Lavandula angustifolia & ssp.: Labiatae
|PLANET: Mercury||ELEMENT: Air|
|TASTE: pungent||VIPAKA: pungent|
|WARMTH: cooling||DOSHAS: V= P- K-|
MERIDIANS: Heart, Pericardium, Liver, Lung, and Large Intestine
There are at least 28 known species of Lavender, with some species multiply named.
The genus name Lavandula is thought to derive from the Latin verb lavare, to wash. Lavender was apparently popular among the Romans as a bath scent.
What is commonly called Lavender or "English Lavender" is Lavandula angustifolia Mill.: the names L. vera DeCandolle, L. officinalis Chaix ex Villars, and L. spica Linne are synonymous. Angustifolia means "narrow leaved", vera means "true", officinalis means "official", and spica means "tufted".
Another species of commercial importance is L. latifolia Villars, or L. Spica DC, called Spike Lavender or Spike, alternatively Broad Leafed Lavender or Portuguese Lavender. Latifolia means "broadleafed" , spica, again, means "tufted".
L. dentata, called Spanish Lavender or French Lavender, is used in the perfume industry. Dentata means "toothed".
There have been a huge number of cultivars created by crossing these three species. Many such cultivars created in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by the perfume industry were sterile and have been allowed to disappear. L. hybrida Reverchon, a hybrid of L. angustifolia and L. latifolia called Lavandin, is extensively cultivated by the perfume industry because it grows extremely well, being more hardy than true Lavender and gives a higher yield of oil per acre: its oil is intermediate in composition and scent to those of its parent species.
Lavender is a bushy, branching shrub, whose lower branches are woody, although the young stems are herbaceous. It grows to a maximum height of three feet. Stems and leaves are covered with fine grey hairs. The evergreen leaves are silvery grey, eight times as long as wide, up to two inches in length, linear, smooth edged, and opposite. The flowers are produced on terminating, wiry blunt spikes 6-8 inches long, and grow in whorls of 6-8 flowers, subtended by short pointed bracts. The calyx is purple-grey, tubular, with thirteen veins and five lobes, one of which is slightly larger than the others. The small purple-blue flowers have four stamens and a tubular corolla with two lips: the upper lip has two lobes and the lower lip three. Examination of the corolla with a hand lens shows a dense covering of stellate hairs and small shiny oil glands. It is most often identified by its fragrant, characteristic odour. Flowers June to September.
Spike Lavender is shorter with broader, spatula-shaped leaves, a more compressed inflorescence, and narrower bracts. It produces three times as much oil, but the oil has a higher content of cineol and camphor, and so is considered less pleasing.
French Lavender has narrower leaves and very small dark flowers, terminated with a tuft of bright leaflets. (Many European writers consider this the most pleasing lavender, although naturally English writers give this honour to angustifolia.)
Lavender is native to Mediterranean countries and naturalised to most of Europe and the southern United States. It grows best in full sun in sandy soil at high altitudes. It is cultivated in temperate areas throughout the world.
Because of its name, Lavender is assumed to have been popular with the Romans as a bath scent, but its use in perfumes may have begun in Phoenicia.
Lavender is perhaps best known for its long history as a simple, accessible, and inexpensive scent, used for centuries in perfumes, soaps, and other toiletries. It was commonly used in the storage of clothes and linens as an insect repellent. It is still used extensively in pot-pourri and sachets , so scenting whole homes. Interestingly, although Lavender is not native to the northwest coast, a local native healing woman I have worked with described the herb as having strong "grandmother energy", meaning comfort, compassion, and the wisdom of long experience.
Another widespread use of lavender is as a major ingredient in most "smelling salts", popular for centuries as a remedy for faintness.
Lavender has a long history as a medicinal herb in Europe. It is mentioned in the thirteenth century Book of the Physicians of Myddvai. Gerard suggested that it be used "for the panting and passion of the hart" and for "them that use to swoune much". In 1568, William Turner wrote the flowers should be "quilted in a cappe and daleye worne for all diseases of the head that come of a cold cause and that comfort the brain very well".
Salmon in 1710 recommended it "against the bitings of mad dogs and other venomous creatures", both taken internally and applied to the wound.
