Imagine a flower being able to calm your nerves, reduce inflammation and swelling, promote faster healing for minor burns, decrease muscle pain, alleviate insomnia, and work as a natural bug repellant? That purple colored flower named lavender, which is derived from the Latin word lavera meaning “to wash”, is one of the most versatile essential oils the plant kingdom has to offer. Additionally, it’s obtained without a prescription and the price is considered quite inexpensive.
Types of Lavender:
Lavandula angustifolia is the most common type of lavender and it hails from England It is oftentimes referred to as true lavender. Any true lavender will have the botanical name of “lavandula” as the prefix. (There are up to 50 different species, including lavandula officinalis and lavandula vera, yet they will all be simply lavender). Lavender grows all over the world, including many parts of the United States and Canada, France, Italy, Bulgaria, Russia, Croatia, China, and Australia. The reason the “true” lavandula angustifolia genus is so popular is due to the low rate of camphor, less than one percent, it retains after distillation. This lends the essential oil a strong floral aroma, but it also makes it quite effective in aromatherapy usage, especially in accelerating the healing of minor burns. Camphor is a chemical constituent that you don’t want near a burn, and other versions of lavender, such as lavandin, lavender’s cousin, which can contain up to 8% camphor—are not effective for soothing delicate skin tissue.
Lavandin (lavandula x intermedia) ~ According to ‘The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils’ by Julia Lawless, lavandin is: “A hybrid plant developed by crossing true lavender (lavender angustifolia) with spike lavender or aspic (lavender latifolia). Due to its hybrid nature, lavandin has a variety of forms: in general it is a larger plant than true lavender, with woody stems. Its flowers may be blue like true lavender, or grayish like aspic.” The scent of lavandin is also sharper and more penetrating. While the plant grows in parts of Eastern Europe, Hungary, and Spain, cultivation is mainly in France.
Spike Lavender (lavandula latifolia) ~ Spike, sometimes referred to as Spanish lavender, is native to Spain, France, Italy, the Mediterranean region, and Northern Africa. The bright purple-blue flowers commonly found in true lavender are often a grayer hue in the spike variety. The essential oil is very penetrating, more herbal than floral, and retains a higher concentration of camphor than true lavender.
Lavender 40/42 ~ The lavender is blended with other lavenders to bring the percentage of linalol to between 40% and 42%. Linalol is an active component of Lavender that contains therapeutic benefits. Some Lavender essential oils can contain 40% and 45%.
Historical Uses for Lavender:
“Lavender was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians in the sacred walled garden at Thebes. They prized the herb greatly, using it to make a soothing and healing balm that was part of the ritual of mummification. It was turned into an expensive perfume to adorn both the living and the dead. Perfume urns were sealed into tombs to provide fragrance, and when Tutankhamen’s tomb was excavated, the scent of lavender was still strong even after 3000 years.” From ‘The Book of Magical Herbs’ by Margaret Picton.
Surprisingly, lavender is found more frequently in commercial fragrances for men rather than women. “This is one of the oldest scents in the fragrance world, made from oils extracted from the lavender and lavandin plants grown in France as well as spike lavender grown in Spain.” From the book ‘Perfumes, Splashes & Colognes’ by Nancy M. Booth. Examples of men’s fragrances are: Aqua Lavanda, Cool Water, Drakkar Noir, Hai Karate, Lavanda, Le Male by Gaultier, Old English Lavender, Old Spice Fresh Scent, Pino Silvestre (conifer), Pour un Homme and Ungara Pour Homme all contain lavender and/or lavandin essential oils.
Benefits of Lavender:
This versatile essential oil is familiar to many of us. You should have a small bottle of it for your First Aid kit and/or to keep in your kitchen. Lavender is one of the best natural ingredients to help stop the pain from minor kitchen accidents such as burns from the oven/stove or knife cuts. A drop of lavender can ease the pain, and only the addition of the gel-like innards of a freshly sliced open aloe vera leaf is as good a remedy for instant relief. Combining the two is recommended, as aloe vera instantly cools a hot burn.
For sunburn pain, lavender is also recommended. Pesky mosquito or other insect bites bothering you? Try adding lavender essential oil to the problem area(s) and your skin will thank you.
Headaches may disappear when you massage a tiny amount of lavender on your temples or the nape of your neck.
