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Why is Lavender naturally calming for humans?

There are many naturally occurring plants and flowers that having calming effects and Lavender is one of them.

We have all at some point in our life experienced anxiety. Normally the feeling lasts only for a short time and is caused by some relevant external problem. Sometimes, though it becomes a habitual pattern, influencing our thoughts and behaviour and we can turn to natural remedies to help.

Today Lavender is popular as a spirit lifting, nerve-relaxing, calming fragrance. It is popular in baths, sleep pillows, soaps, perfumes and other aromatic products.

An important relaxing herb, Lavender is used medicinally and frequently for its soothing and relaxing effect upon the nervous system.

Lavender is a mild sedative used for restlessness, nervous exhaustion and sleeping disorders and can be used as a tranquilising herb in the form of tea, tinctures and aromatherapy. A gentle herb with no reported side effects

There are many uses of lavender – the flowers are in fact edible and often added in small amounts to dishes, while lavender-infused honey is a delicious delicacy.

Lavender Essential Oil:

A perennial shrub, native to the Mediterranean, Lavender essential oil is an excellent remedy for promoting healing and preventing infection and scarring.

The flowering spikes can be dried and used internally in a tincture, though the extracted essential oil is still more commonly used as it is more gentle in its action than most others and can be safely applied to the skin as an antiseptic to heal wounds, burns and insect bites.

Placing a drop of lavender essential oil on the edge of the mattress of a teething baby can help calm her or him and simply inhaling the scent of lavender essential oil can relieve stress. A relaxing bath before bed using five to seven drops of lavender essential oil added to a warm bath, alternatively or additionally an aromatherapy atomiser containing lavender oil can be sprayed near the sleeping area to promote a sense of calm.

The essential oil is an invaluable first aid remedy. It is strongly antiseptic, helping to heal burns, wounds and sores. Rubbed onto insect stings, it relieves pain and inflammation, and can be used to treat scabies and headlice.

Massaging a few drops on the temple eases headaches, and five drops added to a bath a night relieves muscle tension, tones the nervous system and encourages sleep.

Common Name: Lavender

Synonym: Lavendula officinalis, Lavandula vera

Family: Lamiaceae                                                                                                     

Parts Used: Flowers

Botanical Characteristics and Habitat:

Aromatic branched perennial evergreen shrub growing to 1m (3ft) when in flower with a woody stem.  Adult leaves are grey-green, young leaves are paler. Flowers are generally lavender or purple coloured, though they have been cultivated in violet, pink or white colours.

Native to France and the Western Mediterranean, lavender is cultivated worldwide for its volatile oil. It has the ability to survive with low water consumption, it does not grow well in continuously damp soil and does best in Mediterranean climates similar to its native habitat, characterised by wet winters and dry summers. It is fairly tolerant of low temperatures, tolerates acid soils but favours neutral to alkaline soils.

History & Folklore:

Lavender became popular as a medicine during the late Middle Ages and in 1620 it was one of the medicinal herbs taken to the New World by the Pilgrims. It was described by the herbalist John Parkinson (1640) as being of “especially good use for all griefs and pains of the head and brain.” In the past lavender was ascribed “powers to alleviate or cure such diverse maladies as bitings of serpents; hysterick fits, distempers of the head, womb or stomach” and others event attested to its ability to “make lions and tigers docile”.

Herbal Actions and Main Therapeutic Uses:

Key Actions: Antispasmodic, Carminative, Antidepressant, Neuroprotective, Antimicrobial, Rubefacient.

This beautiful herb has many uses, culinary, cosmetic and medicinal. It is an effective herb for headaches, especially when they are related to stress. Lavender can be quite effective in the clearing of depression, especially if used in conjunction with other remedies.

As a gentle strengthening tonic of the nervous system, it may be used in states of nervous debility and exhaustion.

It can be used to soothe and promote natural sleep and externally the oil may be used as a stimulating liniment to help ease the aches and pains of rheumatism.

Nervous system: Lavender is well known for its soothing and calming effect and is combined with other sedative herbs to relieve sleeplessness, irritability, headaches and migraine. It also helps to alleviate depression.

Digestion: Like many herbs with a significant volatile oil content, lavender soothes indigestion and colic, and relieves wind and bloating.

Asthma: Lavender’s relaxing effect makes it helpful for some types of asthma, especially where excessive nervousness is a feature.

Dosage ranges and safety issues:

Dry herb – 2-4 g per day / Liquid extract 15 – 30 ml per week (1:2) (Thomsen 2009)

Tincture: take 2-5ml of tincture three times a day.

Infusion to take internally, pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 teaspoonful of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. This can be drunk three times a day. External use: the oil should not be taken internally but can be inhaled, rubbed on the skin or used in baths. (Hoffman 1990)

Cautions: Allergic contact dermatitis has been reported in some patients. Essential oils should be used with caution in children and during lactation.

Contraindications: Contraindicated in cases of known allergy to the plant material (Labiatae family). Essential oil should not be used internally during pregnancy due to emmenagogue properties.

Known Drug Interactions: Lavender may increase or potentiate the CNS depressant effects of sedative-hypnotics; observe patient. May have additive effects when used with anti-depressants; use with caution.

Ecological and Conservation issues:

It is on the IUCN list of threatened Plants status with the category “Least Concern”, despite the plant being collected in the wild it is not thought to be a significant threat. The conservation status of this species has not been assessed in France, Spain or Italy. It is frequently found in cultivation all over Europe and in view of its wide distribution and presumed large overall population and lack of significant threats it is listed as least concern.

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