I visited an organic lavender farm a few summers ago. About a half a mile down the road I knew I was close as I could smell the fragrance wafting through the air. The rolling hillside was full of stunning, silvery-green and purple lavender plants. While I’ve never been to France, I imagined this is what the French countryside must look and smell like. I felt immediately transported to a peaceful place. How much was linked to the actual aromatic effects of lavender or the natural beauty of it in this lovely environment, I’ll never know. Either way, it was an experience to remember.
While lavender is an obvious visual and olfactory indulgence, its value goes far beyond these sensory experiences. The plant has a long and illustrious history as traditional medicine in many cultures. Lavender use has been traced back at least 2500 years, when it was used for mummification and perfumery by the ancient Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Arabs. Ancient Romans are also believed to have used lavender for cooking, bathing, and scenting the air. Today, science is revealing the incredible properties lavender possesses to reduce depression, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and anxiety, as well as aiding insomnia and repelling insects. While lavender has many uses, here are some of my favorites:
A joint Canadian and Iranian study compared the effects of a medication for depression to drinking tea made from lavender flowers. The researchers found that the lavender was slightly more effective than the anti-depressant drugs without any of the dangerous side effects often present with these types of drugs. The researchers concluded that lavender might be used as an adjunct to anti-depressant drugs or on its own to assist with symptoms of depression. The study participants drank two cups of an infusion made with lavender daily. This can be made by adding two teaspoons of dried flowers to boiled water and letting it sit for 10 minutes before straining and drinking the tea. Alternatively add one drop of lavender essential oil to a glass of warm water, stir and drink, three times daily. Of course, never discontinue any medications without consulting your physician.
Lavender is a traditionally-used insomnia remedy. Renowned herbalist and author of The Green Pharmacy, James Duke, recounts stories of British hospitals using lavender essential oil in patients’ baths or sprinkled onto bed clothes to help them sleep. To use in a bath sprinkle 5 to 10 drops of lavender essential oil under the water as the tub fills to allow the oils to disperse. Alternatively, place a heaping tablespoon of dried lavender flowers in cheesecloth, tie into a bundle and allow the flowers to infuse in the bathwater while soaking.
3. Mosquito Repellent
In a South African study comparing the effects of lavender essential oil to DEET-based tick repellents, lavender showed comparable results to the DEET sprays. At a 5 percent concentration the insect-repellent results of the lavender oil lasted for 40 minutes while at a 10 percent or higher concentration of the essential oil, the results lasted for two hours. Add 10 to 20 drops of lavender essential oil to a dollop of your favorite unscented cream and apply before heading outdoors.
4. PMS Symptoms
A Japanese study published in the journal BioPsychoSocial Medicine found that inhaling the scent of lavender for ten minutes had a significant effect on the nervous system of women suffering from premenstrual symptoms. It especially decreased feelings of depression and confusion. Add a few drops of lavender essential oil to a clean handkerchief and deeply inhale for at least ten minutes. Alternatively, massage a couple drops of lavender essential oil onto your abdomen.
Using Lavender Essential Oil
Choose only high quality, pure, undiluted lavandula angustifolia (true lavender) purchased from a reputable supplier. I like and use doTerra essential oils as they are pure, undiluted, and ethically-sourced. Many varieties of lavender essential oils use less therapeutic species of lavender, dilute the essential oil in a cheaper carrier oil, or even add synthetic esters to increase the volume of these compounds, resulting in an inferior oil lacking in therapeutic value.
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Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM, RNCP is an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: Be Your Own Herbalist: Essential Herbs for Health, Beauty & Cooking.
Copyright Michelle Schoffro Cook. All rights reserved. No use of this article, in whole or in part, may be used without the prior written permission of the author. This article is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.