History, Identification, & Uses of Lavender

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Lavender is one of the most popular scents as well as one of the most popular herbs used in natural medicine. It has a long history and a wonderful smell with many benefits.

Lavender

Lavender is a species of the mint family that is native to the Mediterranean. Today, it is grown and used around the world. Lavandula angustifolia, or English Lavender, is the most commonly used lavender for culinary and medicinal purposes but there are many different types of lavender.

Lavender was first farmed by the Arabs. They were also the first ones to make distilleries for making lavender essential oils. Arabian physicians cherished lavender for its ability to clean wounds and heal. They also used lavender to treat the nervous system, stress, insomnia, and to kill germs.

The Greeks and Romans also used lavender much in the same way that the Arabs did. They sold and traded lavender and lavender oil along the spice trail and eventually took it all the way to England. For the Egyptians, it was used in their mummification process and as a perfume. It is said that Cleopatra used lavender to seduce men and that lavender was found in the tomb of King Tutankhamen.

During the outbreak of the bubonic plague, lavender was an ingredient in a concoction called Four Thieves Vinegar. Physicians used this to protect themselves from the plague. One sect of Quakers grew lavender in North America when they immigrated over with other colonists. During WWI the British used an antiseptic wash made from lavender to treat wounds. Midwives over the centuries have occasionally used lavender during childbirth.

Lavender tied into the shape of a cross has been hung above the doors of homes to protect from evil spirits. Added to baths, it was believed to be able to drive evil spirits and demons from children. Lavender has been used for protection, a charm to attract love, and to summon fairies, brownies, and elves.

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Aromatherapy

Lavender aromatherapy is one of the easiest ways to get the benefits of lavender.

Women’s Health

One study found that lavender aromatherapy has the potential to reduce PMS symptoms. Another found that the aromatherapy helped improve the mood and physical status of women in the first few hours after giving birth. Lavender could potentially help prevent stress, anxiety, and depression after childbirth as well as reduce the pain from a cesarean section, though it should not be used as a primary pain reliever. Talk to your doctor and/or midwife before using lavender while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Depression & Anxiety

With lavender’s relaxing and sedative effects, it would make sense that it would be helpful with depression and anxiety. A study was done on how lavender aromatherapy could help individuals with anxiety before having surgery. They found that the aromatherapy helped decrease their patient’s anxiety and could be applied as a complementary medicine. A similar study found that lavender was effective in helping to reduce anxiety in dental patients. Lavender was also found to help reduce anxiety in individuals who had a heart attack.
Patients with major depression were given lavender infusion that was shown to have a positive effect on their level of depression. They concluded that lavender could potentially be used on its own or with other antidepressants.

Treating Wounds

Lavender does have antifungal properties and has been found effective in healing topical wounds by repairing tissue.

Insomnia

In Germany, lavender tea is approved for treating insomnia, restlessness, and nervous stomach irritations. Lavender may slow the activity of the nervous system, which can improve sleep quality, promote relaxation, and improve mental state. A study done on mice found that lavender has a similar effect to Diazepam, but in high doses, it could be hypnotic!

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Profile

Common Name: Lavender
Scientific NameLavandula spp.
Identification:
Perennial
Leaves- Gray-green, narrow, up to 2.5 inches in length, aromatic
Stem- Square
Flower- Purple, spiraled in groups of 6-10 blossoms, spiked looking clusters, aromatic
Height- 2-3 feet
Spread- 2-4 feet
Harvest Time: June-August
Parts Edible: Leaves & Petals
Found: Native to the Mediterranian, grown throughout Europe, Australia, and the U.S., likes well drained soil and full sun

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Historic Uses

-Traditionally used as a general tonic, sedative, antispasmodic, diuretic, digestive aid, gas remedy, improved appetite, and an antiseptic
-A lavender tincture, called Palsy Drops, was recognized by the British Pharmacopoeia for over 200 years and was used to treat muscle spasms, nervousness, and headaches
-Lavender was used in “swooning pillows,” in addition to camphor, to revive Victorian women after they had fainted
-Bed pillows were stuffed with lavender to help aid in sleep
-Has been used as an antidote to some snake venoms
-Used to treat many topical ailments such as burns, bug bites, acne, and eczema
-Was used to treat hair loss
-Lavender has been and still is used for aromatherapy
-Lavender oil has often been used in massage therapy
-The essential oils are used to scent cleaning solutions, candles, soap, perfume, and more
-Has been used in the culinary industry to flavor foods
-Leaves and flowers have been used as potpourri
-Leaves and flowers have been used as an insect and mice repellent

Vitamins, Minerals, & More

Flowers

Active ingredients: linalool and linalyl acetate

Properties: anti-halitosis, antiseptic, antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, cholagogues, diuretic, nervine, sedative, stimulant, stomachic, and tonic

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Preparations

-Tea is made from fresh or dried flowers
-Flowers can be used in making tinctures and infused oils
-Can be used in cooking to flavor food
-Essential oils are added to salves, soaps, sprays, and more
-The stems, after leaves and flowers have been removed, can be tied together and used as incense sticks

Precautions

-Do not use orally in children
-Can cause an allergic reaction in some people
-Can irritate the skin
-Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding
-Do not take lavender oil internally
-Lavender oil can cause gynecomastia (breast development) in young boys who have not hit puberty
-Stop taking two weeks before surgery
-Could possibly interact with sedative medications

Harvest

-Harvest during the summer while they are in full bloom
-Cut stem above the second leaf
-Dry in bundles

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Where to Purchase

Lavender Flowers

Lavender Seeds

Recipes

LAVENDER AND CHIVE HERBED POPCORN–BEST EVER RECIPE
Wild Blueberry Lavender Coconut Ice Cream
Honey Lavender Cheesecake
Honey Lavender Shortbread Cookies
WILD BLUEBERRY & LAVENDER SMOOTHIE
Lavender Blueberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
THE BEST LAVENDER BLUEBERRY MUFFINS
Roasted Lavender Honey Glazed Chicken
Lavender Simple Syrup
Honey & Lavender Soap Recipe
DIY Bug Spray
Soothing Lavender Oatmeal Bath Bombs

Practicing Sustainable Wild Harvesting

  1. Only harvest plants you know are safe and can identify
  2. Only harvest plants in safe areas that are not contaminated or polluted
  3. Do not harvest on private property without permission
  4. Harvest no more than 10% or use the method: take 1 leave 2
  5. Know how to handle and prepare the plants you are harvesting
  6. Always check the legal status of the plant you want to harvest (is it endangered?)

Herb Wisdom: Lavender Benefits
PFaF: Lavandula angustifolia
University of Maryland: Lavender
Web MD: Lavender
Lavender: Love-inducing Protector
Four Thieves Vinegar: Evolution of Medieval Medicine 
Missouri Botanical Garden: Lavender
-Balch, Phyllis A., and Stacey J. Bell. “The Herbs.” Prescription for Herbal Healing: An Easy-to-use A-Z Reference to Hundreds of Common Disorders and Their Herbal Remedies. 2nd ed. New York: Avery, 2012. 93-94. Print.

Disclaimer: All information on Not Your Typical Hippie is for educational purposes only. I am not a doctor, veterinarian, dietician, or health expert. If you wish to have advice on a medical problem, please consult a doctor. I cannot guarantee that any information provided will work for every person. Please consult a doctor before making any health changes. I am not liable for any choices you make based on the information provided on this website. (Learn more here)