July 23, 2012
The mere mention of lavender may bring to mind a dreamy spa; soft, scented sheets; or the extensive, aromatic fields of France. But lavender is known for much more than relaxation and a pleasant floral scent. Lavender’s healing properties are powerful and extensive.
In fact, in addition to keeping a bottle alongside her bath salts, every mother’s medicine cabinet should be stocked with lavender oil! Lavender essential oil is obtained from Lavandula officinalis, a flower which produces a light, floral scent that has been treasured for centuries.
The History of Lavender
Records of lavender being used medicinally dates back to the early Egyptians. They wrapped their dead in lavender dipped shrouds. When the tomb of Tutankhamen was opened, jars filled with unguents containing something resembling lavender were found. These unguents were used only by the royal families and high priests in cosmetics, massage oils, and medicines.
The Ancient Greeks used lavender’s healing power to relieve back pain and insomnia. They also believed it was helpful for healing the insane. The Romans used lavender in public baths, which is probably where its name came from. The word Lavender comes from the Latin word Lavare, which means “to cleanse.” It’s also highly likely that the Romans brought lavender to Britain.
Benedictine Monks cherished lavender as a precious medicine. Monasteries preserved the knowledge of herbal lore in their physics gardens. They copied ancient manuscripts and recorded the medicinal effects of various plants.
Under an edict of the Holy Roman Empire in 812 AD, they were charged with growing vegetables, medicinal plants, flowers, and trees.
In Tudor England, when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, lavender moved to domestic gardens. The ladies of the manor used lavender for all kinds of things. It was placed among linens, sewn into sweet bags, used to freshen the air, and mixed with beeswax to make furniture polish. Traditionally it was planted near the laundry room.
Ever heard of Lavender Water? The Victorians washed their floors and linens with lavender water and used it to repel insects. They would often use lavender water as a perfume, sprinkle dried lavender buds in their linen drawers, or rub the fragrant flowers on their stationary before mailing a love letter (I’m going to have to try this!).
Later, Lavender was used to freshen sick rooms and flowers were strewn on the floor to release their essence into the air when stepped upon. This practice continues to this day in areas of Spain and Portugal.
A Providential Accident
Rene Gattefosse, a French chemist who worked in his family’s perfumery business, verified the healing and antiseptic qualities of lavender through a tragic explosion in his lab. His hand was burned badly and he instinctively plunged his hand into a vat of lavender oil. The pain diminished and the burn healed quickly, with no infection or scarring.
As a result, Gattefosse turned his scientific attention to the medical properties of essential oils and their beneficial effects on skin conditions. His research led him to write the book “Aromatherapies”, which was well received by other experts who went on to do their own research.
All through the ages, Lavender has been used as a remedy for treating numerous ailments. People have used it for lice and scabies, insect bites, aching muscles, nervous disorders, sprains, wounds, burns, sore joints, coughs, headaches and toothaches. Healers frequently prescribed the oil to combat fatigue and depression.
It was a common ingredient in smelling salts, and in both World Wars, soldiers carried vials of lavender essential oil onto battlefields to help disinfect wounds. It was discovered to be excellent for burns, cuts, and other skin conditions.
Modern Medicinal Uses
Today, lavender is used by many healers for the following conditions:
- Earaches (NOT inside the ear)
- Skin Ailments
- Sore Throat
- Disinfecting Wounds
- Muscle pain and discomfort
- Tension and migraine headaches
- Boosting Immunity
- Reducing fatigue
- Cold sores and herpes blisters
- Athlete’s foot, jock itch and similar fungal infections
Because it is one of the mildest essential oils in existence, lavender oil is often useful in treating numerous childhood illnesses and maladies, including colic and diaper rash. Click HERE for a recipe to make your own diaper cream!
A few drops of Lavender oil in the bath also makes a nice, calming “bed time” soak for children. Spray a little on their sheets too! Imagine the memories they’ll have one day of warm sheets, cuddly pillows, and their lavender scented linens!
The Dangers of “Cheap” or “Adulterated” Lavender Essential Oils
Today much of the lavender oil sold in America is a hybrid called lavandin, grown and distilled in China, Russia, France, and Tasmania. It is brought into France and cut with synthetic linalyl acetate to improve the fragrance. Propylene glycol, DEP, or DOP (solvents that have no smell and increase the volume) are then added and it is sold in the United States as lavender oil.
Often lavandin is heated to evaporate the camphor and then is adulterated with synthetic linalyl acetate. Most consumers don’t know the difference, which is one of the reasons it is important to know about the integrity of the company or vendor from which you purchase your essential oils.
Dangers of Adulterating Essential Oils
As a consequence of adulterating or ‘stretching’ essential oils, it can often lead to either one of the following:
* Essential oil becoming toxic. Those who adulterate essential oils often use synthetic or harmful chemicals in order to ‘extend’ the oil in order to produce more quantity, especially with plant sources with minimal oil yield. However, it can create a reaction with the oil’s natural chemical composition that could harm the skin and cause other serious complications when used in aromatherapy.