Culpepper said, "Mercury owns the herb, and it carries his effects very potently." He recommends it for "all griefs and pains of the head that proceed of a cold cause, as the apoplexy, falling-sickness, the dropsy... palsies, and often faintings. It strengthens the liver and spleen from obstructions, promotes women's courses, and expels the dead child and afterbirth." "Steeped in wine, helps them to make water that are stopped or are troubled with the wind or colic." He also recommends it for toothache, loss of voice, and "tremblings and passions of the heart."
Myer said in 1918, the flowers are "much used ... as adjuvants to other medicines which they render at the same time more acceptable to the palate and cordial to the stomach. Lavender is an aromatic stimulant and tonic very useful in certain conditions but seldom given in its crude state."
Mrs Grieve described Lavender as aromatic, carminative, and nervine, and agrees that modern uses of the herb are mostly limited to perfumery and flavouring. However, she lists many uses for the oil, which may be used as a "restorative and tonic against faintness, palpitations of a nervous sort, weak giddiness, spasms and colic....It provokes appetite, raises the spirits and dispels flatulence....In hysteria, palsy, and similar disorders of debility and lack of nerve power, Lavender will act as a powerful stimulant." She mentions Compound Tincture of Lavender, a mixture of the oils of Lavender, Rosemary, Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Red Sandalwood, which has been listed in the British Pharmacopoeia for over 200 years, recommended for "falling-sickness, and all cold distempers of the head, womb, stomach and nerves; against the apoplexy, palsy, convulsions, megrim, vertigo, loss of memory, dimness of sight, melancholy, swooning fits, and barrenness."
Thus, in summary, the uses of Lavender in folklore include: sedative, tonic, antispasmodic, stomachic, carminative, cholagogue, diuretic, anodyne, emmenagogue, parturient, stimulant, antiseptic, vulnerary, and antivenom.
It has been used for migraine, nervous headache, epilepsy and other seizures, fainting, neuralgia, dizziness, vertigo, insomnia, depression, exhaustion, hysteria, cardiac palpitations and tachycardia, rheumatism, sore muscles, sprains, flatulence, colic, nausea, vomiting, parturition, toothache, acne, wounds, snakebites, peripheral stimulation in paralysed limbs, hoarseness and loss of voice. It has been used to treat cancer in the breast, liver, and spleen.
Today, Lavender is used extensively to scent various products in the cosmetic industry and to a lesser degree in the pharmaceutical industry; in the food industry, it is used as a insect repellent and as a flavour. All types of lavender oil are used in the perfume industry. Spike is used in veterinary medicine as a sedative8, and to prepare varnishes. The modern therapeutic applications of Lavender are mostly related to the oil, which is considered the most versatile remedy in aromatherapy. There is a lavender essence in the Flower Essence Society (California) Professional Kit.
COSMETICS: All types of lavender are used to scent soaps, creams, detergents, and perfumes. Lavender and French Lavender are preferred for most perfumes, but are often mixed with the less expensive hybrids. Spike is used for soaps, detergents, and cheaper perfumes. Recent research has indicated that coating dentures with wax containing a mixture of lavender, rose and sage produces anti-inflammatory and antiseptic effects.
FOOD: All types of lavender oil are used as flavourings in some fruit flavoured foods such as dairy deserts, gelatins, puddings, and candy. It is sometimes used to flavour black teas. It is a popular addition to salads where it is grown. Linalool has been found to have protective properties in storage of food products. Lavender oil has been found to have ovicidal, antifeedant, antigonadal, oviposition-deterrent and repellent properties against several insect species.
PHYTOTHERAPY: Many modern herbals (Spoerke, Tierra, Willard) do not list lavender. Its primary functions as a carminative tonic, mild sedative and spasmolytic, antidepressant, rubrifacient, and antiseptic can often be filled better by other herbs.
The 25th Edition of the U.S. Pharmacopoeia (1960) listed Lavender Oil as a stimulant and carminative used in cases of nervous languor and headache, and suggested a dose of 0.06 to 0.3 cc. The next edition in 1967 recommended it only as a perfume. It is not in the current edition.
