By Hwaa Irfan
The smell of lavender is familiar to those living in temperate climates today. Native to the Canary Islands, India, Mediterranean, NE Africa, and SW Asia true lavender has a long history in the medicinal and aroma field, and can be found in modern cosmetics as a nice addition to soaps, creams, oils, and even pot pourri. Known as ustukhuduz (Farsi), al-khuzaama (Arabic), Xun yi cao (Chinese- Mandarin) Lus na tuise (Gaelic), it is commonly known on variations of the word “lavender” in many countries. As a herbal remedy lavender has been used to resolve bacterial and fungal infections, to lift the spirits, to enhance relaxation, and to promote the healing of wounds.
The English Lavender is Lavandula vera or common lavender. Lavendula means ‘to wash’ and augustifolia ‘narrow leaf’ the names of which give basis clues about a plant that has wide ranging uses. As a member of the Laminaceae family of the plant kingdom, it shares something in common with mint, and nettle. Having a genus of its own, lavender can be found as a shrub, herbaceous, and as an annual, but true lavender, Lavendula augustifolia is more herbaceous and is by nature a perennial.
This aromatic plant prefers well drained sandy soil, and the full sun which describes its natural habitat.
The stems are short and branch out, and when young grow very quickly. With age the progress from being four-sided to a more rounded shape, becoming thicker as the semi-woody stems grow. The very green leaves are silvery gray-green – purple depending on how they have been cultivated and when crushed an aroma is released. The wispy flowers range from white – lavender in colour and beautify the tips of the lanceote leaves. It can be easily cultivated from cuttings, as well as its rhizomes, and seeds.
The whole plant is aromatic. The flowers are harvested just after they appear or before blooming in June-July after which they are carefully dried. Their strong aroma remains long after drying. Two hundred pounds of fresh flowers produce one pound of oil so it should not be taken for granted.
When buying look out for lavender oil labelled lavendula augustifola if one intends to buy true lavender. The oil should be colourless, and yellowish-green in colour. The pungent smell we all know should have a bitter taste. At home, the oil should be stored like all oils in a dark glass bottle and kept away from direct light in a cool place to protect the oil from deteriorating.
Unfortunately, one can find adulterated products on the market which compromises the medicinal properties. Lavandula angustifolia can be found with additions of lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia) and the spiked variety Lavandula latifolia which in turn can be adulterated with eucalyptus, white camphor oil fractions, and Spanish sage oil. Lavandula angustifolia oil can also be adulterated with rectified ho oil, and acetylated ho or acetylated lavandin oils.
The essential oil of Juniperus communis contains over 200 constituents, and 50 compounds, which includes:
Geraniol is one of nature’s antioxidants that has been recommended for cancer prevention. Geraniol prevents synthesis of DNA, when imbalanced, and suppressed the growth of pancreatic tumors.
Limonene is beneficial to the liver as it increases the production of enzymes needed to detoxify carcinogens.
Coumarin is effective in the thinning of blood. It is an antifungicide. As a supplement, it should not be taken with anticoagulants. It is effective at increasing the flow of blood to the veins, and decreases the permeability of the capillaries. As a supplement, in high doses, coumarin is toxic when taken over a long period.
The scent plays an important therapeutic role on the psycho-spiritual level. Some of the therapeutic properties are as follows:
- Analgesic (organic)
- Antiphlogistic (organic)
- Anti-rheumatic (organic)
- Cordial (organic)
- Emmenagogue (organic)
- Hypotensive (organic)
- Stimulant (nervous system)
For glossary see It All Makes Good Scents!
Avoid during pregnancy as Lavender oil stimulates the uterine, and do not use if taking anticoagulants.
The oil can only be used for external use, though some traditions have specific applications for internal use. It is preferable to dilute it in a Carrier Oils at 5 drops per tablespoon (15ml).
Endocrine – balances the spleen
Gender – Cystitis, mucous discharge
Head – Aches, sinusitis, migraines
Mind – Convulsions, depression, insomnia, nervous tension, palpitations
Musculoskeletal – Rheumatism
Other – Repellent: fleas, moths
Renal – Fluid retention
Reproductive – Amenorrhoea, dismenorrhoea, menopause, PMS,
Respiratory – Asthmatic, upper respiratory tract infections
Skin – Abscesses, acne, bruises, dermatitis, eczema, oily, psoriasis, wounds
Spiritual – Calms the astral body.
2- 4 drops – Vapor therapy – Astral body, depression, insomnia, nervous tension, upper respiratory tract infections
4 drops – Massage oil
6 drops – Bath oil – Abscesses, acne, bruises, depression, insomnia, nervous tension, dermatitis, eczema, oily, psoriasis, upper respiratory tract infections, wounds
Burfield T. “The Adulteration of Essential Oils and the Consequences to Aromatherapy & Natural Perfumery Practice.” London. 2005
Felter, W, M.D., Lloyd, J. U. “King’s American Dispensatory, 1898”
“Horticulture 62 ~ Fall Plant Materials & Design.” http://www.cabrillo.edu/~lmcandrews/pdfs/Lab%2011%20PDFs/Lavandula%20angustifolia.pdf
Katzer, G. “Lavender.” http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Lava_ang.html
Lavabre, M. “Aromatherapy Workbook”. Healing Arts Press, Canada. 1990.