Lavender—King of Essential Oils?
By Ric Chamberlin, LMT

Aromatherapy, or the use of essential oils, is becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. and no oil is
more popular than Lavender the essential oil distilled from the Lavender plant.

Although the use of plant oils for medicinal purposes goes back many millennia, their use declined in
modern times until an accidental discovery by French chemist René-Maurice Gattefosse in the 1930s.
After badly burning his hand he sought relief by dipping it in a container of Lavender oil. The result
was a reduction in pain and discoloration and healing of the tissue in just a few hours time.

The Lavender Plant And It's Uses
The essential oil commonly called lavender is made from the Lavender plant, which is an evergreen
shrub that is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae). Lavender grows widely in southern Europe
and Great Britain but does not grow naturally in the U.S. Other common plants in this family that are
found in the area include germander, catnip, ground ivy, solomon's seal, and bee balm.

The common name Lavender derives from the Latin word - lavare - to wash oneself, referring to
lavender's use in baths. The name Lavender is used to refer to 20 different species of the Lavandula
genus. The species referred most often for medicinal and aromatherapy use is lavandula angustifolia
which is often referred to as True Lavender.
The common name English Lavender is also used. There is a hybrid called Lavendin which has some
of the properties of angustifolia but not all. Lavendin is often marketed simply as Lavender. Care
should be taken when shopping. Read the label.

Lavender use goes back at least as far as ancient Rome where it was commonly used in perfume and
soap. Ancient men of medicine prescribed the flower for use against the plague and other kinds of
pestilence. The dried flowers were used in folk medicine as a relaxant, a diuretic, and it was used for
By the 18th century it was being commonly used in aromatherapy, perfume, cosmetics, veterinary
products, and flavorings.

Essential Oil
Lavender is best known as an essential oil and is perhaps the most well known and widely used of all
essential oils.
Lavender oil is made by processing the lavender flower with steam. The resulting vapors contain
lavender oil and water. The oil is separated after condensing. Being lighter than the water it floats to
the top. The oil is drawn off as essential oil.

The claims for the benefits and uses of Lavender are staggering and vary depending on which
source the claims are made from. These include…
abscess, acne, allergies, Analgesic, antibacterial, antiseptic, anti-spasmodic, antitoxic, anxiety,
aromatherapy, arthritis, asthma, athlete's foot, balance (physical and emotional), increases bile
production, arrests bleeding, lowers blood pressure, bad breath, blisters, boils, bronchitis, bruising,
burns, aids circulation, breaks down cellulite, chicken pox, chilblains, cold symptoms, convulsions,
corns, cough, cramps, culinary (flavor syrup for jellies, salad, milk and cream), colic, cuts, cystitis,
deodorant, depression, diarrhea, diuretic, dizziness, dermatitis, dysmenorrhea, earache, eczema,
expectorant, fainting, fatigue, fear, flu symptoms, fluid retention, fungal infections, gastritis, gout,
headaches (including migraine), stimulates white blood cells to effect healing, hair loss, hangover,
hay fever, head lice, heart palpations, hives, hot flashes ,impatience, infection, inflammation, insect
bites, insect repellent, insomnia, irritability, itching, relieves intestinal gas and bloating, jet lag , joint
pain, joint swelling, labor pains, menopause symptoms, menstrual symptoms, moodiness , motion
sickness, muscular aches and pains, nausea, nervous disorders, perfume, reduces nervous tension,
oily skin, relieves pain, increases perspiration, reduces perspiration, prevents tissue degeneration,
promotes and regulates menstrual flow, relaxation and calming, releases nasal mucous, restlessness,
respiratory system infections, rheumatism, rubefacient, scabies, scar tissue reduction, shock, dry
skin, encourages growth of skin cells, sinusitis, skin conditions (acne, rashes, dermatitis, hives),
sores, sprains, strains, stress, stretch marks, stimulates white blood cells to effect healing,
strengthens the immune system against bacterial infections., stomach problems, swelling, sunburn,
tension, tinnitus, increases urine flow, painful urination, vertigo, warts, whooping cough.

Whether all this is true is hard to prove however there seems to be no disagreement that Lavender is
very beneficial to emotions and mood. Research has shown lavender oil affects the alpha waves of
the brain creating a sense of relaxation and well being. It can be useful for treating depression, mood
disorders, anxiety, nervousness, stress, tension, insomnia, and excitability. Likewise it's ability to heal
wounds, particularly burns, is well accepted.
Lavender can be an excellent remedy for insomnia.

