Also, Known As:
- Common Lavender
- Garden Lavender
- Spike Lavender
- Sweet Lavender
- True Lavender
The shrubby herbal plant called the lavender is a common sight in the South Europe. The lavender is also cultivated and grown in many other places, especially the southern and western regions of the United States, where it is also a common sight. The plant grows best at sites with a good exposure to sunlight; in general, the lavender prefers dry and sunny places for optimal growth.
The lavender is multi-branched and possesses a woody stem averaging in height from six and twenty-four inches – it is thus, a small shrub. Lavender bears oppositely placed leaves, each leaf is very narrow and can range anywhere from three-fourths of an inch to two inches in length, the leaves are gray-green in color, and they tend to be tomentose in shape.
The flowers bloom from the month of June through September in the fall, however, the blooms of one variety persist a little longer – the L. latifalia – into late fall. The flowers are baby blue in coloration and are small sized flowers; the flowers have a strong smell. Each flowering branch ends in spikes borne at the end of lengthy floral stalks. The best smelling of the flowers are the flowers borne by the L. Angustifolia subspecies. In general, all lavender varieties have flowers which contain a richly perfumed, colorless and volatile oil made from linalyl acetate and a hydroxycoumarin compound known as herniarin – these compounds find use in the perfumery and cosmetic industries.
The scent of the lavender has been prized for thousands of years and the plant has been valued as a scented herb in many civilizations of the past. The mind and the body can be relaxed and soothed down by the inhalation of a herbal infusion or herbal tincture made from the essential oil of the lavender, smelling the lavender flowers also induces this effect in the body. The herbal remedy made from the herb is effective in the treatment of prolonged anxiety, chronic and persistent nervousness, as well as in alleviating the physical symptoms induced by an excessive stress such as tension headaches, persistent migraine, cardiac palpitations and sleep disorders like insomnia. The emotions are said to be brought into balance by the application of lavender oil, it is said to elevate flagging spirits, helping in relieving depression and enabling the person to overcome inner disharmony and mental problems. The stimulating effect of the lavender is another potent property of the herb, the remedy brings a tonic effect on the nervous system, and it helps to restore the vitality to individuals affected by long-term nervous exhaustion and mental trauma.
The disorders of the digestive tract, in particular, are greatly eased by the relaxing effect of the lavender, the herbal remedy soothes muscle spasms and eases colic related to mental tension and anxiety. It is also very effective in helping relieve abdominal distension, in relieving persistent flatulence, spells of nausea as well as indigestion. The lavender herbal remedy boosts a flagging appetite, enabling the person to absorb the maximum amount of nutrients from the diet. The volatile oils in the lavender are a powerful antiseptic and have been shown to have a good effect against pathogenic bacteria such as the strains responsible for diseases like diphtheria and typhoid, it is very potent against the streptococcus and pneumococcus strains of bacteria. The herbal remedy can be taken in the form of a herbal tea, it can also be inhaled as dispersed oil or used as a vapor rub. Used topically, the lavender is capable of alleviating common colds, chronic coughs, problems such as asthma and persistent bronchitis, problems like pneumonia, the flu, persistent tonsillitis and laryngitis in affected individuals. A lavender herbal tea or tincture is also useful for the treatment of stomach and bowel infections that are accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea as symptoms.
When prepared in the form of a hot herbal tea, the remedy made from lavender induces sweating and helps reduce the elevated body temperatures in case of fevers. The body is also detoxified by the lavender remedy; the herb rapidly eliminates accumulated toxins in the body through the skin and the urine as a result of its mild diuretic effect.
The remedy made from the lavender herb is also very effective as an external disinfectant in the treatment of all kinds of cuts and wounds, helping heal all kinds of sores and ulcers on the body. The tissue repair and restoration process in the body is also stimulated by the herbal remedy resulting in the minimization of scar formation especially when the volatile oil is applied next to the burns. The diluted oil is used in the treatment of disorders such as eczema, chronic acne and varicose ulcers in the affected person.
Plant Parts Used:
Flowers, essential oil.
The soothing and calming action of the herbal lavender remedy is well known to herbalists. The lavender is often combined with mixed remedies with different sedative herbs to treat problems such as sleeplessness, nervous irritability, chronic headaches, as well as persistent migraine problems in affected individuals. The herbal remedy made from the lavender is also very useful in alleviating depression and related mental disorders.