Lavender and relaxation are two words that are virtually synonymous with each other. However, according to author Erich Keller in his book ‘Aromatherapy Handbook for Beauty, Hair and Skin Care’ he writes: “Lavender is an all-purpose oil for skin care. Its effect is antibacterial, pain-relieving, healing for wounds, soothing for skin diseases, deodorizing, antiseptic, fungicidal, insect-repelling, rejuvenating, and anti-inflammatory. It may be used to treat all types of skin and is effective for acne and oily hair (as it regulates sebum production), itchy skin, hand care, cracked skin, bruises, shock injuries (in ice-cold compresses), acne scars, blisters, abscesses, furuncles, warts, boils, eczema, athlete’s foot (tea tree is more effective here, however), wounds, and burns. A bath with lavender soothes and heals the skin after sunburn.”
Unlike many other essential oils, there are few safety notes to share with you. Lavender essential oil can be used neat, meaning without diluting it in a plant based carrier oil, but it must be done in small amounts and only for minor skin problems. However, it is advised to dilute lavender with a vegetable carrier oil such as olive oil, jojoba, sweet almond oil, etc., just to make certain that your skin doesn’t have an allergic reaction. Please be very careful when purchasing pure lavender essential oil to be used for minor medical burn treatment emergencies as you will need true lavender, the type containing the lowest amount of camphor, and NOT lavandin, the genus which has up to 8% camphor – a burn causing ingredient!
Please do not take lavender essential oil internally!
Uses for Lavender:
Bath soak ~ All you need is approximately 15 drops in your bathtub of warm to hot water and you should find yourself relaxing.
Candle ~ Add a few drops to a candle, next to the wick, not on it as essential oils are flammable. Lavender will fill the room with its soothing floral aroma and relaxation should follow.
Sachet ~ Add dried lavender buds to a small muslin bag and store in your drawers/cupboards, and especially where linen is stored. This method also works well as a natural bug repellent if you hang a scented lavender sachet in your closet(s) on a hanger.
Hair ~ Add two to four drops to your hairbrush and brush your hair. Not only will it smell great, doing this helps to condition it naturally. Also, lavender is believed to stimulate hair growth and its antibacterial properties can help eliminate scalp conditions.
Blending With Lavender:
The happy combination of two florals is pronounced with the intermingling of rose, jasmine or geranium (Bourbon or Rose). For more dramatic combinations, consider mixing lavender with the following essential oils: bergamot or any citrus essential oil, clove, rosemary, eucalyptus, patchouli, clary sage, cedarwood, tea tree, oakmoss, vetiver, or pine.
Finding High Quality Lavender:
The most important things to look for on any glass bottle of lavender essential oil will be four categories. Naturally, you would expect to see “Lavender” on the label. However, here are the four facts that you will find on any bottle of essential oil from a reputable supplier/company:
Other factors to look for are price, as too low of an amount means it has been adulterated in some way or is possibly synthetic. Essential oils should be stored in a glass bottle to protect the contents. Then you must continue to keep your lavender in the best environment and that would be in a cool, dark place.
- Botanical/Latin name. If in search of true lavender it would be Lavandula angustifolia.
- Part. What part of the plant has the essential oil been extracted from? For lavender, that is the flowering tops.
- 3.Method of extraction. Is it an absolute, enfleurage, carbon dioxide (CO2), or has it been steam distilled? In this case it has been steam distilled. While lavender can be found in CO2 form as it’s the most expensive, or as an absolute, the most common type is steam distilled.
- Country of Origin. As noted, lavender comes from many different countries, and my personal preference is for the type from Bulgaria. Location can make a sizeable difference for many reasons such as climate, type of soil, high/low altitude, etc.
For practical reasons, it’s better to buy a small amount. Not only is this more economical, but this way you can determine what lavender oil you like the best. You can consult with a certified aromatherapist for advice on obtaining the best quality lavender. Another way is to locate a reputable farm where lavender is grown, as this would be the best place in which to purchase your lavender essential oil. Lavender farmers will be able to answer your questions and advise you on what type of lavender is best suited for your needs. You will be advised that lavender is harvested in the summertime and that immediately after it has been distilled is not the best time to buy it—usually one to two years after distillation is when it matures. For example, I purchased a bottle of lavender in April, and the following spring I started to notice a less herbal, and more rounded floral aroma. Another benefit to lavender is that it has a fairly long shelf life (approximately five years) and, like fine wine, can improve during its bottled lifespan.
About the Author
Lisa Maliga is the bath & body products designer for Everything Shea Aromatic Creations http://www.everythingshea.com Everything Shea offers a variety of glycerin soaps, (including Bulgarian Lavender), lip balms, scented/unscented shea butter, Whipped Shea Butter, Shea Comfort, custom SoapCakes and Mini SoapCakes. Discover 275+ fragrances, designer duplicates and essential oils.
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