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.