The health benefits of lavender are so profound making it a perfect addition to your home apothecary. Learn all about the medicinal uses of lavender & make yourself a restorative bath soak!
This post is an excerpt from my book The Backyard Herbal Apothecary, published April 2019. Content and photos used with permission from Page Street Publishing.
OTHER COMMON NAMES: English lavender, elf leaf, spikenard
LATIN NAME: Lavandula angustifolia
HERBAL ENERGETICS: cool/dry
THERAPEUTIC ACTIONS: antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, anxiolytic, astringent, carminative, cholagogue, hepatic, hypnotic, insect repellant, nervine, sedative, vulnerary
PARTS USED: flowering tops
Ask me if I have a favorite child, and I will say, “Yes, but it changes with the hour.” Ask me if I have a favorite herb, and I will probably blush and say “lavender” kind of sheepishly. My affinity for this botanical is profound.
There are other herbs. There are other flowers. And then there is lavender. Few other botanicals evoke such as sense of calm, beauty and peace. Whether dotted in a showy perennial border or placed into agricultural rows, lavender in full bloom is an experience to behold. Visually lovely, abuzz with pollinators and brimming with its clean, euphoric aroma, lavender is the fresh-faced beauty of the plant world. It is beloved by all—I don’t trust those who can’t abide a bit of lavender.
Lavender was one of the first herbs that I was determined to grow. In my early teen years, those first seeds planted in flimsy seed starting trays failed miserably, overwatered and squashed by the cat. A few gardens later, I finally started producing those showy plants that I so admired. I can never pass a lavender spike without running my fingers through the foliage and buds. To me, lavender is practically the perfect plant.
Health Benefits of Lavender
Lavender is well known, especially in the aromatherapy field, for its ability to uplift one’s spirits. This herb has a long and storied history of being used to prevent quarrelsome behavior, deter evil from the household and even keep monks and nuns chaste and holy. Much in the way that lavender is associated with cleanliness of our physical places and things, I would suggest that lavender contributes to cleanliness of the mind. It seems to sweep out the mental clutter that contributes to insomnia, lack of concentration, tension headaches and argumentative behavior. Lavender keeps everybody cool, calm and collected.
In another nod to the “cleanliness” of lavender, it is a wellregarded herb for skin and wound care. With antimicrobial and antiseptic action, lavender is well suited to wound sprays and salves, helping to guard against infection and necrotic tissue. Lavender is especially well suited to addressing the discomforts associated with burns. Its cooling anti-inflammatory actions provides soothing relief to sunburns and contact burns. Lavender is also used as an herbal bug repellant deterring lice and mosquitoes. It is a popular addition to skincare routines helping to normalize oil production, decrease redness and calm itchy scalps.
Just as lavender relaxes the mind and calms the skin, this herb soothes tense and spasmodic muscles. Lavender loosens the tight knots produced from overwork and tension, while also soothing menstrual, stomach and bowel cramping. This herb provides lasting relaxation, and it is perfect for clearing the path to a good night’s rest.
Lavender Best Preparations
Both the leaves and flowers of lavender are high in aromatic oils and relaxing constituents. Although flowers are most likely to be seen in commercial preparations, I do not object to the use of leaves gathered during the lavender harvest. Waste not, want not!
Lavender lends itself well to teas and infusions, often combining well with mints or chamomile to offset its somewhat soapy flavor. Tinctures of lavender are especially helpful for internal cramping. Base oils infused with dried lavender for salve making and for massage are most delightful. Lavender essential oil is gentle enough that it can be applied neat (without dilution), although a patch test is suggested. Lavender hydrosol can be misted onto sheets to promote restful sleep or spritzed onto laundry for a sense of cleanliness.
Lavender makes a lovely edible flower when treated with a slight hand. The herb can be infused into sugar or honey, added to baked goods and added to the classic French herbes de Provence. I even infuse a few springs of lavender into my annual blueberry jam.
Safety & Precautions
Lavender is largely considered safe in normal amounts. If you are pregnant, nursing or taking prescription medication, please consult your physician before taking this or any other herb
Enjoy the Health Benefits of Lavender with a Restorative Bath Soak
Restorative Lavender Bath Soak for Tired & Tense Beings
- 3½ cups 840 g Epsom salts
- ½ cup 15 g dried lavender buds
- 2 tbsp 30 ml sweet almond oi
- 20 drops lavender essential oil optional
- Add 1 to 2 cups (215 to 430 g) of the mixture to your bathtub while the water is filling, swirling around to help the mixture dissolve. Soak for at least 10 to 20 minutes.NOTE: Be very careful upon standing, as the tub may be slick from the sweet almond oil. Rinse the tub well after using