A well-loved Mediterranean herb, lavender has been associated with cleanliness since Romans first added it to their bathwater. In fact, the name comes from the Latin lavandus, meaning to wash. A Christian legend says that lavender originally had no odor, but since the Virgin Mary dried Jesus’s swaddling clothes on it, it has had a heavenly perfume. Essential oil of lavender is now known to have many application in aromatherapy.

Today lavender remains a favorite for scenting clothing and closets, soaps, and even furniture polish. Lavender was traditionally inhaled to ease exhaustion, insomnia, irritability, and depression. In the Victorian era, women revived themselves from faints caused by tight corsets with lavender-filled swooning pillows.

Two related plants called spike (L. latifolia) and lavandin (L. intermedia) are produced in greater quantities; but they are more camphorous and harsher in scent, with inferior healing properties, although they are useful for disinfecting. Less expensive to produce, they are commonly sold as lavender.

Principal constituents of lavender: Linalol, linalyl acetate, geranyle, eucalyptol, pinene, limonene, cineole, phenol, coumarins, flavonoids

Scent of lavender: The aroma is sweet, floral, and herbal with balsamic undertones.

Therapeutic properties of lavender: Antiseptic, circulatory stimulant; relieves muscle spasms and cramping

Uses for lavender: Lavender is among the safest and most widely used of all aromatherapy oils. It relieves muscle pain, migraines and other headaches, and inflammation. It is also one of the most antiseptic essential oils, treating many types of infection, including lung, sinus, vaginal, and especially candida infections.

Lavender is suitable for all skin types. Cosmetically, it appears to be a cell regenerator. It prevents scarring and stretch marks and reputedly slows the development of wrinkles. It is used on burns, sun-damaged skin, wounds, rashes, and, of course, skin infections.

Lavender also treats indigestion, including colic, and boosts immunity. Of several fragrances tested by aromatherapy researchers, lavender was most effective at relaxing brain waves and reducing stress. It also reduced computer errors by almost one-fourth when used to scent the office.

To learn more about Aromatherapy and other alternative medicines, see:
  • Aromatherapy: Learn about aromatherapy, how it works, what part essential oils play, and how to use aromatherapy.
  • Essential Oils Profiles: We have collected profiles of dozens of plants that are used to produce essential oils. On these pages, you will learn the properties and preparations for the most popular essential oils.
  • How to Treat Common Conditions With Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy can be used to treat a number of conditions, from asthma to depression to skin problems. Here you will learn how to treat some common medical problems with aromatherapy.
  • Home Remedies: We have gathered over a hundred safe, time-tested home remedies for treating a wide variety of medical complaints yourself.
  • Herbal Remedies: Herbal remedies and aromatherapy can be very similar, and they stem from similar historic roots. On this page, you will find all of our herb profiles and instructions for treating medical problems with herbal remedies.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathi Keville is director of the American Herb Association and editor of the American Herb Association Quarterly newsletter. A writer, photographer, consultant, and teacher specializing in aromatherapy and herbs for over 25 years, she has written several books, including Aromatherapy: The Complete Guide to the Healing Art and Pocket Guide to Aromatherapy, and has written over 150 articles for such magazines as New Age Journal, The Herb Companion, and New Herbal Remedies. This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.