Lavender: Health Benefits and Uses

Posted by on May 3, 2015 in Gardening, Health, Herbs, Lavender | 36 comments

Lavender

English Lavender in my yard.

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 oil is very strong and incorrect use can damage the skin. For home use it is recommended that lavender oil be mixed with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, to alleviate risk. Start small – 2 drops of lavender oil to 1/2 tsp. coconut oil. Where below it states lavender oil, before applying it to skin remember to mix it with the carrier oil.

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. To do so at home, use the lavender oil mixed with the coconut oil.

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.

SOME PRECAUTIONS:

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 ability 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.

TO MAKE:

In a blender, grind ¾ cup certified organic large flake oatmeal -found in health food stores

and

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.

lavender oatmeal

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 soon,

Lenie

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36 Comments

  1. I love lavender plants. I had it in my herb garden but this past winter it died. :(. I love lavender aroma to help me relax too. Thanks for sharing these tips.

    • Sabrina, sorry your plants didn’t make it but then this winter was more brutal than normal. I’m planting a bunch of the lavender beside my walkway so I can enjoy the fragrance more often. Hope you get to replace yours.

  2. Lavender always reminds me of sweet elderly women.

    I could do with using some as I am not sleeping enough at all (self inflicted).

    I did not realise that lavender had so many uses.

    • Hi Phonenicia – with your busy lifestyle you really do need your sleep to keep up with it all. Just tuck a lavender sachet inside your pillow case and inhale a few times – it will help.

  3. I love lavender! I just saw a lavender eye pillow on pinterest last night and thought of you. I tried a lavender oatmeal bath once, but didn’t put my coffee filter full of oats and lavender in a mesh bag, and it came open and my whole bath was spent picking out bits of oats and lavender buds. I’ll try again with a bag next time! 🙂

    • Meredith,nice of you to think of me. I can well imagine the mess in your tub – kind of kills the soothing part of lavender, right? I still have to learn how to promote Etsy then I’m going to start learning more about Pinterest because it really is a neat site. So much to learn, so much to do – I really need another 70 years to do it all.

  4. I’m not sure how you can not love lavender. Just the smell of it makes me feel calm. I like your lavender oatmeal bath recipe. Ahhh, makes me wish I had a better bathtub in my house so I could do that all the time.

    I used to know a girl who owned a cookie shop. This was years ago before I was health conscious or gluten intolerant. She used to make these yummy lavender cookies and bring them because she knew I loved them. Oh my gosh they were so good!

    • Erica, I sleep like a baby on the days that I play around with my lavender. That lavender/oatmeal bath is wonderful, so relaxing. I’ve been playing around with using lavender in cookies but haven’t been successful yet. Lavender is so potent that I’m always afraid to use too much so I end up using too little and you can’t taste it. Oh well, gotta keep trying. The day I’m successful I’ll share the recipe.

  5. I was aware of lavender’s relaxing qualities but not aware of all the other uses you’ve highlighted. An oatmeal-lavender bath sounds great.

    • Donna, a couple of times a month, I wait until dark to have a lavender/oatmeal bath, then I light a candle, put on some soft music, lay back and just say ‘”aah, this feels good”.

  6. As is usually the case when I read your posts, Lenie, I had no idea lavender could be so useful. Sounds like something I should plant in the backyard.

    • Hi Ken, lavender is a great plant to grow. It’s easy to grow, requires little care, is attractive, smells amazing whenever there is a breeze, attracts pollinators and so useful. You really can’t grow wrong with it.

  7. I’ve been aware of lavender’s relaxing qualities for some time. I use a spray of lavender on the bed sheet for that reason. Some of the other uses you’ve mentioned are familiar too, but to all. That Lavender-Oatmeal Bath recipe sounds like fun.

    • Hi Susan, lavender is something special, isn’t it? I have a cupboard where I keep all my supplies and it smells amazing when it’s opened. The next time you’re stressed, try that lavender oatmeal bath. It really does work.

  8. Hello Lenie, I bet you had a lovely day and time with the grand kids.
    Didnt know Lavendar had many benefits.
    I love Lavender! When I am exhausted/tired, I tuck a lavender sachet inside my silk pillow case. Oh my God! It helps with relaxation, you sleep very well.

    • Hi ChinWe – tucking a sachet in my pillow case is my favourite sleep aid, so much better than the chemical stuff. I did have a wonderful time with the grand kids – they are so interesting and I love listening to them. Can’t believe how much they know at such young ages (6-10).

  9. Also love lavender and have, for as long as I can remember, used it in some of the ways you mention. Lenie, your list of what lavender can be used for is truly impressive. Learnt a lot.

