Lavender has been known for its fresh and soothing fragrance from time immemorial. The herb, its flowers, and the essential oil derived from the flowers, have been an integral part of traditional medicine for their astounding healing properties.
The lavender plant has been cherished through the ages, for its refreshing aroma. Lavender or Lavandula is actually a genus, to which about 39 species of flowering plants belong. The plants of the lavender genus are the members of the mint family.
The lavender plant is native to the Mediterranean region, parts of tropical Africa, and the southeast regions of India. But, today, it can be found across the southern Europe, United States, and Australia.
The plant can be identified by its upright, erect stem and shoots. The small, blue- or violet-colored flowers are borne in whorls, which form a spike above the foliage.
The lavender plant or its flowers can be used in several different forms. More commonly, lavender preparations are available in the form of dried flowers, tincture, infusion, teas, and as lavender essential oil. Some of the most common uses of lavender and its extracts are enlisted below
The flowers can be used for cooking. The pulverized lavender is an excellent addition to desserts, jams, jellies, ice creams, and cookies.
The flowers can also be added to salads. They can be used to make lavender sugar and the well-known lavender syrup. The dried buds of the plant are more commonly used for culinary purposes.
The oil obtained from the flowers is widely used for manufacturing perfumes, cosmetics, balms, and salves.
Lavender oil is known to have antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties, for which it can be used for minor cuts, skin abrasions, wounds, insect bites or stings, skin lesions, burns, blisters, eczema, and acne.
The tea prepared from the flowers can be used to calm the nerves, as the lavender plant is known to have antidepressant properties. For the same reason, lavender oil is widely used to treat insomnia, and the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Lavender may help slow down the activities of the nervous system as well. So, it can be used for conditions like restlessness, nervousness, and agitation.
When applied topically on the temples, the oil can provide relief in headaches and migraines, and induce better sleep.
Due to its ant-inflammatory properties, lavender oil can be effective for relieving muscle ache, and the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Tea infused with the dried flowers can be used as a hair rinse to get rid of dandruff. The essential oil extracted from the flowers is also regarded as a natural remedy for hair loss.
The essential oil is also used as a natural remedy for respiratory problems, like asthma, bronchitis, cough, and congestion. It can be used for sinus infection, ear infection, and throat infection as well.
Lavender oil can soothe the digestive system, and so, may prove helpful in some common digestive ailments, like gas, nausea, indigestion, and colic.
Apart from these, the dried flowers are often included in sachets, which can be hung in the closets and drawers to repel moths and other insects, besides adding a fresh smell to your clothing. You can also keep these sachets in the dryer to give your clothing the wonderful fragrance of lavender.
Lavender plants are widely grown in the gardens to form low-growing hedges. The flower spikes of lavender are excellent for dried flower arrangement.
Today, the essential oil extracted from the lavender flowers is one of the most commonly used oils in aromatherapy. It is widely used in soaps, shampoos, and bath oils as well. However, lavender and its oil need to be used with caution, especially while taking internally.
Even for topical application, the oil should be used in diluted form. Its ingestion is especially not recommended for expecting and breastfeeding mothers, as well as for young children. Moreover, the oil may interact with certain medications and herbs. Therefore, this essential oil should be taken only under the guidance of a health care provider.