If you have anxiety, you may want to add the smell of lavender to your life. Of all the scents that have a calming effect on us, lavender is most often listed as being number one. Research has shown that lavender has a mild soothing, sedative effect when inhaled or used topically.
The word lavender has its root in lavare, which means "to wash" in Latin; not surprising when you consider this herb has long been used in bath water to calm and purify tired, anxious, or fatigued people. Lavender may also be related to the root word livendula, meaning livid or bluish.
Although lavender’s use in cooking is making a comeback, it is still primarily an herbal chill pill. People use oil diffusers to lavender-scent the air, add a few drops of the oil to bath water, or add it to a base oil for moisturizing or massaging. If you have trouble sleeping, using a lavender pillow may help you get more Z's.
Researchers surmise that as pure lavender essential oil is inhaled, its molecules mesmerize the brain’s amygdala and hippocampus, which are associated with emotion regulation. Lavender seems to have a sedative effect on those brain centers, relieving stress and anxiety. There is also evidence lavender may reduce the body’s level of cortisol, a hormone released during times of stress.
Keep some lavender oil and tissues with you for stress emergencies. Put two or three drops on a tissue and inhale.
Lovely Lavender Factoids
The lavender plant grows well in sunny, stony environments and is native to mountainous areas of the Mediterranean. It thrives today in Australia, the U.S., and southern Europe.
Documented use of lavender goes back 2500 years. Egyptians, phoenicians, and Arabian cultures used lavender for mummification and perfume. Romans used it for scenting the air, bathing, and cooking. It was also used to repel insects.
Washing women were called "lavenders" in Medieval and Renaissance Europe because the women dried washed clothing over lavender bushes, and scented their drawers with the herb. This lovely flower was also considered a protection against illness, and it might have been.
There is historical evidence that Londoners who were in frequent contact with lavender avoided nasty diseases such as the plague, and cholera. Today, researchers are studying the antiseptic, antibacterial properties of the herb.
Enjoy lavender tea by infusing a handful of dried lavender blossoms in a pan or pot of boiling water. Let it steep about seven to ten minutes. Then, strain and sip away.
Purchasing Essential Oils
Essential oils are available commercially in several forms:
- Aromatherapy oil
- Bath gels
- Extracts and tinctures
- Infusions and teas
- Lotions and Soaps
- Whole, dried flowers
Lavender oil is available at walk-in health food stores and online. Purchase oils that say 100% essential oil, or pure essential oil, on the label. The oil should be in a dark glass bottle to avoid degradation from plastic or light.
Lavender can react with some medications and other supplements. Do not ingest it as a supplement without talking to your doctor.
Recipe: Strawberry Lavender Spritzer
1/4 cup orange juice
1 cup fresh strawberries
1 tablespoon fresh lavender buds
3 cups white wine (or one 750 ml bottle)
4 cups mineral water
4 to 6 fresh lavender sprigs
4 to 6 fresh strawberries
In a blender or food processor, blend the orange juice, 1 cup of strawberries, and lavender flowers. Transfer to a jug or bowl.
- Pour wine over the blended mixture and allow to steep for 30 minutes; then strain into a punch bowl, discarding solids.
- To serve, fill a wineglass half full with this flavored wine and top with mineral water. Garnish with a sprig of lavender and a strawberry.
Recipe found at The Herb Companion
Source: University of Maryland Medical Center