Similar to other herbs that also contain significant amounts of volatile oil, the lavender helps soothe problems such as indigestion and colic in affected individuals, the lavender remedy also brings relief from excess abdominal gas and bloating in the abdominal region.
Some types of asthmatic conditions can be treated using the lavender; its relaxing effect helps treat such problems particularly if the condition is accompanied by symptoms such as excessive nervousness.
The volatile oil present in the lavender plant is a very effective first aid remedy for treating topical problems of all kinds. The potent antiseptic effects of the lavender beneficial in many instances, the remedy helps heal all kinds of burns, it helps in treating wounds, as well as sores on the skin. The remedy made from the lavender when rubbed on injuries caused by stinging insects can relieve the pain and the inflammation in the area. The remedy made from the lavender is also used in the treatment of problems such as scabies and head lice in affected individuals. Chronic headaches can be eased by massaging or rubbing the forehead and temples with a few drops of the volatile oil. Muscle tension can be relieved by adding five drops to a bath at night, this bathing will tone the nervous system, and help the person get a good night’s sleep – this is particularly beneficial for individuals affected by sleep disorders of all kinds.
OTHER MEDICAL USES
- Denture problems
- Mouth ulcers
- Ovulation pain
The lavender is also used in cuisines, the dried parts of the lavender plant including the leaves, the floral buds, and the flowers are used as a seasoning for many kinds of meat and vegetable dishes in Europe.
The freshly chopped leaves and the diced flowering tips can be added to dressings, vegetable salads, to wines, and to vinegar of all kinds.
Dishes used as desert including puddings, ice cream, jellies and fruit, particularly berries can be flavored with the blossoms of the lavender. It is best to use the seasoning sparingly as the sweet lemon floral flavor of the English lavender can be rather potent.
An aromatic and refreshing herbal lavender tea can be prepared by steeping five ml or one teaspoon of the dried flowers or fifteen ml or three teaspoons of fresh lavender flowers in two hundred fifty ml or a cup of boiling water. The herb must be allowed to infuse into the water for some time before the infusion is drained and cooled for consumption.
The term “gourmet’s delight” is deserved by the honey derived from lavender flowers; this honey is used as a sweetening agent in many cuisines of Europe.
The classic French herbal blend called the “Herbes de Provence,” is made from a mixture of lavender blossoms and other common fragrant European culinary herbs such as the thyme, the savory herb, the basil, and the fennel.
The oil extract of the lavender is commercially employed as a flavor for food items like candy, all kinds of baked goods, to flavor chewing gum, in various gelatins, in puddings, and to enhance the taste of various beverages and drinks.
The beautiful and graceful appearing lavender spikes are a good addition to fresh floral arrangements sold in floral shops. The fragrant and aromatic quality of dried lavender spikes persists for a number of years; this makes them very nice additions to potpourris and floral sachets.
The Habitat of Lavender:
The lavender is a herb originally found only in France and the western Mediterranean region. These days, the lavender is cultivated around the world mainly for its aromatic volatile oil. The lavender is also a popular garden plant and is a common sight in gardens even as far north as Norway in Europe.
The lavender is a perennial herb. The lavender comes in many varieties, which also includes a dwarf variety of the plant. The English lavender which is the hardiest variety is ideal for regions with harsh winters, it is best to mulch it over the winter season. The best way to propagate the lavender is by the process of root divisions.
All types of soils can be used to grow the lavender as the plant is tolerant of different types of soils; however, optimal growth is achieved on dry, sandy and well-drained soils which are in the alkaline range. Acidic soils must be neutralized initially using ground limestone before lavender is planted at a site. The pH range tolerated by the plant is from a slightly acidic 6.4 to an alkaline 8.2 pH.
The lavender plant requires good exposure to sunlight for optimal growth. The lavender must not be planted in shady, damp locations or sites – the plant may not flower well and development may be impaired at such sites.
The seeds of the lavender can be sown indoors approximately ten to twelve weeks before the last spring frost dates of the year. The rate of germination of the seeds can be boosted by chilling the seeds in a refrigerator for a few weeks before the planting is carried out. The seeds stored in a refrigerator should be kept moist at all times. Each of the seeds must not be planted deeper than six mm or one-fourth of an inch in the seedbed. Germination typically occurs in fourteen to twenty-eight days time. The growing seedlings can be transplanted outside after all the danger of late frost in the year has passed.
Lavender that has been propagated using seeds tends to be variable in size and other characteristics, the distinctive characteristics of the cultivar from which the seed is taken may not be reproduced in the seedlings or progeny – this is one reason for the preference for propagation via cuttings.
