Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia, or Lavandula officinalis).
Note: This information also applies to the commonly grown L. stoechas, L. dentata, and L. multifida, although L. augustifolia tends to be the most widely used for medicinal purposes.
Other common names: English lavender (L. dentata is known as French lavender, and L. multifada is known as Egyptian lavender – L. stoechas might be referred to as French or Spanish lavender).
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Antimicrobial, vulnerary, anti-fungal, astringent, hypnotic, diaphoretic, nervine, stomachic, sedative, analgesic, anti-convulsant, anti-inflammatory, carminative, antidepressant, antispasmodic. Stimulates hair growth.
Lavender is best harvested right before the flowers open (flowering begins in early spring), and if the plant is regularly trimmed back it can be harvested multiple times throughout the year. Be sure to harvest in the morning, after the dew has dried but before approximately 11 a.m. The volatile oils dissipate during the heat of the day. Cut the plant back in the fall, leaving only an inch or two of green stem above the woody parts.
Part used: Aerial parts.
Cineole, flavonoids, linalool, limonene, tannins, triterpenes, coumarins (coumarin, umbelliferone, and herniarin), a-pinene. This is a short list – lavender’s volatile oils are vastly complex, with more than 100 chemical constituents.
Insomnia, fevers, mild pain, tension headaches and migraines, stomachaches and digestive upset, gas, bloating, infections (bacterial, viral or fungal), anxiety, depression, alopecia, insect bites, skin conditions, slivers, cuts, burns, muscle spasms and an array of other conditions. It has also shown promise when it comes to inhibiting cancerous and benign tumour growth (tests are still being done on this).
If using lavender in a tea, you can use fresh or dried herb material with the standard infusion method – be sure to cover the cup while steeping, as it has important volatile oils that are evaporated and lost if the cup is left uncovered. You can also use lavender in a tincture or capsule form.
Another great use is as an herbal steam inhalation for cold and flu symptoms. Lavender isn’t a strong decongestant, however it does kill the bacteria causing the illness. Mix it with an antihistamine herb in the steam inhalation for better results.
As long as it is therapeutic grade, lavender essential oil is one of very few that you can apply neat to the skin (“neat” is a term that means apply directly without dilution). Apply to cuts, slivers or even mild burns (it is best to wait 24 hours in this case…never apply any oil to a burn that is still “hot”). Always make sure that you use pure botanical, therapeutic grade lavender essential oil, and not fragrance oil.
We use a lavender wash (infusion in boiling water, steeped at least 20 min., covered) for burns that are still hot (cool the infused liquid in the fridge first). The wash can also be used for any skin conditions, insect bites, embedded slivers or other foreign bodies. Try adding a few drops of the oil or a cup or two of the infusion to your shampoo/conditioner or use it as a pre-wash treatment, to improve hair growth and scalp health.
We also use the oil in salves to reduce the appearance of scars or to heal incisions or other wounds. Be careful not to apply it to a wound that is not thoroughly flushed out and clean…lavender heals tissues so fast that it can actually heal the skin over top of an unclean wound and an infection can fester deep inside. Always thoroughly flush a wound being treated with lavender, at least three times a day, before applying the lavender salve or oil.
It also kills airborne microbes, so spritzing it or diffusing it into the air in a room full of sick patients can help keep uninfected people from catching their illness.
It can be added to creams and face washes to help with acne or sunburns.
Try it in a wash for yeast infections, or in a bath for arthritic complaints and muscle pain. If using it in the bath, mix it with epsom salts and powdered milk (optional) as this will help the oil emulsify so it won’t just sit on top of the water but rather absorb into your joints and skin.
I have used it with great effect for drawing out slivers. Use a maceration of the leaves/flowers all chopped up with boiling water added (let it cool of course) and make a poultice to apply directly to the wound or embedded object. Leave it on for 30 – 45 minutes or longer as needed until it drains or pulls out whatever you’re trying to remove.
Use in pillows or aromatherapy diffusers to assist with sleep. Be aware that too much lavender can cause stimulation instead of sedation.
Contraindications: Do not use in patients with severe kidney stones, obstructed bile duct or large gallstones, or those retaining water due to kidney disease. Use during pregnancy must be checked with a doctor first, and if approved, done in moderation. Same goes with nursing mothers, and those taking any kind of heart medication or any drugs that could significantly lower blood pressure or sedate the CNS. Use with caution in those with naturally low blood pressure or slow heart rate. Do not mix with psychiatric or anti-convulsant medications without talking to a physician. It may potentiate morphine and other strong painkillers, so use caution.
I suggest consulting a pharmacist or physician before starting any herbal supplement if you are taking a prescription medication or have serious underlying health concerns.
Energetic/traditional use: Promotes love and peace, used in rituals to encourage harmonious connections. Also has a correlation with chastity, fidelity and purity. Although it does encourage loving affection, it can reduce libido. It has been used in funerals and wakes to provide a sense of calm among the grieving. It is energetically bitter, pungent and sweet and its temperature is cool. It is considered to have masculine energy, and its element is air.
Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended as general education on herbs and is not intended to take the place of medical care. Please consult a health care professional before embarking on any health regime.