Inhale and Relax: Lavender

Ahh the aroma of fresh lavender…there’s something so soothing and uplifting about it. I’ve been longing to visit a lavender farm for awhile now, to see the fields of the purple flowers dancing in the breeze in person. Someday soon, hopefully. In the meantime…

Lavender is thought to have originated in the Mediterranean and is now grown around the world. Lavendula, in Latin, has several species and is in the Lamaiceae, or mint, family. It has been used medicinally for centuries, and research is now reflecting this.

While the synergistic effects of using the whole plant rather than isolated constituents are preferable, a look at some of the constituents is also interesting. Lavender contains several oils, especially linalool (yes, that’s the technical term!), linalyl acetate, and limonene. It also contains coumarins, tannins and caffeic acid.

Lavender is most popularly known for it calming effects when people are a bit hyped up, nervous or irritable. It can be used olfactorily – by smell! – which makes it quite convenient. It actually does a lot more. Lavender can relieve cramping and spasms, especially in the back – a lavender and Epsom salt soak is great for this (more on this below). It also can soothe the stomach and prevent vomiting (a quick whiff could help in a pinch). Further, lavender is generally safe for use with children and can be very helpful when they are nervous, anxious or irritable.

In addition, lavender has been noted to have some emmenagogue properties, meaning it helps the menstrual flow. Because of this, there is concern that it may induce early labor – this is theoretical, but it is contraindicated for pregnancy for this reason.

Lavender also contains coumarin constituents, which can make the blood a bit “thinner” – this is another theoretical reason for avoiding it with any bleeding conditions and/or anti-coagulant medications.

Ways to use it:

  • Lavender essential oil (100% organic, therapeutic grade): apply a couple drops to the temples.

  • Lavender eye pillow: rest this over your eyes when you lie down to relax, or use at bedtime to help you fall into a nice slumber.

  • Lavender bath salts: combine with some Epsom salts and hot water, soak and let your worries drift away.

  • Dried lavender: keep a little bunch (i.e. a few stems of lavender) by your bedside – take a whiff when you’re having trouble falling asleep, with overactive thoughts, or whenever you need.

Important:

Before actually using lavender, make sure you’re not allergic or sensitive to it. You can do this by testing a small space on you inner forearm, closer to your wrist, with a drop of the essential oil. on the other arm, rub a bit of the dried lavender or lavender pillow against a small area. Wait for at least 24 hours, checking the areas every few hours and note if you experience any redness, itchiness, hives or other reaction. If you experience a serious reaction, contact emergency services. If no reaction, you should be good to go with the lavender use. This is actually a great way to test new herbal products prior to full-on use. Better safe – you’re worth it!

May you be well. Now let’s go find a lavender farm…

The information provided here is not intended to replace medical advice or to treat or diagnose any medical condition. Please consult your doctor with specific questions and prior to beginning any significant diet or lifestyle changes.

References include:

Brett J. Herbs by Their Actions. (Textbook Companion.) 2001.