The other reason is that the germination time for the seeds of many lavender cultivars can take up to six weeks; the seedlings tend to grow at a very slow rate. Hence, it is relatively easier to propagate the lavender from stem cuttings, and these cuttings are normally done in the spring or fall season.
When planting at a site, the optimal growth of each seedling is ensured by spacing the plants thirty to ninety cm – one to three feet – from each other. This spacing of the growing plants ensures optimal growth rates and successful development in the seedlings.
The plants grown in pots can be encouraged to flower at a proper time by the addition of a liquid fertilizer to the soil bed at regular intervals.
The longevity of the English lavender is about twenty to thirty years. However, even though this time is long, the plant becomes rather untidy within a few years of growth – it is necessary to trim the plant once during the spring as well as in early in the fall season to ensure a neat appearance.
The floral spike of more compact plants can be nipped off just before the bloom during the first year to ensure proper growth of the plants.
The lavender is vulnerable to spittlebugs and the caterpillars of many Lepidoptera species. The lavender is also vulnerable to fungal diseases such as the leaf spot disease. Root rot disease also tends to affect lavender plants that are growing in overly moist soils or waterlogged areas. The chances of disease are minimized by improving the drainage and by planting seedlings in raised soil beds. The plants must be pruned near the stem to allow the air to circulate well in the area around the base of the growing plants. The seedlings can be planted outdoors, the seedbed must be mulched, and covered with straw, or evergreen boughs to protect them from cold weather during the winter.
A scientist has been researching the main chemical constituents of the essential oil for many decades now, from the results, it is believed to have a very low toxicity in the human body and possesses significant antiseptic and bactericidal effects. Nervous excitability, irritability, and pain are also reduced by the lavender.
The flowers of the lavender plant taken as a whole are also believed to have potent bactericidal and antiseptic effects. The remedy made from lavender calms the nerves helps in reducing muscular tension and actively relieves muscular cramps and excess gas in the abdominal region. The insecticide and rubefacient effects of the lavender are also potent as a topical remedy. Rubefacient means irritant and stimulating effects on the local circulation in an area.
- Volatile oil (up to 3%) containing over 40 constituents, including linalyl acetate (30-60%), cineole (10%), linalool, nerol, borneol
The remedy made from the lavender can be taken in the form of a herbal infusion for the treatment of indigestion, to treat such problems doses of one hundred ml or four fl oz can be taken two times every day. The tincture of lavender can be used as a remedy for the treatment of chronic sleeplessness and other related sleep disorders, a dose of three to five ml – about half a tsp to one tsp – can be used at night for such disorders. The infusion or the essential oil of the lavender can be added to bath water and used for washing before bedtime, this helps relieve emotional and physical stress and aids in alleviating tension, this remedy can also be used in a diffuser to induce sleep in sleepless individuals. A topical lavender treatment can be used to treat persistent headaches, two drops of lavender essential oil added in a bowl of cold water can be used as a remedy – a cloth soaked in this solution can be used as a compress and placed across the forehead to bring relief from headaches. Physical and nervous exhaustion can be treated by adding five drops of lavender oil to a footbath, washing the feet with this solution brings soothing relief from tension. The lavender oil and infusion can also be used as a rub or massaging oil for treating arthritic complaints, one drop each of lavender essential oil and the essential oil of the wintergreen added to fifty ml or four tbsp of carrier oil can be used as a topical remedy to treat various problems affecting the human body. The essential oil of the lavender can be used as a direct application in treating insect bites or stings of all kinds.
Possible Side Effects and Precautions:
Topical use of the essential oil of the lavender can induce problems such as dermatitis in some individuals. The essential oil of the lavender is widely available for use in aromatherapy, and a herbal tea is often made from a few drops of this oil as well. Using large doses of the lavender oil is not advised for any reason, the lavender is a narcotic poison which can easily induce muscular convulsions and death in some cases. The oil must be used in small quantities to avoid these side effects.
