History of Lavender
Lavender has been a favorite herb for centuries. The historic use and recognition of lavender is almost as old the history of man. As an herb, lavender has been in documented use for over 2,500 years.
In ancient times lavender was used for mummification and perfume by the Egyptian’s, Phoenicians, and peoples of Arabia. The Greeks and the Romans bathed in lavender scented water and it was from the Latin word “lavo” meaning “to wash” that the herb took it’s name. Perhaps first domesticated by the Arabians, lavender spread across Europe from Greece. Around 600 BC lavender may have come from the Greek Hyeres Islands into France and is now common in France, Spain, Italy and England.
The ‘English’ lavender varieties were not locally developed in England but rather introduced in the 1600s right around the time the first lavender plants were making their way to the Americas.
Queen Elizabeth I of England valued lavender as a conserve and a perfume. It has been said that she commanded that the royal table should never be without conserve of lavender and she issued orders to her gardeners that fresh lavender flowers should be available all year round! She also drank an abundance of Lavender tea to help ease her migraines and used it as a body perfume.
Queen Victoria of England is most notable for making Lavender popular across England and it could be found, in one form or another, in every one of her rooms, as she used it to wash floors and furniture, freshen the air, and had it strewn among the linens.
During the First World War, nurses bathed soldiers’ wounds with lavender washes. To this day, the French continue to send baby lamb to graze in fields of lavender, so their meat will be tender and fragrant.
Today, lavender is most commonly used for anxiety, depression, mental exhaustion, insomnia, scrapes and wounds, digestive problems, headaches, skin problems and women’s health problems. In addition to this, lavender can be used to treat exhaustion, heat exposure, fevers, aches and pains, over-exertion, jet lag, rashes, sprains, sunburn, sunstroke, bruises and burns. It can also be used as a disinfectant and insect repellant. Lavender is an antiseptic, natural antibiotic, sedative, detoxifier.
Anxiety and depression. The essential oil of lavender has a calming, sedative, and anti-convulsive effect. It can also increase the effectiveness of other relaxants.
According to the Smell and Taste Foundation in Chicago, the scent of lavender increases brain waves associated with relaxation.
Commission E, the German counterpart of the FDA that regulates herbal remedies, also approves lavender for treating relaxation and restlessness.
Insomnia. A study conducted at the University of Leicester in England showed that the use of lavender essential oil is just as effective in promoting sound sleep as traditional medication. In fact, many British hospitals offer their patients lavender pillows to help with sleeplessness.
Scrapes and wounds. Lavender essential oil has very powerful antiseptic properties. Applying it to wounds can not only increase cell growth causing the wound to heal faster, but it also decreases the appearance of scars. The oils anti-microbial action protects scrapes and wounds from infection, while allowing them heal.
Digestive problems. Lavender has also been endorsed by Germany’s Commission E to treat all sorts of stomach and digestive disorders. It soothes the lining of the digestive tract and promotes the secretion of bile, which helps the body digest fats. In addition to this, lavender can also relieve gas pressure and constipation.
Headaches. Massaging lavender oil onto the temples, neck and forehead can relieve neck and head tension and promote relaxation, thus relieving a variety of headaches. Those included are general headaches, gastric headaches, nervous headaches, sinus and tension headaches.
Skin problems. By massaging lavender oil into the skin, it can be used to treat a number of skin problems such as acne, burns, dry skin, eczema, itchy skin, sunburn, seborrhea, and skin inflammation.
Women’s health problems. For pregnancy, lavender can help sooth and relieve flatulence and indigestion. It can diminish the look of stretch marks and scars. It can relieve cramps, edema, exhaustion, infection, breast abscesses, and post-natal depression. A study of lavender by British researchers suggests that using lavender oil during pregnancy and childbirth can help ease delivery pain and promote a speedy recovery.
By either adding lavender to the bath or massaging it into the skin, lavender can help relieve pre-menstrual syndrome, and menstrual cramps. It is effective in aiding the treatment of chlamydia, pelvic inflammatory disease, thrush, vaginal infections, inflamed vaginal tissue, vaginitis, cystitis, Raynaud’s Disease, breast abscesses, and cervical cancer. If being treated with radiation for any form of cervical or uterine cancer, lavender oil can prevent and diminish irradiation burns.
The uses of lavender are endless. Lavender is a must-have for all homes because of its calming, antibiotic, antiseptic, disinfectant, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. It is good for treating or aiding in the treatment of a number of health problems.
By mixing lavender with water, it can be sprayed on surfaces and used as a household disinfectant, and applying it to the skin can deter insects.
According to the book The New Healing Herbs, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute believes that a particular compound in lavender, known as perillyl alcohol has been shown to exert remarkable action against a variety of cancer tumors in the breast, lung, liver, colon and pancreas. It is noted that currently, this particular compound is being tested as a possible cancer preventative, as well as treatment.
Applications and safety.
Lavender can be applied a number of different ways. It can be massaged onto the skin, placed in diffusers for inhalation, added to baths, added to vaporizers, and mixed with water or other substances for spray purposes.
Lavender is very potent and should always be used sparingly. The oil must always be diluted with water or a carrier oil such as olive, jojoba, avocado, or grape seed oil. Never place lavender oil directly on the skin without diluting it. Lavender flowers can be placed in sachets, potpourri, heat packs, ice packs and wraps. Lavender is safe for most anyone. The flowers remain effective long after they have dried.
To store lavender, both the oil and flowers should be placed in a dark, glass container, away from direct sunlight or heat.
Lavender is an extremely useful, beneficial and versitale herb. It can be used to therapeutically treat a variety of ailments, contains antibiotic, antiseptic, disinfectant, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, is safe for most all adults, has a pleasant aroma and calming qualities. Lavender is truly a must for every home and should become an excellent addition to the first aid kit.
Castleman, Michael. The New Healing Herbs. U.S.A and Canada: Rodale Press, 2001
Worwood, Valerie Ann. The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy. Novato, CA: New World Library, 1991.
Keller, Erich. Aromatherapy Handbook for Beauty, Hair, and Skin Care.