    • Hi Catarina, glad you liked the post and that you were able to learn something from it. I was out the other day pruning some of my lavender plants getting ready for the summer season and just thoroughly enjoying myself. Can hardly wait for the new growth to appear.

  10. As you might know, I write medieval novels. I am so surprised that old remedies, especialy the ones from plants, that were thought of as nothing but a fallacy, are now being reexamined, and that there is validity in those remedies. Thank you for sharing this.

    • William, there is a lot of studies being conducted now about the merits of herbal products. When I first learned about herbal medicines, people still scoffed at their use and considered it a fad but now top scientists are looking at herbs for medicinal purposes. I thought the information about people living thousand or more years ago using lavender really interesting. I’m not sure, but since lavender is an easy care Mediterranean plant, I think the poor people would have had access to it just like the rich.

  11. I don’t mind the smell of Lavender, but I tend to prefer smells that are more earthy and spicy. However, maybe I should try the few drops of lavender on my pillow trick since I am not a very good sleeper most nights.

    • Jeri, putting a few drops of lavender oil on your pillow works well to help you sleep, although personally I just stick a small sachet inside my pillow case. You could also try a cup of lavender tea before going to bed or try Patricia’s lavender/chamomile spray (or tea).

  12. I love everything the colour and smell of lavender, but didn’t realize how much good it could do me. I’ve seen lavender oil and wondered about its benefits, and now I know. Had no idea it had such amazing healing properties! Will have to try lavender tea, I’ve seen it for sale at my local market. Thanks for the great info!

    • Hi Krystyna – you could put a drop or two of lavender oil on something and carry it with you as you whip around those Toronto streets – totally relaxing. The Gardener at rush hour – no problem, just take a whiff. Lavender tea is good and if you’re into baking, you could try making lavender sugar and use it to make cookies.

  13. I love lavender Lenie! A few months ago I was looking for a lavender spray for my pillows. I came across something even better – lavender/CHAMOMILE spray by Bath & Body Works. It’s heaven sent (or scent!) A couple of squirts on the soles of my feet, and my pillow, and I’m into a deep sleep pretty quickly.

    • Hi Patricia – this is interesting. I was in the health food store the other day and saw a lavender/chamomile tea and thought that would be a really good bed-time tea. I didn’t buy any because I can make my own but it sure is something I’m going to try soon. So now you tell me about the spray. I’m going to have to find out how to make it for my Etsy store. I’ll bet with the right promotion, it would be a real seller. Something more to think about.

  14. This is wonderful Lenie, I love lavender but had no idea about all of the beneficial properties. There is a huge lavender farm high on the slopes of Mt. Haleakala and I go up there every chance I get. The view is spectacular and they have a charming cafe where the food is made with lavender and there’s a gift shop that I always spend way too much money in! Thanks for the recipe – gives me an excuse to make a trip up there this weekend. 🙂

    • Hi Marquita, enjoy yourself at the lavender farm. I would love to go there with you and have a cup of lavender tea or lavender lemonade in that cafe. If it is high up, the breeze would always be spreading the lavender fragrance through the air – lovely. I used to think that lavender was only for smelling pretty but have since found out there is a whole lot more that you can do with it. I’m glad you like the bath recipe, so simple yet so nice.

  15. Again you and your timely advice. I was just over the weekend looking at a bottle of lavender oil I purchased in Indonesia a while back. Not sure what to do with it returned it to its place of hiding. I am thinking lavender bath 🙂

    • Hi Tim, hope the trip to Indonesia was a great one – that way when you have your lavender bath, the trip will provide the pleasant memories. You can also put some on your temples when you have a headache or apply it to a mosquito bite to remove the itch – handy stuff to have around.

  16. Love lavender for its calming and healing properties. It has so many benefits.

  17. WoW – I love lavender but had no idea its benefits were so broad. Have used it for sleep and relaxation many times, but this is fantastic that it can aid digestion and joint problems too. Thanks so much for the helpful post:-)

  18. I didn’t know lavender had this many uses. I need to try some for the aromatherapy.

  19. Hi Lenie

    Now here is one herb I wish I can get my hands on. Unfortunately, I don’t know whether this herbs exist in my country.

    Reading this post, you have brilliantly outlined the benefits of the Lavender. Thank you for sharing. Have a great week.

  20. It occurred to me, Lenie, that you and Meredith should get together and make some honey lavender ice cream, which would nicely complement a plate of lavender cookies, don’t you think?

    • Andy, we could even have some lavender tea to go with it all. When the party’s planned, we’ll let you know.