How Lavender Works in the Body:
The remedy made from the lavender induces a calming and relaxing effect on the human body, making it an effective remedy to treat the disorders affecting various organ systems in the body. The remedy made from the lavender is very effective in treating disorders affecting the digestive system, it helps calm problems such as indigestion and alleviates related physical symptoms including excess abdominal wind and bloating in the stomach. The lavender is used for the treatment of chronic headaches, to treat long-term depression, and sleeplessness – it is also useful in treating other problems affecting the nervous system. The remedy made from the lavender is also useful in the treatment of asthma and related respiratory problems, particularly in cases where a nervous element contributes to the physical symptoms of the disease. The lavender remedy is also useful in the treatment of topical problems when added to different creams and rubbing oils – it can be effective as a rub in treating arthritic complaints of all kinds. The lavender also effectively acts as a painkiller remedy and helps relieve painful joints and related arthritic-type conditions. The remedy is also beneficial in treating nerve pain and neuralgia, the external remedy is useful and helpful when included in creams and oils meant for topical use.
- INFUSION – The herbal infusion of the lavender is a good remedy for treating problems such as chronic nervous exhaustion, it can help relieve tension headaches and is very relaxing during labor. The remedy is also useful as a remedy for treating colic and indigestion related issues. Babies and infants can be given diluted infusion, about twenty-five percent of normal strength, to treat colic, nervous irritability, and excitement.
TINCTURE – Chronic headaches and prolonged depression can be treated by taking doses of up to five ml of the remedy, two times every day.
MOUTHWASH – The floral infusion is also useful for treating halitosis and as a general mouthwash.
- Essential oil:
- CREAM – The essential oil can be added to various topical creams, a few drops of chamomile cream is good for treating eczema and other skin disorders.
LOTION – Dilute a few drops of oil in a little water and use the solution to treat scalds, burns and sunburn on the skin.
CHEST RUB – The essential oil of lavender can also be used as a rubbing or massage oil, mix one ml of the oil and five drops of chamomile oil to ten ml of a carrier oil, this can be rubbed on the chest to alleviate asthmatic and bronchitic spasms and related problems.
HAIR RINSE – The essential oil diluted in water is also useful as a rinse, five to ten drops of the oil in water used as a rinsing on the hair can rid the person of lice. A few drops of undiluted lavender oil applied on a fine comb is also an effective treatment for nits.
MASSAGE OIL – One ml of lavender oil can be mixed in twenty-five ml of carrier oil, and used to massage sore and painful muscles in the body. The temples and the nape of the neck can also be massaged using ten drops lavender oil diluted in a twenty-five ml carrier oil – this massage will relieve tension headaches, alternately it can be used at the first sign of a migraine for immediate relief.
OIL – The undiluted lavender oil is an excellent topical remedy for insect bites and stings on the skin. Ten drops of the oil can be mixed with a twenty-five ml carrier oil as a treatment for sunstroke, this rubbing of oil can also help prevent sunburn on the skin. This treatment is not an effective sunblock and must not be substituted for commercial sunblocks.
The best time to pick lavender flowers is before the last blooms on each individual stalk has fully opened up. Typically, dry days are chosen when harvesting the flowers, the collection is carried out in the morning before sunlight has not evaporated too much of the essential oils present in the flowers. The floral stalks are harvested and tied in neat bundles and hung to dry in a warm, shady and airy area. Several weeks may pass before the flowers become completely dry. When the floral stalks become crisp to the touch, the flowers are stripped off the flowers and these are stored in airtight containers and kept in a dark place. Cookie sheets may also be used to dry the stalks; the stalks are laid flat on the surface and dried slowly. To make the best potpourris, it is ideal to use flowers in buds that have just begun to open up.
- 3 cups dried lavender buds
- 2 Tbs. dried lemon peel
- 4 Tbs. orris root powder
- 4 Tbs. dried spearmint
- 2 Tbs. dried basil
- 2 Tbs. dried rosemary
- 1 tsp. benzoic acid powder
- 6 drops oil of lavender
Combine all the ingredients except the oil. Add the oil a drop at a time, tossing as you add. Seal and cure in a dry, airy, warm place for 6 weeks, shaking daily. Pack into a decorative container with a tight stopper.
Cotton Lavender Moth Repellent:
A mixture of cotton lavender and other herbs makes a useful moth repellent. Make sweet bags filled with the mixture and hang in wardrobes or place in cupboards or drawers to ward off moths, and to impart an aromatic scent to clothes and linen.
Equal parts, dried and crumbled.
- Cotton lavender leaves
- Lavender flowers
- Rosemary leaves and rue
Combine the ingredients and use to fill bags made of lightweight fabric, adding ribbon loops for hanging if desired.
Store two or three dried heads of lavender in an airtight jar of caster sugar. This will scent the sugar beautifully. The sugar may be used sparingly in delicately flavored dishes, such as simple sponge cakes, custards or ice cream.