The primary modes of use are inhalation and application on the skin. Many forms of dispensers and
diffusers are available, from the inexpensive to the costly that release the aroma into a room. For cost
effective alternatives read on.

Sitting in a warm bath with 3 to 7 drops of lavender oil before retiring for the night can help you sleep
better. Please note that since oil and water don't mix well the oil will tend to float on the surface
possibly resulting in too high a concentration of exposure to the skin. For this reason it is highly
recommended to mix essential oils with 1 ounce of base vegetable oil (grapeseed is a good choice)
before adding to the bath. This will help distribute the essential oil more evenly. A more elaborate
method would be to add the oil to a cup of Epsom Salts and allow the bath water to pour through this
before adding the remains to the bath water.

A simple sleep aid is to apply 2 or 10 drops to a Kleenex or cotton ball which is inserted inside your
pillowcase. This keeps the aroma close to your nose.

An inexpensive method of diffusing any essential oil scent through a room is to take a cotton ball and
partially break it apart until you have flat piece of cotton. This allows the air to pass through it easier.
Place a 5 to 15 drops of oil on the cotton and tape it to a small fan or heat/air register.

Used topically Lavender has a calming and sedating effect making it useful in treating skin irritations
and insect bites. It also has antiseptic properties.

Although essential oils are generally safe some caution is in order.
Essential oils are highly concentrated. Only a small amount is needed. When applying topically always
dilute with a base oil.
See the article
Aromatherapy - A Beginners Guide for important safety information.
Pregnancy might contraindicate use of many essential oils. A doctor should be consulted.

The following summaries of some recent research involving the use of Lavender essential oil.

    Chem Senses. 2005 Oct;30(8):683-91. Epub 2005 Sep 14.
    Studies the effectiveness of Lavender on work efficiency. Using lavender aroma during recesses prevents
    deterioration of work performance.

    J Altern Complement Med. 2005 Aug;11(4):631-7.
    Outcome of a single-blinded, randomized pilot study evaluating Lavender as a treatment for insomnia favors
    the use of lavender. A larger trial is required to draw definitive conclusions.

    Physiol Behav. 2005 Sep 15;86(1-2):92-5.
    Orange and Lavender aroma reduce anxiety and improve mood and reduced anxiety in patients waiting for
    dental treatment.

    Taehan Kanho Hakhoe Chi. 2005 Apr;35(2):303-12.
    Effect of lavender aroma on cognitive function, emotion, and aggressive behavior of elderly with dementia.
    A Lavender aromatherapy hand massage program was effective on emotions and aggressive behavior of
    elderly with dementia of the Alzheimer's type.

    Int J Neurosci. 2005 Feb;115(2):207-22.
    Lavender fragrance effects on relaxation. A lavender fragrance blend had a significant transient effect of
    improving mood, making people feel more relaxed, and performing math computations faster.
    PMID: 15764002

    Psychosom Med. 2004 Jul-Aug;66(4):599-606.
    Sensory and affective pain discrimination after inhalation of essential oils utilizing Lavender and Rosemary.
    Both pain intensity and pain unpleasantness were reduced after treatment with lavender and marginally
    reduced after treatment with rosemary, compared with the control condition.

    Ann Pharm Fr. 1989;47(6):337-43.
    Study of the neurodepressive effects of the Lavender essential oil.
    Mice were orally given essential oil of lavander diluted at 1/60 in olive oil. Sedative effects are observed with
    some tests.

    Arch Dermatol. 1998 Nov;134(11):1349-52.
    Randomized trial utilizing Thyme, Rosemary, Lavender, and Cedarwood found aromatherapy a safe and
    successful treatment for alopecia areata.

    Int J Neurosci. 1998 Dec;96(3-4):217-24.
    Aromatherapy positively affects mood, EEG patterns of alertness and math computations.
    The lavender group showed increased drowsiness, less depressed mood, and reported feeling more relaxed
    and performed math computations faster and more accurately following aromatherapy.

    J Adv Nurs. 1994 Jan;19(1):89-96.
    Lavender oil used as a bath additive postnatally to reduced perineal discomfort.
    PMID: 8138636  ZZ

For more details on aromatherapy see the article Aromatherapy—A Beginners Guide on the Healing
Connection website,

©The Healing Connection, All Rights Reserved.

Portions of this article appeared previously in the Spring 2005 newsletter.

Ric Chamberlin
Registered Practitioner - Society of Ortho-Bionomy International ®
Licensed Massage Therapist - State of Nebraska
The Healing Connection
900 S 74th Plaza, Suite 116, Omaha, NE  68114
402 850 0752
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