Lavendula angustifolia is a scent that most of us can recognize perhaps you’ve had the good fortune of visiting a field full of lavender to experience it. At one time, lavender was a natural, wild-crafted crop that could easily be cut and harvested in the hills of the Mediterranean. Over time, it was domesticated and has gradually become one of the major ingredients in the manufacture of perfume and scented cosmetics. The highest-quality essential oil is derived from steam-distilling fresh lavender flowers. The amount of volatile oil found in lavender is often very small; it makes up only 0.005–10 percent of a single plant. To obtain 454 ml (1 lb) of this essential oil, you need 150 lbs of lavender. Knowing this, we might wish to consider using essential oils sparingly, as large quantities of land and plant life are required to produce even small amounts of essential oils.
Lavendula angustifolia (English Lavender) is a perennial plant native to Eastern Europe, northern Africa, and the Mediterranean. There are many genotypes, but English Lavender is most commonly grown and used. It has narrow, grey-green leaves and a long spike with purple flowers that attract pollinators. The flowers are covered in star-shaped hairs.
The name Lavendula originates from the Latin lavare, meaning washing or bathing; the herb was venerated for its cleansing and purifying properties. The Romans used lavender to perfume their baths, and for centuries it has been infused into laundry water in Europe. The Virgin Mary is reputed to have been especially fond of lavender because it protected clothes from insects and preserved chastity.
Pedanius Dioscorides - a Greek physician, pharmacologist, and botanist posited that the fragrance of lavender surpassed all other perfumes. Herbalists in 16th-century Europe Herbal Profile Lavendula angustifolia (formerly Lavendula officinalis)
Common Name: Lavender, lavendula, lavandin Family: Lamiaceae, mint family Parts Used: Aerial parts—flowers, flower buds, leaves. Collect fully-opened flowers and leaves, usually between June and August. They should be gently dried at a temperature not exceeding 40°C.
Taste: Cool, aromatic, dry Energy: Cool, relaxant ACTIVE CONSTITUENTS: Lavender has over 100 constituents, including: Tannins, 0.5–¹ /5% volatile oil, coumarins (including coumarin, umbelliferon and herniarin), flavonoids (such as luteolin), 0.7% ursolic acid (found in the leaves)³
The essential oil contains: Linalyl acetate, geraniol, cineole, limonene and sesquiterpenes4 , linalool (which has the distinct smell of lavender)
Herbal actions: Nervous antidepressant, anxiolytic, and relaxant; digestive anti-inflammatory, carminative, antacid, and anti-emetic; integumentary anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and cicatrizant SYSTEM TROPISM: Nervous System: Nerves, muscles, neurovascular system
Digestive System: Stomach, intestines, liver Integumentary System Did you know? One of Ontario's loveliest jars of honey comes from a small organic farm in Prince Edward County that grows organic lavender and keeps honeybees. 24 the whole family | Look Inward Early Summer 2023 recognized lavender’s medicinal virtues, and the Italian herbalist, Mattiolus, observed that “it is much used in maladies and those disorders of the brain due to coldness such as epilepsy, apoplexy, spasms and paralysis; it comforts the stomach and is a great help in obstructions of the liver and spleen.
Medicinal Properties & Indications
Lavender is a wonderfully uplifting and calming herb. It can lighten the mind, helping us to move through emotional blocks that may present as anxiety, emotional instability, and depression. Herbalist David Winston describes using it for stagnant depression, a situational depression often associated with emotional trauma, where one seems to be “stuck” on an event replaying over and over in their mind. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the unrelenting grief of becoming fixated on a traumatic event or tragedy (e.g., loss of a child, parent, spouse, pet, or job) fall into this category.
Lavender may remedy physical symptoms as well, such as tension, headaches, migraines, trembling, and insomnia. Lavender in the bath, either the herb itself or a few drops of essential oil, can ease a restless child or adult to sleep. It works especially well when combined with Epsom salts. Sleeping with a lavender pillow is an age-old remedy to induce a restful night as well (see recipe at the end of this article). When used for aromatherapy, the essential oil of lavender was found to benefit sleep in studies done in elder care facilities. The residents fell asleep with greater ease and had improved sleep quality. This purple herb may also be used as a strengthening tonic for the nervous system to treat those suffering from nervous debility and exhaustion.
» Emotional instability
» Headaches (especially due to stress)
In the digestive system, lavender relaxes the intestines. It’s a gentle herb that eases cramps and spasms, as well as colic that stems from tension and anxiety. Lavender is a calming remedy for motion sickness and nausea.
» Digestive anxiety
» Motion sickness
Topically, the antiseptic volatile oils in lavender make it an extremely useful disinfectant for applying to cuts, wounds, and sores; either the diluted essential oil, a strong infusion, or a tincture may be used. When the essential oil is applied to external burns, lavender stimulates tissue repair and minimizes scar formation. A strong infusion of the flowers from lavender and Achillea millefolium is made into a compress or bath to heal tears in the perineum from childbirth. The essential oil may also be used both as a bug repellent and to relieve the inflammation and itching of insect bites and stings. For muscle aches and joint pains, you can use the anti-inflammatory lavender in the bath to soothe and ease tension.
» Insect bites & stings
» Burns (combine with fresh aloe vera)
» Perineum tears
Contraindications & Safety
Rare instances of contact dermatitis have occurred with this essential oil.
Preparations & Applications
Dosage: Tincture (1:5): Children 0.2–0.5 ml 3x daily (TID), adult 1.5 ml (TID)
Tea (Infusion): ½ tsp dried herb, 8 oz hot water; leave to infuse for 10–15 minutes. Take ¹ / ³–1 c daily for children, and 3 c daily for adults, or as needed.
Gel caps: 80–160 mg of a lavender oil preparation
» 1 small organic cotton/linen bag or pillow
» 1 c dried organic Lavendula angustifolia buds
» 1 c loosely packed, dried Humulus lupulus (common hops) strobiles
» ½ c dried Matricaria recutita (chamomile) flowers
» ½ c dried Rosa canina (rose) petals
- Excluding the hops strobiles, blend all your herbs into a mixing bowl.
- Tear the hops strobiles into petals, and stir them gently and thoroughly into the herb mixture. 3. Pour the mixture into a re-sealable glass jar and label it for storage.
- Use the mixture to fill your small cloth bag or pillow.
Storage and Use
Keep your dream pillow mix away from sunlight until you are ready to use it.
If you want to use the mix for a microwavable pillow, add 1 c rice or flaxseed to every ½ c of mix.