The current British Pharmacopoeia lists Lavender Oil, but gives no recommendations for use.
Hoffman recommends an infusion of the flowers to treat headaches, especially when related to stress, and for treating depression, nervous debility and exhaustion, and insomnia. He recommends the oil as a stimulating liniment to ease the pain of rheumatism.
Weiss also recommends Lavender oil as a mild sedative and cholagogue, and as a rub for neuralgia.
Schauenberg and Paris list the functions of the herb as stimulant, antispasmodic, tonic, carminative, stomachic, diuretic, and sedative.
AROMATHERAPY: Tisserand says "Lavender is generally regarded as the most useful and versatile essence for therapeutic purposes." He attributes its great usefulness to a balance between yin and yang energies. Its sedative nervine properties make it useful in treatment of depression, insomnia, migraine, hysteria, nervous headache, epilepsy, convulsions, and catalepsy. This, with its balancing properties make it useful for treating manic depression. Its sedative and tonic actions on the heart make it useful for palpitations, especially those related to anxiety: it also lowers blood pressure.
It is carminative and stomachic, so useful for colic, nausea, vomiting, flatulence, especially if associated with nervous or emotional problems.
It has a soothing effect on inflammation, so is of use for burns, dermatitis , eczema, psoriasis, boils, rheumatism, wounds, ulcers, blepharitis, conjunctivitis, cystitis, diarrhoea, and laryngitis. In any of these conditions where infection is a factor, its usefulness is enhanced by its antiseptic effect. Lavender oil has been found to inhibit or destroy several pathogenic bacteria (see below). Tisserand uses it to treat bronchitis, leucorrhea, and venereal disease. It is calming to the skin so is useful in skin conditions such as dermatitis, eczema, acne, and psoriasis.
It is both cytophylactic (stimulates growth of skin cells), and cicatrisant (healing to wounds): these properties along with its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory functions make it especially useful for burns and wounds. It neutralises the poisons in most insect, snake and spider bites. It is used as a rinse for alopecia. It is apparently useful for sunstroke, although it is not effective as a sunscreen.
Lavender oil is antispasmodic, so useful in asthma and bronchitis. The antispasmodic action also makes lavender oil useful for menstrual pain. In childbirth it is used to purify the air, and this imparts its calming effect to the mother; it also apparently helps expel afterbirth and makes for speedy delivery without increasing severity of contraction. It is useful during birth as a message oil for back pain. It also releives rheumatic or muscular aches and pains and neuralgia when used in massage.
Valnet24 agrees with the above, adding that lavender oil is also useful as first-aid for animal and snake bites, and useful for treating infestations of lice, scabies, and intestinal parasites. He specifies the concentrations for its antibacterial functions: lavender kills TB at 0.2%, Leoffler's bacillus (diphtheria) at 5%, typhoid and staphylococcus at 4.5%. The vapour can destroy pneumococcus and haemolytic streptococcus in 12 - 24 hours.
Given its higher concentration of camphor, Spike is considered the best of the lavender oils for respiratory problems.
Certainly, if one is interested in aromatherapy, Lavender is one of the first oils to obtain: given its great versatility and usefulness for wounds, burns, and anxiety, I have a bottle in my first aid kit (in the form of Pacific Essences' "Balancer Oil", which is their equivalent of Rescue Remedy mixed with Lavender Oil). It apparently mixes well with most other oils, and in mixtures its effects are enhanced.
It is recommended for people who have active minds and a keen interest in spiritual phenomena: these people tend to absorb a great deal of spiritual energy that they can't process fast enough. Thus they tend to be "high-strung" and suffer from nervous afflictions such as insomnia, headaches, visual problems, and muscle tension in the scalp and neck. Lavender essence works first to soothe and calm, then teaches how to regulate the influx of psychic energy and process it. Thus, the essence helps the person learn to use their great sensitivity in a way that doesn't overtax the physical body.
Thus on a purely energetic level we again see lavender's calming effects on the mind and body.
