BENEFITS OF LAVANDER
By Dr. Mercola
A whiff of lavender oil can trigger various sensations, and its sweet fragrance brings to mind rows and rows of beautiful blue-violet flowers under the summer sky. But if you look beyond lavender oil’s aroma, you’ll find that there’s more to it than meets the eye – or your sense of smell.
What Is Lavender?
Lavender oil comes from lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), an easy-to-grow, evergreen shrub that produces clumps of beautiful, scented flowers above green or silvery-gray foliage.1 The plant is native to northern Africa and the mountainous Mediterranean regions, and thrives best in sunny, stony habitats. Today, it grows throughout southern Europe, the United States, and Australia.
Lavender has been used for over 2,500 years. Ancient Persians, Greeks, and Romans added the flowers to their bathwater to help wash and purify their skin. In fact, the word “lavender” comes from the Latin word “lavare,” which means “to wash.”
Phoenicians, Arabians, and Egyptians used lavender as a perfume, as well as for mummification – mummies were wrapped in lavender-dipped garments. In Greece and Rome, it was used as an all-around cure,5 while in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, it was scattered all over stone castle floors as a natural disinfectant and deodorant. Lavender was even used during the Great Plague of London in the 17th century. People fastened lavender flowers around their waists, believing it will protect them from the Black Death.
High-quality lavender oil has a sweet, floral, herbaceous, and slightly woody scent. Its color can range from pale yellow to yellow-green, but it can also be colorless.
Uses of Lavender Oil
Both lavender and lavender oil are valued for their fragrance and versatility. The flowers are used in potpourris, crafting, and home décor, while the essential oil is added to bath and body care products, such as soaps, perfumes, household cleaners, and laundry detergent.
Lavender oil is known for its anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antidepressant, antiseptic, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties. It also has antispasmodic, analgesic, detoxifying, hypotensive, and sedative effects. Lavender oil is one of the most well-known essential oils in aromatherapy, and can be:
• Added to your bath or shower to relieve aching muscles and stress.
• Massaged on your skin as a relief for muscle or joint pain, as well as for skin conditions like burns, acne, and wounds. Make sure to dilute it with a carrier oil.
• Inhaled or vaporized. You can use an oil burner or add a few drops to a bowl of hot water, and then breathe in the steam.
• Added to your hand or foot soak. Add a drop to a bowl of warm water before soaking your hands or feet.
• Used as a compress by soaking a towel in a bowl of water infused with a few drops of lavender oil. Apply this to sprains or muscle injuries.
I also recommend adding lavender oil to your list of natural cleaning products. You can mix it with baking soda to make an all-natural antibacterial scrub for your bathroom and kitchen.
Benefits of Lavender Oil
Lavender oil is known for its calming and relaxing properties, and has been used for alleviating insomnia, anxiety, depression, restlessness, dental anxiety, and stress. It has also been proven effective for nearly all kinds of ailments, from pain to infections.
I am particularly fascinated by lavender oil’s potential in fighting antifungal-resistant skin and nail infections. Scientists from the University of Coimbra found that lavender oil is lethal to skin-pathogenic strains known as dermatophytes, as well as various Candida species. The study, published in Journal of Medical Microbiology,found that lavender oil kills fungi by damaging their cell walls (a mechanism that I believe could apply to bacteria and viruses as well). The best part is that this oil does not cause resistance, unlike antibiotics.
Lavender oil can also be used to:
• Relieve pain. It can ease sore or tense muscles, joint pain and rheumatism, sprains, backache, and lumbago. Simply massage lavender oil onto the affected area. Lavender oil may also help lessen pain following needle insertion.
• Treat various skin disorders like acne, psoriasis, eczema, and wrinkles. It also helps form scar tissues, which may be essential in healing wounds, cuts, and burns. Lavender can also help soothe insect bites and itchy skin. According to Texas-based dermatologist Dr. Naila Malik, it’s a natural anti-inflammatory, so it helps reduce itching, swelling, and redness.
• Keep your hair healthy. It helps kill lice, lice eggs, and nits. The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCB) says that lavender is possibly effective for treating alopecia areata (hair loss), boosting hair growth by up to 44 percent after just seven months of treatment.
• Improve your digestion. This oil helps stimulate the mobility of your intestine and stimulates the production of bile and gastric juices, which may help treat stomach pain, indigestion, flatulence, colic, vomiting, and diarrhea.
• Relieve respiratory disorders. Lavender oil can help alleviate respiratory problems like colds and flu, throat infections, cough, asthma, whooping cough, sinus congestion, bronchitis, tonsillitis, and laryngitis. It can be applied on your neck, chest, or back, or inhaled via steam inhalation or through a vaporizer.
• Stimulates urine production, which helps restore hormonal balance, prevent cystitis (inflammation of the urinary bladder), and relieve cramps and other urinary disorders.
• Improve your blood circulation. It helps lower elevated blood pressure levels, and can be used for hypertension.
Lavender oil can help ward off mosquitoes and moths. It is actually used as an ingredient in some mosquito repellents.