Lavandula officinalis and related species
Fragrant, healing lavender traces its origins back to the Euphrates River. Known as nardus to the ancient Greeks, the virtues of lavender are proclaimed by healers as diverse as St. Mark, who called it spikenard, and Pliny, who wrote of its great material worth.
Lavender was loved and valued by the Romans, who added it to bath water and used it to scent a room in preparation for childbirth. An ancient legend says lavender sprinkled over the head helps keep one chaste.
Lavender's scent is sleep-inducing, nerve-soothing, pain-relieving and markedly antidepressant. Victorian grandmothers dabbed a bit of lavender oil onto their hankies and then sniffed to calm excited nerves.
Aromatherapists use lavender for its remarkable ability to soothe the nervous system. It acts on the olfactory bulb, which lies near the reticular activating center, the part of the brain that controls sleep wake cycles. Scientists speculate that lavender's ability to induce sleep has to do with the way its chemical constituents interact with this part of the brain. Lavender is often the primary ingredient in dream pillows.
Perillyl alcohol, produced naturally in lavender flowers and found in minute quantities in essential oil of lavender, had caused complete regression of breast tumors in the majority of laboratory animals tested and shows encouraging results against leukemia and other cancers, including those of the liver and pancreas. According to one study, sixty to eighty per cent of tumors completely regressed when laboratory rats were fed perillyl alcohol.
Scientists claim that perillyl alcohol is ten times more potent than its cousin limonene, present in orange peels. Both these cubstances are members of a class of compounds called monoterpenes. Monoterpenes interfere with growth-promoting proteins, reduce a tumor cell's capacity to make energy by blocking the syntheses of coenzyme Q (CoQ), and increase levels of anti-cancer antioxidants. Monoterpenes may indirectly increase levels of transforming-growth-factor-beta, known to inhibit the growth of mammary cells. Rather than killing cancer cells, perillyl alcohol and limonene appear to convince then to stop dividing rapidly so they lose their tumor-like characteristics.
However, ingesting lavender oil in the concentrations necessary for an anticancer effect would be lethal.
Instead, wise women use essential lavender oil externally. I've found that any infused herbal oil with lavender is wonderful massaged on breasts and helps keep then healthy and lump free. I add essential oil of lavender to infuse oils such as comfrey, St. John's wort, calendula, and dandelion. To make our Breast Care oil I add essential oil to a combination of violet and dandelion infused oils.
Infused oil of lavender is a luxurious moisturizer and superb as an after-bath oil to keep skin healthy. It also feels exquisite rubbed into sore muscles. Lavender has antispasmodic abilities, relieves soreness and cramping, and is deepley relaxing to muscles. I like to apply infused lavender oil or a lavender poultice to and sore muscle including the uterus, to aid blood flow to the area and relieve cramping. Grandmothers say to sip a cup of lavender infusion too, to help relieve pain and ease tension.
I've found lavender especially healing on sores, wounds, and burns, removing the pain almost immediately. When I burned my foot, I soaked it in a lavender bath made from a standard infusion of the dried leaves and flowers. It promptly relieved my pain and probably helped speed healing.
To relieve headache, I like to soak a cloth in lavender infusion, apply to my head where it hurts, and breathe in the healing aroms as I rest with my eyes closed. Even simply crushing a fresh leaf or rubbing some infused oil on my temples lets me take in lavender's soothing scent. A few drops of lavender tincture may also be effective.
European grandmothers rubbed lavender infused oil onto paralyzed limbs and feet to bring back feeling and movement. They drank the tea or tincture to relieve colds and flu, as a digestive aid, as a nervine and called upon lavender when their heads ached or when they wanted to bring on menstruation.
Lavender has an ancient history as a plant with a special affinity for women. Bringing courage and strength to those who use it, lavender offers a stabilizing, revitalizing, and empowering influence before, during, and after the menopausal years. I spray lavender and rose essential oils around my home, and put the dried herbs in a little pouch inside dresser drawers. I encourage all women to immerse themselves in the gray-green waves of relaxing and uplifting lavender, a woman's herbal ally extraordinaire!
Essential oil of lavender is an effective repellent against mosquitoes and flies. Dried lavender smells good in the closet and protects fine materials from moths. Lavender is anti-parasitic, too. It can be used to prevent, as well as repel, lice and fleas (and probably anything else that infests an animal's coat). When Spotty, a friend's dog, had patches of hair missing on his rump, we rubbed infused oil of lavender into it. Over the next few weeks, as we continued our treatment, Spotty's coat grew back nice and healthy. I rubbed infused lavender oil into a lamb's fleece when we suspected parasites, and have heard it will work in children's hair, like its cousin rosemary, as a preventative during lice outbreaks at school.
Lavender is used in all mystical ceremonies but especially to celebrate summer. At Blessed Maine Herb Farm, we use it as a primary ingredient in the smudge we burn on Midsummer's Eve. Sometimes lavender those present. I love burning lavender because it makes me feel centered is burned to attract financial success. Often it is burned to bless a home, or in a birthing room to welcome the soul of the newborn babe, and to calm and uplift and focused. Burning it before talks and classes brings everyone together in the same vibration. For centuries, people have woven beautiful, aromatic lavender into wreaths carried or worn during the marriage ceremony.
I gather lavender in bunches and use it to sprinkle holy water. I hang bundles of it in our home for its protective qualities. Lavender attracts vibrational energies which brings increased awareness and inner calm. Old wives say it helps one remember past lives and shake loose ancient memories.
I've used lavender flower essence to help develop intuition, and to aid me in returning to a sense of wholeness. Lavender's leaves grow upward, always aiming for the sky, as if to say "look up!" Its flower, held high above the plant, seems like a special offering. This evergreen perennial possesses a glorious spirit, aspiring to uplift and energize in a calm, clear way. Lavender produces an aroma which links us to our ancient past, to the elements, to the strong, stable core of the mother, to the very soul of nature. I encourage you to open your wild heart and engage the spirit of lavender. Discover an ally that can help you develop a strong, healthy, generous and compassionate spirit, nerves of steel, and a wise heart wealthy with healing ways.
I am fond of growing lavender. We start seeds inside early each spring after a week or two of stratification. Lavender starts out tiny, and stays that way a long time, We transplant seedlings, about eight weeks after germination, into beds kept well-weeded. The plants eventually get bigger and look beautiful growing in rows of grayish-green needle-like, sturdy, shrubby bushes. About mid-summer, lavender sends up a gorgeous, deep-purple-blue flower spike on a stiff stem. During the flowering stage I visit my plants often. When their aroma is at its peak, I cut the bushes to within a couple of inches of the soil, or prune individual sprigs. I lay the branches on screens, or hang them to dry in small bunches. The smell of lavender drying in the house is so wonderful! I'm always sure to wrap some into smudge sticks and I love the way it feels on my hands. I also infuse fresh lavender in alcohol, oil, honey and vinegar.
It is dangerous to
ingest any essential
oil. Do not consume
lavender oil. It will
kill you before it
kills your cancer.
Lavender Bath Salts - Grind dried lavender
leaves and flowers into a
powder and mix with
Epsom salts or plain sea
salt. Add a heaping table-
spoon to the tub for a