Lavender flowers consist of 0.5-1.5% volatile oil, 12% tannins, coumarins (coumarin, hihydrocoumarin, herniarin, umbelliferone and its methyl ester), flavonoids (eg. luteolin, genkwanin, apifenin, vitexin, and glucosides of these), and triterpenoids (eg ursolic acid).
The oil is the major medicinal component. It is obtained by steam distillation of the fresh flowers. Lavender oil is generally defined in terms of its ester content: quality oil contains 30-45% esters, primarily l-linalyl acetate (30-40%) and lavandulyl acetate (5%).
The oil of angustifolia is colourless, pale yellow or yellow-green, with an odour similar to the flowers. It has an optical rotation of -5 to -12, Refractive Index 1.457-1.464, is soluble in 4 parts of 70% ethanol, and its density is 0.878-0.892 g/ml.
With the advent of liquid and gas chromatography, a great deal of work has been done in the last thirty years to separate and quantify the contents of oils from the different species of lavender. At least one hundred compounds have been found.
MECHANISM OF ACTION:
Lavender oil most likely exerts its major effects on the body in the way all volatile oils are assumed to work. Molecules of the oil are absorbed in nasal mucus and irritate hair-like scent receptors. These receptors are part of long neurons which terminate in the olfactory area of the brain. This area is closely associated with the limbic system, which regulates responses such as emotion, memory, and sex-drive. The olfactory region is also closely connected to the hypothalamus, which regulates the endocrine system and most vegetative functions. Hence, scent can produce profound emotional and physiological responses.
Numerous experiments have shown measurable decreases in "test animal motility" after exposure to Lavender oil, expressed as a percentage of motility of non-exposed animals. Lavender oil exposure has been found to inhibit convulsions in mice and rats, to enhance the effects of barbiturates and chloral hydrate, and to inhibit the motility-increasing effects of amphetamines and caffeine. This last effect was found to have a direct quantitative relationship to both exposure time to the oil and to concentrations of linalool and linalyl acetate in the blood.
One source found that rats given lavender oil for five days consecutively develop a tolerance to its effect of enhancing barbiturate-induced sedation.
Inhalation of lavender oil in a concentration of 0.1-0.2mg/l has no effect on cholesterol in the blood, but has been found to reduce its content in the aorta and to reduce atherosclerotic plaques in the aorta.
Thus, the sedative and hypnotic effects of lavender oil and some of its major constituents are experimentally supported, and there is tentative evidence that it may also have an angioprotective effect.
From USP XV, 0.1 cc of Lavender oil tid., Lavender Spirit, 2 cc. qid, Compound Lavender Tincture, 2 cc qid.
Infusion: 1 tsp of flowers to 1 cup boiling water, infused 10 min, and taken tid.
In massage oil 2-4% for muscle and joint aches, 1% for inflammatory conditions of the skin.
The Twenty-third Report of Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives stablished an acceptable daily intake for linalool and linalyl acetate of 500 µg per kg body weight.44 (This works out to 0.56 ml per day of angustifolia oil for a 70 kg person.)
External use of Lavender oil may cause dermatitis in susceptible individuals.
USE IN MAGIC: Love, Protection, Sleep, Chastity, Longevity, Peace, Purification, Happiness
-use sachets in clothes closets and drawers to scent clothing to attract love
-use to scent love notes
-protects against cruel treatment by spouse
-burned to produce sleep, rest
-also used in sleep and dream pillows
-scattered in home to promote peace
-used to disperse depression
-used in healing mixtures
-worn to protect against the evil eye
-carried to see ghosts
-added to purification baths
-worn along with rosemary to preserve chastity
-place lavender under your pillow while thinking of a wish. If you dream of that wish, it will come true.
-used in incenses to celebrate Midsummer, when it is said to protect from wandering spirits
-used to invoke Hecate and Saturn
-sacred to Goddesses who love serpents
-used as a magical tonic to make magic permanent
-used to attract money and posessions
-often used at handfastings to bring peace and stability to the relationship
USE IN PERSONAL GROWTH:
-promotes a sense of peace and stability
-promotes freedom from mental and emotional stress
-used as an aid in meditation, both to bring peace and to attract energy of a high vibrational nature
"I look beyond the surface detail to the beauty in all things."