Lavender. Just the thought of its sweet fragrance makes me sit back, relax and smile. When passing by a Lavender row I can’t resist running my hands through the purple flower heads, just to smell the heady fragrance, and maybe pinch off a few to pop in my clothes drawer. Well known for its soothing, calming properties, Lavender essential oil also has many other positive health benefits.
Lavender essential oil comes from the Lavandula angustifolia shrub, native to Northern Africa and the Mediterranean mountainous areas, now also thriving in Southern Europe, USA and Australia.
The word ‘lavender’ comes from the Latin word ‘lavare’ which means ‘to wash’. Historically the Ancient Persians, Greeks and Romans placed lavender flowers in their bathtubs to help wash and cleanse their skin. It was also well known for its disinfectant and deodorising properties and was tied around people’s waists during the Great Plague of London to ward off illness.
A sweet, floral, slightly woody scent, Lavender is often used in perfumes and beauty products but its benefits go well beyond this and it is a must-have addition to your household first aid kit.
Lavender oil has antidepressant and nervine properties and is useful in the treatment of anxiety and stress, supporting a calm state of mind. It is an excellent tonic for the nervous system.
Inhaling the fragrance directly from the bottle, or by placing a few drops onto a tissue or clothing near the head is a quick way to send the calming scent directly to the amygdala gland in the brain. This is the emotional centre of the brain and the Lavender scent can help to ease the mind and bring about a sense of calm, particularly useful in times of acute stress or anxiety.
Other essential oils that blend beautifully with Lavender to relieve anxiety and stress are Rose, Orange, Bergamot and Lemon.
For more long term relaxing and balancing of the mind and body, Lavender oil can be added to a diffuser, sending the scent into the air to cover a larger space and lasting longer. Combined with Rosemary oil, Lavender can clear the mind and increase cognitive function – perfect for working and studying.
Lavender oil has been scientifically proven to improve sleep patterns and is commonly used as a treatment for insomnia, aiding sleep regularity.
The many esters (aromatic molecules) of Lavender oil contain antispasmodic and calming properties making it an ideal oil to support healthy sleep patterns.
Placing a few drops of the oil on your pillow at night is the perfect way to bring about calm at bedtime and encourage quality sleep.
A relaxing bath with Lavender oil and Epsom Salts is an effective way to prepare the body and mind for a good night’s sleep and also ease muscular aches and pains. Add 15 drops of oil and ¼ cup of Epsom Salts to bathwater and soak your worries and sore muscles away.
Lavender oil blends well with other oils to alleviate respiratory conditions, and the perfect way to do this is using a diffuser such as the ultrasonic aromatherapy diffuser. Blending Lavender oil (with its antiseptic and expectorant properties) with other oils such as Eucalyptus and Lemon will relieve respiratory disorders like sinus congestion, cough, colds and asthma. The antiseptic, antiviral nature of Lavender oil will also help to fight those airborne bugs and keep your home environment healthy.
Lavender oil has been found to reduce headaches and migraines with its antispasmodic properties reducing tension and increasing blood flow to the brain.
Lavender oil is often used in household soaps, detergents and cleaners, because of its sweet floral fragrance. Its antiseptic and disinfectant properties make it the perfect addition to homemade cleaning products. 15 drops added to a spray bottle of ½ cup of white vinegar, and topped up with water makes a wonderfully fresh smelling all-purpose surface cleaner. Adding other oils such as Eucalyptus and Orange will enhance the disinfectant properties, leaving your home smelling fresh and clean, and the air clear of germs.
Lavender oil mixed with baking soda to form a paste will make the perfect antibacterial scrub for those hard to clean areas. Your surfaces will be sparkling clean and smell lovely.
Wound healing, skin treatment:
Ahh, that feels better!
Lavender oil works wonders giving relief to skin conditions. It has cicatrizant properties which make it beneficial to wound healing involving all sorts of skin ailments – burns, acne, eczema, psoriasis and even fungal infections.
For burns, including sunburn, apply a few drops of Lavender oil to the area to aid the healing process.
Lavender can be applied directly to cuts and bruises, bee stings and insect bites, making good use of its antiseptic and analgesic (pain relieving) properties. Either blended with a carrier oil such as coconut oil or neat, Lavender is a soothing, healing treatment for sunburnt, chapped lips or cold sores.
Healthy head of hair:
Along with Eucalyptus oil, Lavender oil creates a freshly smelling, therapeutic treatment for head lice. Combing a few drops of each oil through the hair will treat head lice and deter them from settling into the hair again. Lavender oil is also beneficial as a treatment for dandruff. By choosing organic essential oils to use in this way, you will avoid the harmful chemicals that can be present in mainstream treatment options.
Nausea, travel sickness:
No more icky tummy.
Lavender oil can ease the feeling of nausea and is the perfect natural alternative to travel sickness medications. Apply a few drops of lavender oil behind the ears or around the navel to alleviate symptoms, and encourage a sense of calmness.
"Tisserand and Young’s book “Essential Oil Safety” does not indicate any specific precautions for the use of Lavender essential oil.
I would, however, suggest avoiding using any essential oils during the first trimester of pregnancy, as an extra precaution, especially if you are new to essential oils and their uses.
Occasionally Lavender oil can cause an allergic skin reaction in those with unusually sensitive skin so a patch test on the inner arm is recommended before use, and using the oil in a carrier oil can reduce the possibility of irritated skin.
About the author
Kim McCormack is a qualified Naturopath. She has a Diploma in Naturopathy, a Diploma in Reflexology, and a Certificate of Massage. Kim is the owner of Holistics NZ - Natural Therapies for Body Harmony.
Kim lives in Nelson, NZ with her family and enjoys all that the region has to offer - sunshine, sea, mountains, and fresh air. Kim has spent over 20 years in the Education sector as a teacher (both in NZ and overseas). She is passionate about educating and inspiring people to live a healthy, full life, using natural therapies that are matched to each individual.
Qualifications :~ BEd, Dip.Tchg, Dip.Naturopathy, Dip.Reflexology, Cert.RelaxationMassage L4