Lavender oil is, without question, my favorite essential oil; it is the one that I will never be without. I make sure I am well supplied at home, and I am always sure to have a bottle with me when I travel. Because of its safety and versatility, I reach for it for almost every ailment you could think of. It is one of the few oils that you can use neat (without diluting), it is safe for children, and it combines beautifully with most other oils, even helping to enhance their properties.
Like many plants, lavendula officinalis has a long history of usage. It was used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Arabs for, among other things, healing, cooking and bathing. In fact, the name “lavender” stems from the latin word “lavare”, which means “to wash.” Lavender’s usefulness has continued throughout the ages; one can trace the history of its usage through medieval times, the Renaissance, the Victorian Era and all the way until our present day. Besides being by far the most popular essential oil for medicinal uses, air fresheners and bath and body products, lavender has become popular as a flavoring, found in chocolate, lemonade, ice cream, and even grilled salmon.
Lavender Oil and Natural Health
Lavender is a specific for calming the nervous system. It may be used as an analgesic, antimicrobial, anticonvulsive, antidepressant, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory. It also works as a decongestant, deodorant, detoxifier, and a diuretic; plus it aids in rapid healing and regeneration of the skin.
The essence of lavender works medicinally in a number of ways. When an essential oil is applied to the skin, a very small amount is absorbed directly through the skin into the blood system, where it is carried to other parts of the body. Another, very small amount of it enters through the nose and is absorbed very quickly through the sinuses. Diffusion, steam inhalation, or even smelling a couple drops of lavender on a handkerchief are just a few ways to enjoy the therapeutic properties of lavender oil. Try it in candles, in oil lamps, or on lamp rings. My husband puts a few drops on his pillow every night to help him sleep. I would say I use it most, however, directly on the skin or mixed with other oils for things like cuts, burns, pimples and swollen neck glands. When myself or one of my loved ones is coming down with an illness, I like to massage a little on the skin for an anti-viral and anti-microbial boost.
- Skin: Massage diluted oil into the skin to heal burns and wounds, including sunburns. Can be used full strength to treat warts and athletes’ foot.
- Headaches: Massage diluted oil into the base of the skull to ease tension headaches
- Nerves: As a massage or inhaled, lavender oil is a nervine, soothing the nerves and calming a panicky, angry or impatient person. It is great for calming restless children.
- Pain: As an analgesic, lavender eases the pain of premenstrual cramps, sore muscles and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Digestion: Apply to the abdomen to aid in digestion, soothe the intestines, and reduce flatulation.
- Protection against Infection: Lavender will boost the immune system by reducing inflammation in the body, as well as fighting bacteria on contact. It will help guard against infectious diseases, fungal infections (on the skin and within the body), and food poisoning.
- Coughs and Colds: Steam therapy infused with lavender oil will open airways, soothe the sinuses and kill viruses. It stimulates the respiratory system while calming the body and decreasing inflammation.
- Depression: Studies have shown that lavender helps with depression related to pregnancy or pre-menstrual syndrome.
- Insect repellant: Lavender wards off insects naturally! It is also an insecticide and will kill parasites such as lice.
- Insomnia: Lavender can be a safe and effective sleep aid. Use a diffuser, put a few drops on your pillow, or massage some in to your skin at bedtime. This can be particularly soothing for children who are restless and having difficulty sleeping.
Warnings and Dosages
- It is generally recommended that you dilute essential oils in a carrier oil, lotion or butter, such as almond oil, sunflower seed oil, safflower oil, olive oil or mangosteen butter. The suggested amount is about 3-4 drops of lavender oil per teaspoon of carrier, or about 2-3% solution. For most people, full-strength, high quality lavender oil is safe to use undiluted, however, it is wise to check for allergic reaction first, especially for those with sensitive skin.
- The best way to use lavender oil is either on the skin or inhaled. The oil should only be taken internally on the recommendation of a health care professional. Used as a flavoring, it is safe.
- Always check for allergies! Apply a drop or two to a small part of the skin and wait to see if there is a reaction.
- Keep a lid on it! Linalool will oxidize. The oxidized product has been shown to exacerbate eczema and allergic reactions. Be sure to store lavender oil (as well as every other essential oil) in a dark glass bottle with the lid tightly closed and out of direct sunlight.
- Always buy pure lavender oil (always buy 100% pure of any essential oil)! Linalool and linalyl acetate are easily manufactured and are popular additives in perfumes and are used to adulterate lavender oil. The synthesized products are not medicinal and should be avoided.
Where Lavender Oil Comes From
The lavender plant is a gray-green perennial shrub with pale or deep purple, pink, blue or white flowers. It likes poor, well-drained soil and dry conditions in a sheltered or low-wind location. It is grown commercially in many parts of the United States and is growing in popularity. Sequim, Washington is the self-proclaimed “Lavender Capital of the U.S.,” hosting a lavender fair each July. Colorado saw its commercial lavender farms grow from 4 in 2009 to about 20 in 2010.
The essential oil of lavender is obtained from the flowers through either distillation or a CO2 process.
Lavender Oil Properties
Pure, natural lavender oil can consist of up to 90% of a combination of linalool and linalyl acetate. There can be up to 100 ingredients in the remaining oil, depending on the variety, growing conditions, and fertilizer. Here is a sample of some of the other ingredients that may be present in the oil:
- 1,8 Cineol
- Geranyl acetate
The combination of these ingredients gives lavender a wide array of properties.
Contraindications and Interactions
Pregnant women should avoid spike lavender, due to its high camphor content.
Lavender can multiply the affects of medicines that depress the nervous system, thin the blood or lower cholesterol. Check with your health adviser before using lavender if you are taking any medications.
If you have yet to discover the world of aromatherapy and essential oils, lavender is the perfect oil to start with. As I said earlier, it is one of the most versatile essential oils, and also, one of lower cost ones.
Lavender essential oil has been in use from the time of the ancient Egyptians, and is still in use, even in today’s hospitals. The oldest ways of using it aren’t discarded, and new ways come along all the time. What are your ideas for using lavender essential oil therapy? Have you used lavender as part of a health-restoration plan? How do you use it to help maintain good health?