Since I was introduced to the world of essential oils six months ago, I’ve been impressed with the flexibility, usability, and effectiveness of lavender. Previously, I thought it was good for relaxing, especially in the bathtub. But since joining the EO world, I’ve learned it can do so much more than that. The word lavender comes from the Latin word “lavare” (to wash). It is great in a bath–use lavender-infused Epsom salts so that the oil distributes throughout the water. The well-known relaxing effects can lead to decreased blood pressure and sleep quality. It can also be used on burns, scrapes, sunburn, acne, or cold sores. A famous story about the use of lavender on burns is about Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, a French chemist in the early 20th century. He sustained burns on his hands during a laboratory explosion. The hands quickly developed what he described as gas gangrene, an almost universally fatal infection at the time. He applied lavender oil, and healing began the next day. Gattefosse coined the term aromatherapie and wrote the first book with that title in 1937.
Studies as well as anecdotal experience have shown that massaging lavender on the abdomen can relieve menstrual discomfort and cramping. I use lavender in combination with lemon and peppermint diluted in coconut oil as carrier for relief from allergies and nasal congestion. This “allergy bomb” can be applied to the lower part of the back of the neck and over sinuses (be careful with the peppermint–make sure it is diluted enough if you get close to the eyes, and do not get oils in your eyes!). I also dab a cotton swab in the mixture and swirl in each nostril. I have never breathed more clearly! I have heard many times from colleagues, and continue to hear, this combination is effective for relief of allergy symptoms. Just today, a friend told me that she previously relied on antihistamines almost daily, and has not used any since using essential oils.
Scientific studies about essential oils’ effects on clinical problems are relatively rare, but precious when we find them. This week, I came across a study done in an animal model showing that inhalation of lavender essential oil suppresses allergic airway inflammation. The authors determined this by showing lower lung resistance and less peribronchial inflammatory cells in the group that inhaled lavender vs. the control group. While it is an animal model study, it gives credence to our anecdotes and such studies may eventually lead the way to more essential oil clinical trials in humans.
In any case, lavender does indeed seem to be the Swiss army knife of essential oils and if I was stranded on a desert island and could only have one essential oil, I think it would be lavender!
Juno MS et al. Effects of aroma massage on home blood pressure, ambulatory blood pressure, and sleep quality in middle-aged women with hypertension. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2013;2013:403251
Ueno-lio T et al. Lavender essential oil inhalation suppresses allergic airway inflammation and mucous cell hyperplasia in a murine model of asthma. Life Sciences 2014;108:109-115
Dehkordi AR et al. Effect of lavender inhalation on the symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea and the amount of menstrual bleeding: A randomized clinical trial. Complementary Therapies in Med 2014;22:212-219