The sweet scent of lavender connotes flowers on the hillside and romance, but there is more. Lavender is one of the most versatile and useful of all herbs, with a long history in medicinal healing of humans and animals. The scent of lavender is associated with comfort, and aromatherapists have long used lavender in the treatment of depression and nervous conditions. Though mainstream medicine has regarded aromatherapy as an unproven treatment, a recent study in Japan has proven otherwise.
The study, which appeared in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found that inhaling the fragrant compound linolool made stress-elevated levels of neutrophils and lymphocytes, both key parts of the immune system, return to near normal levels. Lavender was cited as the plant which has the highest concentrations of linalool.
Lavender was originally native to Mediterranean countries. Today it can be found growing in Europe, Australia and the southern portion of the U.S. There are two different types of lavender: Spike lavender has broad spatula-like leaves, and French lavender leaves are narrower with small dark flowers. Spike lavender contains a higher content of both cineol and camphor, and produces three times as much oil as French lavender. The higher content of these ingredients makes it less pleasing, however, and French lavender is considered the more fragrant of the two.
Numerous studies have reported that lavender’s essential oils may be beneficial in a number of conditions, including migraines, headaches, depression, anxiety, mood swings, fear, and exhaustion. Lavender can also be used during labor, and it has been found to be useful for eczema and dermatitis. In addition, lavender has been used to treat cancer in the breast, liver and spleen.
Other conditions for which lavender has been used include: heart palpitations, arthritis, joint inflammation, fainting, neuralgia, vertigo, insomnia, epilepsy and other seizures, rheumatism, sore muscles, sprains, colic, nausea, vomiting, toothache, wounds, snakebites, hoarseness, loss of voice, allergies, sunburn and sunstroke, abscess, alopecia, asthma, athletes foot, insect bites, boils, burns, colds, colic, coughs, cystitis, earache and respiratory infections.
Essential oils blend well with each other, and lavender oil blends especially well with cedarwood, clary sage, geranium, pine, nutmeg, and all the citrus oils.
Lavender lifts the spirits, stimulates appetite, and even dispels flatulence. It is a major ingredient in the use of smelling salts. Pets benefit from lavender’s sedative properties, and its ability to repel fleas and ticks. In addition to being used medicinally and to scent cosmetics and toiletries, lavender is used to flavor foods such as desserts, gelatins, puddings, candies and tea. In some areas of the world, it is added to salads. Lavender is a scent commonly used in potpourri and sachets. Lavender was once used as an insect repellant in the storing of clothing.