Lavender, if you are like most people, it’s one of those scents that you don’t think of as medicinal or really think much of. It is in perfume’s, room sprays, soaps and lotions. You see it in those sachet’s in your Grandma’s closet or in some Herbs de Provence. It is the ubiquitous “spa” lotion, massage oil, eye pillow flower, but do you ever really stop to think how kick-ass this small purple flower is?
While there are many types of lavender the type we are concerned about is Lavandula angustifolia. This is the one used in most herbal preparations. A brief history about the famous purple plant, it has been used by humanity for over 2,500 years, and is well documented in use in Egypt, Phoenicians, in the Hebrew Bible, and New Testaments. The present name most likely comes from Rome, and the Roman use of lavender in bathing preparations. The Latin root for the name is either lavare– to wash, or livendula– livid or bluish. It was used by Judith in the Bible to seduce Holofermes, and by Cleopatra to seduce Julius Caesar. There is even a song referencing it, I am sure you know the “Lavender Blue, dilly dilly” song. It always seemed vaguely naughty to me, boy was I right. Lavender’s seductive qualities was not lost in 17th century England. According to the Traditional Ballad Index (oh internets, you never fail to amaze me) the song is about:
“”Lavender’s blue, dilly, dilly…” Singer tells his lady that she must love him because he loves her. He tells of a vale where young man and maid have lain together, and suggests that they might do the same, and that she might love him (and also his dog)”
It should be your most loved and used too. Lavender is something I try to keep on me all the time. It is great for:
- Skin preparations for daily use
- Skin preparations for acne
- For daily hair use – shampoo, etc.
- Can encourage hair regrowth especially in people with alopecia areata
- Treating bug bites – best thing ever for itchy fire ant, flea and mosquito bites, but useful for all bites
- Keeping bugs out – a good insect repellent, or for daily use (does increase sun sensitivity make sure to add sun-blocking agents) and can be used on bed linens for bed bugs, fleas, or other uses where bug spray is needed
- Burns! Yes, never get nasty scars from burns, and you will love it on a sunburn. Soothing!
- Well known as a sleeping aid
- A mild muscle relaxer, that may also help reduce pain in general
- In massage can reduce anxiety and increase relaxation
- Delicious baked goods, and savory dishes, really it can go in anything
- Teas, or even infused water/spa waters
I could go on and on about its uses! As you can see it, like peppermint, is just more than useful to have around.
Personally I use lavender to help soothe muscle pain, relax, and as a sleep aid. I do use it in cooking a lot, and when I make my own shampoo (which if you haven’t you should, I use this recipe) but mostly the before mentioned uses.
Baths & Bath Salts
I love a hot bath, and with my muscle spasms it helps a lot of things to release and with lavender you can really help those muscle spasms relax further. Sometimes I find that just taking a hot bath with lavender can reduce a lot of aches and pains. If you don’t have the time to make your own, buy some good quality ones. There are lots of brands out there, I prefer Dr. Teal’s Lavender, it is on the more expensive side and there are cheaper or more expensive versions out there. Just make sure you review the ingredients.
If you would like to make your own, it is super easy to do and doesn’t take long.
Lavender Epsom Salt Recipe
- 5 cups (40 oz) of Epsom Salts
- 5-10 drops Lavender essential oil
- A few teaspoons of dried lavender flowers (I just add them until I like the amount, based on previous baths, but I would say a teaspoon a cup ratio to start)
That’s it! You want to make sure you mix it well, breaking up any lumps, and store it in a dry spot in a sealed container. You could add different oils for different effects. You have the option of reducing the Epsom salts to 4 cups and adding:
- 1 cup Baking Soda OR 1 cup Powdered Milk
- 1 cup Sea Salt
- Soap colorants/dyes, don’t use food coloring as it could stain your tub
If you use powdered milk you need to make sure you rinse your tub well. You could even make cheap Christmas or Birthday gifts with this too, great for large group gifts and people will think you spent a ton of time on it!
Where to start with these? There are just SO many things you can do with Lavender to help you sleep. So to keep it simple, I am only going over my favorites that happen to be so because they are the easiest.
- Lavender Essential oil (therapeutic grade as always) – couple deployment methods here, my preferred is to take a drop and rub some on your temples and smooth the rest over your pillow. You can also put a drop in 6-8 oz. of warm milk (or milk substitute) or water.
- Dried or fresh Lavender tea – you can get food grade lavender lots of places, or grow your own. I would start by mixing this into a chamomile tea at first since lavender can be bitter, and a little goes a long way. Start with a 1/4 teaspoon and work your way up. You can do just pure lavender if you are brave enough. (Also works the same in infused waters, just use cold water and let sit for a few hours in the fridge.)
- Lavender (or lavender and hops) pillows – I will go into more detail about the hops version in later posts, but just a small sachet of dried lavender placed in your pillow while you sleep will greatly improve quantity and quality of sleep.
As always test things out on yourself, it is always trial and error finding out what works best for you. Make sure to check reactions on WebMD. Always educate yourself before taking anything and when in doubt, consult a professional!