Lavender is my very favourite herb, which probably doesn’t surprise anyone who’s been following my blog for a while. I’ve used it in all kinds of ways, from sachets tucked inside my pillow case, to lavender vinegar for a hair rinse, to a soothing lavender-oatmeal bath (how-to at the bottom of this post), and more.
When I found out about the pollinators declining, I decided to enlarge my lavender garden to attract more bees and butterflies. But is seems that my decisions never fly solo – each one leads to another one. In this case, the decision to learn more about lavender’s many health benefits.
It was believed in ancient times that adding lavender to baths added not only a pleasant scent, but also purified the body and spirit. We now know that lavender, when inhaled, produces a calming, sedative effect, which makes it easy to understand why the ancients held those beliefs.
Note: Where it refers to lavender essential oil, it means pure essential oil, not the synthetic stuff found in pharmacies and other retail outlets. That oil doesn’t have any healing properties.
Lavender and aromatherapy:
The reason lavender promotes relaxation is because it slows the activity of the nervous system. The more relaxed we are, the better we feel and the more able to fight off headaches, depression, nervous disorders and exhaustion.
The right amount of sleep is needed to maintain good physical and mental health. Lavender can often help achieve the relaxation necessary for a good night’s sleep.
In one sleep study of the elderly, it was found that putting a few drops of lavender essential oil on their pillows often increased sleep regularity without the need for stronger sleep aids. Placing a lavender sachet inside the pillow case works as well.
Lavender and the digestive system:
Lavender (a member of the mint family) is of great benefit to the digestive system. Lavender tea can relieve indigestion, nausea, flatulence, vomiting, and diarrhea. It can also improve the appetite.
To make the tea: Pour one cup of freshly boiled water over a tablespoon of dried lavender flowers. Cover and let steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain and drink. Do not use the essential oil. It is toxic if taken internally.
Lavender and skin ailments:
Holistic doctors treat skin ailments such as acne, fungal infections, wounds and eczema with lavender essential oil. For home use, it is recommended that dried lavender flowers, rather than essential oil, be used. The oil, being that much stronger, can damage the skin. Best to leave that to the professionals.
Lavender and pain:
Acupuncturists and chiropractors often use lavender oil when treating patients – a massage with essential oil has been proven to reduce joint pain. (A warm lavender/oatmeal bath can also help – directions below.)
Lavender is currently being studied for its antibacterial and antiviral properties. It is already known that the essential oil can be used as an effective natural antiseptic to treat minor cuts and scrapes. Never pour essential oil on an open wound.
Lavender and circulation:
Lavender improves blood circulation which of course has many positive benefits. including:
- Decreased risk of heart attack and atherosclerosis;
- Important in diabetes management;
- Fewer leg cramps.
Lavender and other benefits:
- Massage with essential oil can improve concentration, learning, reduce anxiety and level out mood disturbances.
- Alopecia areata – this is a hair-loss condition which has been treated successfully by holistic doctors using a combination of essential oils, including lavender. Continued use of these oils improved hair growth by almost 50%.
- Studies are being carried out to see if lavender can lessen anxiety and agitation in patients with Alzheimer or dementia.
- The German E commission has approved lavender as a tea for insomnia, restlessness and nervous stomach irritations.
- Prompt treatment of minor burns (including sunburn) with lavender essential oil relieves the pain and may stop blistering.
- Rub a drop of lavender essential oil on the back of your neck and your temples to quickly eliminate emotional stress.
- Rinse hair after shampoo with lavender vinegar to eliminate and prevent dandruff.
Lavender is NOT recommended for pregnant and/or breastfeeding women.
It is also NOT recommended for pre-pubescent boys as some studies show that lavender may have a feminizing effect (gynecomastia or breast growth). Products to be avoided include shampoo and soap.
Lavender, like all herbs, can interact with other herbs or medicines. If on any medication, check with your doctor first.
- Lavender may cause breathing problems in people with asthma;
- Some people are allergic to lavender – symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, headache and chills;
- Since lavender slows the activity of the central nervous system, it may increase the effects of morphine or oxycodone prescribed for pain, or lorazepam, diazepam and alprazolam prescribed for depression or anxiety.
Then there are a few people who should avoid it simply because they don’t like the fragrance. One of lavender’s main benefits is its abilitity to make people relax which is hard to do if you can’t get past the smell.
A LAVENDER/OATMEAL BATH relieves stress and headaches, soothes itchy skin, calms the mind, relaxes muscles and reduces joint pain. The skin absorbs certain toxins and chemicals (not clear which ones so best to avoid all), therefore it is safest to use only organic ingredients.
In a blender, grind ¾ cup certified organic large flake oatmeal -found in health food stores
2 Tbsp. certified organic dried lavender flowers -found at herb stores.
Grind to a fine powder. When you powder the oatmeal and lavender, it gets absorbed by the water. Otherwise it will just sink to the bottom of the tub where it doesn’t do you much good.
Put this powder into:
A disposable container: a coffee filter taped or tied shut, then placed in a bath bag or old sock; or the foot part of old pantyhose – leave enough so you can hang this from the spout; or any other item you have that won’t let the powder leak out or you’ll end up with a real mess.
Hang whatever you’ve used from the spout so the water runs over it as the tub fills or, if it’s tightly sealed, you can simply toss the package into the tub.
Have the water pleasantly warm, but not hot, then just lay back, listen to tranquil music, think pleasant thoughts, and let the lavender/oatmeal do its magic.
Talk to you again next week,