Lavender oil is the most popular and widely used of the essential oils. It has a plethora of uses for a long list of topics. In this article I am going to give you a short and very generalized list, of just a few, of the uses of lavender oil. We will list these uses in broad terms; Medicinal, Aromatherapy, Cosmetic and Hair Care and Culinary. Please remember that this is a very short list and only an introduction to one of the most enjoyable and hard-working of the essential oils. Although essential oils can be found in big name stores and vitamin shops, I tend to buy all of mine on-line. Barefut essential oils has a wide variety that will fit the most discerning shopper.
As a cautionary note, please be aware that some adverse reactions can be associated with lavender oil (as in all essential oils), such as contact dermatitis and other allergic reactions. Unfortunately essential oils have increasingly been the cause of poisoning in children. Please use responsibly and keep your oils stored away from children.
The most popular plants used today in the distillation process that produces the essential oil “Lavender” are scientifically known as Lavendula angustifolia and Lavandula latifolia or Lavandula x intermedia. This hybrid is lavandin, also known as “Dutch Lavender”. The medical applications of lavender, in general, go back thousands of years. It has known antimicrobial, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and anti fungal properties. This makes it useful in treating minor burns, wounds and bug bites. It is also great for stress, insomnia and restlessness because of its sedative effect. It can relieve headaches, sore throats, digestive issues and toothache. Bruising and sprains respond to lavender massage due to the anti-inflammatory properties found in this magical oil. A recent study has shown the stimulation of hair growth in mice when lavender oil was applied. Their hair grew in faster and thicker than normal. Great news for those suffering with alopecia and pattern baldness although more studies are needed.
It is worth noting that clinical studies of lavender oil and the lavender plant have been poor and inconclusive. The US National Institutes of Health state that it is likely safe in food and possibly safe in medicine in amounts, though they do not recommend it’s use during pregnancy or while breast feeding due to lack of knowledge of the effects. It is also suggested that young males avoid regular usage due to its hormone disrupting properties.
The inhalation or bodily application (as in massage) of lavender oil has been shown, in scientific research, to reduce anxiety, to induce relaxation and have a calming, sedative effect. Now unfortunately the majority of this evidence comes from testing a bunch of mice and rabbits that were put through their paces. I think anyone that has taken a nice hot bath with lavender bath salts or lit an oil burner, wafting the soothing smell of lavender oil throughout the room, could have given science their answers. Candles, oil burners, misters or potpourri can all accomplish the same effect. A fresh, relaxing, calming aroma that relieves stress and can actually purify the air. Lavender also has antioxidant properties along with all the other benefits. I have only met one person in my life that could not stand the smell of lavender and that was my father. I guess it’s all in what makes you happy! Personally I love it.
We have already stated the antibacterial, antiseptic and antibiotic properties of lavender. These alone make it useful for those with acne and troubled skin. Sensitive, dehydrated and abused skin will also benefit as lavender is known as a skin cell re generator. As it helps with circulatory stimulation it can aid in the upper layer of the skin to rejuvenate. Lavender penetrates the surface of the skin which helps to regulate oil production. It will soften, smooth and calm an itchy scalp. This is why you can find lavender oil in soaps and salts, toners, lotions, masks, shampoos and conditioners. The actual name is derived from the Latin lavare meaning to wash. Mind you, some say that it comes from the Latin livere which means blueish. Either way it’s just another one of nature’s gifts that we get to enjoy.
Food for Thought
The majority of recipes using lavender tend to use the flowers or dried buds and the greens but lavender oil can be used as well. The best culinary lavender being pesticide and chemical free, L. angustifolia. You can quite easily make your own lavender oil for cooking by cutting a few fresh sprigs and placing them in a jar of olive oil. This can then be added to your cooking of meats and stews as you see fit. Lavender has been used as a spice or condiment in cooking for hundreds of years. Apparently Queen Elizabeth I was very partial to her lavender jam as well as tea. Added to pasta and salads, breads and cheeses, lavender can give a sweet or savory flavor to foods as well as a decorative and aromatic appeal to deserts. Lavender syrup and candied flowers are used in flans, custards and sorbets.
I lived in the Provencal region of France, which has some of the most beautiful lavender fields you will ever see. This region is also known for its herbal blend known as Herbes de Provence. The original version of this is made up of thyme, rosemary, savory and oregano. I now see additional versions of this enticing blend with all manner of additions; marjoram, basil, bay leaf, etc. Along with this alteration I have found it here in the US with “lavender”. This is just wrong, folks. Provence is definitely known for its lavender but not mixed into Herbes de Provence. Now Provencal honey, made from the nectar of those lavender fields, that is a prize worth having!
As you can see, lavender oil has a multitude of uses and applications. Medicinally it has been used for centuries and is enjoying a resurgence. Cosmetically it is clean and fresh and gives us all the health benefits while smelling fantastic. You can wash your hair and body with it, clear your skin and reduce wrinkles with it, as well as de-stress after a long day. It smells wonderful and hinders pests while it cleans the air. Just a few benefits of this versatile essential oil. The number one most used in my medicine cabinet.
Although there are literally hundreds of companies to choose from when purchasing Lavender oil, I urge you to do your homework. Look for 1.) Purity; You want 100% pure lavender oil – not diluted or full of additives. If there are other oils or ingredients listed then you do not have “pure” oil. 2.) Cost; It takes approximately 3 lbs of lavender flowers to make just 15 mls of essential oil. Good quality L. Angustifolia only grows in certain regions. Proper distillation techniques and then 3rd party testing all add to the cost of production. Therefore, if you find cheap lavender oil, it is probably poor quality or full of additives and carrier oils and not worth the purchase. 3.) Label/Brand; A reputable company will list the species of the lavender, such as L. Angustifolia or L. Hybrida (Lavandin). This is important. Also important is how the oil was extracted. Distillation seems to be the best. Also, are the plants wild-crafted or organic? All things to think about. 4.) 3rd Party Testing; This adds peace of mind to your purchase. You want to know that the product you are purchasing is safe. With all this in mind I have listed three separate brands of lavender oil here that follow these guidelines. Sky Organics, Pura D’Or and Artizen. These are just 3 out of many! Please find a brand that you like and enjoy the wonderful scent of lavender.
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Do you have a particular brand that you prefer and trust? Please let me know in the comment section below. I truly enjoy learning about the wonderful gifts that Nature provides us. – Dolly –
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