Lavender is probably the most well-known essential oil there is which is no surprise when you look into its history. It's versatile and kind to the body yet incredibly powerful, so much so it kept the plague at bay for the lavender field workers! It probably doesn't get the recognition it deserves especially when you read about its many surprising uses and benefits - usually I like to edit down the content on an oil write-up, but not this time!
The early Greeks learned a lot about Lavender flower perfumes and the use of aromatic herbs from the Egyptians.
Lavender, from "lavare" (Latin meaning 'to wash') or "livendulo" (meaning 'livid’ or ‘bluish') was used by the Romans. The Lavender flower was used for cooking and added to the water used for bathing.
Lavender's history has biblical roots. It is referred to as Spikenard in the Bible. Mary used it on the infant Jesus and anointed Jesus after the crucifixion when she was preparing him for burial.
The Romans learned about this knowledge from the Greeks and used Lavender flower lavishly in their public baths, to perfume themselves and their homes. They also valued it for treating ailments and this is where the history of Lavender for medicinal use began. The ancients used lavender as a stimulant, tonic, an aid to appetite, assisting digestion and elimination.
During the Renaissance (14th - 17th centuries in Europe), it was used to protect against infections during the plague; we now know of its insect repellent properties and the plague was carried by lice on the rats. In fact, those that worked in the lavender fields were protected from infection and didn’t catch the plague.
Nicholas Culpepper (1616 - 1654), an English botanist, herbalist, physician, and astrologer and famous for his book Complete Herbal (1653) wrote of lavender “It is of special use in pains of the head and brain which proceed from cold, apoplexy, falling sickness, the dropsy or sluggish malady, cramps, convulsions, palsies, and often faintings. It strengthens the stomach, and frees the liver and spleen from obstructions, provokes women’s courses.”
English royalty were particularly fond of Lavender during the Victorian era. Queen Victoria even appointed an official purveyor, Miss Sarah Sprules "Purveyor to the Queen", and it was used throughout the castles for everything imaginable. Floors and furniture were washed and all the linen perfumed with its sweet scent. The Queen's interest and passion for this plant encouraged all fine English ladies to follow suit and scent themselves and anything else possible. There were street vendors carrying bundles of flowers for sale harvested from the hills and the women would make flower Tussie Mussies (small bunches) that ladies would wear between their breasts as a perfume or to disguise body odour. Lavender was found in just about every home herb garden.
This demand brought about and encouraged cultivation and commercial farming to help keep up and maintain a constant supply for the royalty. Growing Lavender commercially got its start here.
The Queen wanted a supply of fresh flower bundles brought to her daily. Lavender flowers were strewn throughout the stone castle floors and released its scent under foot traffic. The scent of Lavender symbolized cleanliness and purity.
Street vendors sold Lavender bunches and would sing about their wares to get the attention of potential buyers. Some of their calls were printed in The Cries of London (a popular series of prints portraying the realities of life for street traders in the early 19th century).
All aromatherapists are taught at college about the story of how Lavender was rediscovered by Rene-Maurice Gatefosse in July 1910. He was a French chemist born in 1881 and one of the founders of aromatherapy, and the person to coin the word “aromatherapy”. He burned himself in his lab when there was an explosion; he immediately plunged his arm into Lavender’s sweet essential oil and noted the quick healing, lack of both infection and scarring that resulted from his quick thinking. There has been a noted history of it being used in World War I as a wound dressing for injured soldiers.
Source: Indigenous to the Mediterranean region, now grown mainly in France, Spain, England and Tasmania.
Properties: analgesic, anti-convulsive, anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, bactericide, carminative, promotes the flow of bile from gall bladder, hypotensive, produces redness of the skin, sedative, causes sweating, heals wounds.
Therapeutic Uses & Benefits: Excellent for skin and hair: lavender is the oil most commonly associated with burns and healing of the skin; it is used in burns units in European hospitals; its antiseptic and analgesic properties ease the pain of a burn and prevent infection. As it also has properties that generate new cells it will promote rapid healing and help reduce scarring.
Its anti-inflammatory and soothing properties have a balancing effect on the skin and it can be used for the treatment of dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, boils and acne.
Common Primary Uses: (healing from) abuse, (calms) agitation, allergies, anxiety, appetite loss, arrhythmia, atherosclerosis, bites/stings, blisters, boils, soothes breasts, burns, calming, cancer, chicken pox, concentration, convulsions, crying, cuts, dandruff, depression, diabetic sores, diaper rash, diuretic, dysmenorrhea, exhaustion, fever, gangrene, gas/flatulence, giardia, gnats and midges (repellent), grief/sorrow, hair (dry/fragile/loss/, hay fever, hernia (inguinal), herpes simplex, hyperactivity, impetigo, inflammation, insomnia, itching, jet lag, lips (dry), mastitis, menopause, mental stress, mood swings, mosquito repellent, muscular paralysis, pain, parasympathetic nervous system stimulation, Parkinson’s disease, phlebitis, physical stress, post labour, postpartum depression, rashes, relaxation, rheumatoid arthritis, sedative, seizure, skin (dry/sensitive), skin ulcers, sleep, stress, stretch marks, sunburn, tachycardia, teeth grinding, teething pain, tension, thrush, ticks, ulcers (leg), varicose ulcer, vertigo, withdrawal, wounds, wrinkles.
Emotional Uses: Lavender aids verbal expression, supports individuals in releasing tension and constriction that stems from fear of expressing one’s Self. It also encourages expressive emotional honesty.
Blends well with: Bay, bergamot, German and Roman chamomile, citronella, clary sage, geranium, jasmine, lemon, mandarin, orange, palmarosa, patchouli, pine, tangerine, thyme, rosemary, rosewood, ylang-ylang.
Ways to Use (doTERRA/therapeutic grade oil recommendations only:
- Can be applied neat with no dilution topically to area of concern or to reflex points
- Diffuse or inhale the aroma directly
- Place 1 drops under the tongue, or take in veggie capsules
- Can also be used in beverages or as a flavouring in cooking
- Most commonly used to create a calming, peaceful atmosphere
- General skin care for all types of skin
- Treatment of sunburn and sun stroke. Combine with peppermint in a 1% solution of fractionated coconut oil, or other base oil and apply
- Insect repellent and to treat insect bites, preventing itching and scratching
- Calms the stomach
- Eases muscle tension (especially in the head and neck)
My experiences with Lavender:
I've experience of using Lavender essential oil for instant relief from oven and iron burns (it's way too easy to sear your skin on the iron or oven!!) and absolutely the relief is instant. Seriously, I mean INSTANT! Just remember to try if you can :)
I can remember Lavender coming to my rescue for my very first pamper party in 2005. I was staying at my Aunt's and in getting ready at her house I fell down the stairs holding a glass which smashed as I put my hand out to break my fall. I had a lovely cut on the heel of my hand. I was determined I was going to do this party, nothing was going to stop me, especially as it was my first and also my Aunt's work colleague hosting - I didn't want to let anyone down. So, I just grabbed my Lavender essential oil and doused my hand in it. The bleeding stopped pretty much straight away (it's good for this as it helps to mesh a wound together) and the stinging stopped. I put a plaster on and Reiki'd my hand all the way to the clients house whilst my Aunt drove us there, I was convinced the throbbing would stop and I'd be ok and that all treatments would be fulfilled. Much to my relief and gratitude to this wonderful oil, I was able to perform 7-hours of treatments back-to-back with the majority being massage. It was amazing. I've always remembered that, my early experiences of what little gems these essential oils are as Lavender came to my rescue!