* Intervention of the physiological and psychological effect. The therapeutic properties contained in an essential oil is known to produce a corresponding effect on the body in order to treat certain health conditions. However, adulterating essential oils with synthetic or natural chemicals might distort the oil’s healing action, depleting it off the ability to produce the effect desired.
Read more about essential oil adulteration HERE
Adulterated and mislabeled essential oils present dangers for consumers. One woman who had heard of the ability of lavender oil to heal burns, used lavender oil from a local health food store when she spilled boiling water on her arm. But the pain intensified and the burn worsened, so she later complained that lavender oil was worthless for healing burns.
When her “lavender” oil was analyzed, it was found to be lavandin, a hybrid lavender that is chemically very different from pure Lavandula angustifolia. Lavandin contains high levels of camphor (12-18 percent) and can itself burn the skin. In contrast, pure lavender has burn-healing agents not found in lavandin. It is very important that you use pure, therapeutic grade essential oils.
What does “Therapeutic Grade” Mean?
The Young Living Standard
There is a significant difference between oils that simply smell good and those that are therapeutic-grade.
Independent laboratory testing proves that Young Living essential oils meet and often exceed industry requirements, and as stewards of nature’s potent remedies, Young Living maintains higher internal standards built upon the magnitude of our own rigorous Quality Assurance requirements. This standard is known as “thearpeutic-grade”. In order to achieve therapeutic-grade classification, each essential oil must achieve the designation naturally, without excess manipulation and refinement, and meet specific criteria in four key areas: Plants, Preparation, Purity and Potency.
PLANTS: Young Living products are produced in exceptional soil, and harvested at exactly the right time.
PREPARATION: Honoring a strict commitment to respect and protect the time-honored methods of distillation, Young Living makes every effort to preserve “nature’s living energy” in a manner as close to its natural state as possible. Using pure mountain water free of additives, Young Living has a proprietary, stainless steel distillation process that uses low temperature and low pressure to better preserve plant properties, capture the pure essence of the plant, and preserve the quality of the oils.
PURITY: Achieved through the use of quality plants and meticulous preparation, and not through ultra-refinement, our finished product is 100% pure. Young Living essential oils are unadulterated, uncut, and free of chemicals, pesticides, and heavy metals.
POTENCY: To guarantee our products exceed existing world standards and meet our own higher internal standards for potency, we analyze the finished oil’s phytochemical profile to ensure it delivers optimal amounts of every key plant compound.
Suggested Home and Family Uses
Lavender oil may be used in a variety of different ways, the most simple of which consists of just inhaling the oil in times of distress or discomfort. For external use, try the remedies listed below:
* For sunburn relief, add 10 drops lavender essential oil to 2-4 ounces of liquid distilled Aloe Vera and mist onto the affected area with a spray bottle. Keep in the refrigerator for a cooling effect on the skin.
* For treating mild burns and wounds, apply “neat” (undiluted) directly to the burn. Or, if preferred, dilute 4 to 6 drops in a tablespoon pure aloe vera gel and apply. Cover with a bandage and change the dressing several times a day until the wound heals.
* For a peaceful night’s rest or for treating insomnia, place 6 to 8 drops in an essential oil diffuser or cool vaporizer near the bed.
* For freshening clothing, add several drops to the rinse water of the washing machine, and/or several drops placed onto a clean cloth and tossed in the dryer load.
* For a more pleasant cleaning experience, add 10 to 20 drops of lavender essential oil to 1 gallon water and use to clean surfaces around the home. It’s disinfecting properties will clean your home without the dangerous side effects of toxic chemicals.
*Apply a drop or two to your dishwater for a pleasant dish washing exprience.
*Add 10-15 drops of oil to a 2-4 oz. bottle of filtered water or vodka and make yourself a wonderful “pillow spray” or “air freshener.” Spray pillows, sheets, towels, washcloths, stuffed animals, table clothes, and bedspreads. You may also choose to use it as a room or bathroom freshener. I spray the guest towels in the bathroom and it lightly scents the whole room!
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) has a fresh, sweet, floral, herbaceous aroma that is soothing and refreshing. Because it is the most versatile of all essential oils, no home should be without it. Lavender is an adaptogen, and therefore can assist the body when adapting to stress or imbalances. It is a great aid for relaxing and winding down before bedtime, yet has balancing properties that can also boost stamina and energy. Therapeutic-grade lavender is highly regarded for skin and beauty. It may be used to soothe and cleanse common cuts, bruises, and skin irritations. The French scientist René Gattefossé was among the first to discover these properties when he was severely burned in a laboratory explosion. Lavender may also be used to enhance the flavor of foods.
Click HERE to learn more
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* This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.