Of the plants that have captured our collective attention, none is so beautiful and so fragrant as lavender. Her scent is unforgettable and irresistible to all species who come across her and this very scent owes its fate to the essential oils she carries within her. Her scent is sweet though her medicine is bitter. She has a gentle way of lulling us into a restful slumber and shows us that plants need not be ingested to be beneficial and medicinal and that just their mere scent can have tremendous effects on our spirit.
Common Name: Lavender
Scientific name (s): Lavandula angustifolia
Part used: Above ground parts in flower, or flowers
Preparation & Dosage:
• 1-2 teaspoons (approximately .8 to 1.6 grams) of the flower or herb with flower per 8 ounces of water as an infusion, drunk up to three times a day
• 1 dropper full of tincture (1:2 95%) up to three times a day
Actions: carminative, sedative, bitter, antidepressant, hypnotic, cholagogue, anti-microbial
Energetics: bitter, drying, cooling
Lavender has a long history in the Mediterranean region dating back 2,500 years, and its name comes from the word lavare which means ‘to wash’ in Latin because it was popular as a linen-washing herb due to its pleasant smell, but because it also possesses antiseptic qualities and can help to deter insects. Lavender has been used medicinally for centuries as a remedy for digestive issues, headaches, grief, and stress.
There are several species of lavender but the one used for healing is Lavandula augustifolia.
As a nervine, Lavender is widely used to reduce anxiety, induce relaxation, and promote sleep. Studies have shown that simply smelling lavender can bring relief when a person feels anxious. Lavender is also used to alleviate grief; it is often paired with the flowers of hawthorn (Crataegus spp.), rose (Rosa spp.), and mimosa (Albizia julibrissin).
One study in a hospital setting showed that patients who had the scent of lavender in their rooms showed sleep improvement and lowered blood pressure compared to the control group.
Another study demonstrated that capsules of lavender essential oil were as effective at addressing generalized anxiety disorder as a common pharmaceutical anxiety drug.
The way in which the scent of lavender helps induce sleep and lessen anxiety is linked to the way it influences the autonomic nervous system. It has been shown to reduce blood pressure, heart rate and skin temperature, giving the person an overall ability to calm down and has even been shown to increase theta and alpha brain activity, which are the calmer and more relaxed brain waves witnessed during sleep and meditation. Lavender has also been shown to lower the stress hormone cortisol and to protect the body from oxidative stress.
Lavender can relieve certain types of depression. When people feel they are in a fog or are fixating on a specific traumatic event, it can be indicated as a tea or tincture. Lavender can be combined with lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) and lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) in tea to help lift the spirits.
As a digestive, lavender is slightly bitter and many herbalists use it as a hepatic and bile stimulant. It is also slightly warming and aromatic so it can be used for cold and stagnant digestion. It works especially well for nervous stomachs. It is safe for children and the elderly and can be used in the treatment of intestinal gas, irritable bowel syndrome, and nausea. Other gentle digestive aids, used in a similar vein, are catnip (Nepeta cataria), chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis).
Lavender has also been used to relieve pain, especially headaches and migraine pain. It can be used both internally as a tea and externally as an essential oil, rubbed into the temples.
Lavender is a truly magical plant and its gentle caress coupled with its powerful effects prove that remedies don't always have to be strong to work effectively. We hope you have had the chance to work with lavender in some way and if you have yet to inhale her deep medicine, we urge you to find a plant and to sit with her. We guarantee you will never forget that experience.