Monday, April 8, 2013

Lavander: The Details

Time for some deeper info on the lovely lavender plant.
It is not enough just to know the Latin name of lavender. In order to really use lavender in all of its glory, you need more information. You wouldn't hire someone for a job without first seeing their resume... So here it is, Lavender's resume:

Latin names: Lavendula angustifolia, Lavendula officianalis
Botanical family: Labiate (Laminiaceae)
When purchasing lavender oil look for a clear, watery oil, with a fresh, herbaceous, floral scent. It should smell full and sweet, not overly soapy or musty.

 France, England, and Bulgaria are the most common origins. May also come from China, Tasmania, Russia and Croatia. There will be a fragrance difference depending on country of origin. French and English lavender have the best fragrance in my opinion.

The plant itself is bushy and herbaceous growing to about four feet tall. It has spike shaped leaves that are a soft, silvery, grayish green and slightly fuzzy. The flowers are tightly packed on a single stem. They can range in color from mauve to the common lavender color most think of.

The flowering tops are the part that is used for essential oil, which is extracted using steam distillation.

The chemical profile of lavender oil gives an insight into its use:
Sesquiterpenes-antiseptic, antibacterial, powerful anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, calming and soothing to the nervous system
Monoterpene alcohol(linalol)- strong antimicrobial, gentle to the skin, antibacterial, antiviral, immune system support
Esters(linalyl acetate)-Relaxing to the central nervous system, balancing, antispasmodic, nervous system tonic, soothing to inflammatory skin conditions

When most people think lavender for aromatherapy, they think sleep, and this is where lavender shines. It is a very powerful sedative oil. It is wonderful for anxiety disorders and the resultant insomnia that comes from them. It is also considered an adaptogen, meaning it will balance your nervous system. 

A lesser known use of lavender oil is its ability to fight infections. It is a great oil to keep blended in your first aid kit. I put a drop of lavender in a carrier on bandages The scent calms the injured person(usually one of my children)and I know it will keep them from getting infected without having to use an antibiotic ointment. Lavender oil also has cell regenerative and wound healing properties.

The anti-inflammatory property of lavender oil makes it wonderful for use with arthritis and skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and sun burns,. It can relieve itching from bug bites and hives.

There are no known contraindications for lavender.
As with any oil though, please use with care and ALWAYS dilute in a carrier of some sort. And please DO NOT use internally. 

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