor steam and inhale deeply. Another way to take advantage of lavender's wonderful fragrance is to mix it with water or alcohol to use as an eau-de-cologne and house spray. 
The scent of lavender is well-known for its effects on the nervous system. Victorians mixed camphor oil with lavender buds to create special swooning pillows used to revive fainting women. To encourage restful sleep, add a few drops of lavender oil to your pillow case or even add flower buds to the pillow stuffing itself. 
One of the best ways to take advantage of both the aromatherapeutic and topical benefits of lavender is through baths and lotions. Homemade bath salts using lavender oil and even lavender buds are soothing to the mind and the skin. To use lavender flowers without getting them in the tub, fill a muslin bag and tie it around a running faucet with a rubber band. You can add the essential oil to unscented lotions or oils (like coconut, jojoba or almond) to create fragrant and antiseptic moisturizers. 

Lavender oil can be used undiluted directly on the skin to help with bug bites, acne, rash, burns and mild infections. Applied to the temples, a couple drops of the oil can diminish headaches. Mixed with tea trea oil and water, it is an all-natural hand sanitizer. Added to witch hazel, lavender oil creates a wonderful, astringent toner for oily skin. Add lavender oil to liquid soaps to benefit from its traditional use as a cleanser.  
Lavender tea made by steeping the buds in boiling water helps ease both emotional stress and digestive issues. (Note: never ingest the essential oil, it is for topical use only.) Mixed with honey and milk, lavender tea is comforting and relaxing (though maybe a bit floral for some). However, my favorite use for lavender flowers is in fragrant sachets used liberally throughout my drawers and closets.
I hope you have enjoyed my first essential oil/plant focused post. Lavender really is one of my five favorite things ever because of its multitude of uses and clean smell. Do you use lavender at home? Are you even lucky enough to be growing it in your yard?

Balch, Phyllis A.. Prescription for Herbal Healing. New York: Avery, 2002.

Guyton, Anita. The Book of Natural Beauty. London: Stanley Paul & Co. Ltd., 1981.

Worwood, Valerie Ann. The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy. San Rafael, CA: New World Library, 1991.

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