The relaxing, calming, aromatic properties of lavender flowers have been popular for their cosmetic and curative properties for hundreds of years. Lavender owes part of its popularity not only to its calming, relaxing fragrance, but also the ease with which it can be grown. Planted in a sunny spot in well-drained, sandy soil, lavender will take root and thrive.
Historical Uses of Lavender
The history of this elegant, fragrant flower dates back to Adam and Eve who, legend has it, carried some lavender flowers with them when they were forever banished from the Garden of Eden. It has served many purposes throughout history.
- Early Egyptians used lavender-soaked shrouds to embalm their mummies. The lavender served to keep insects at bay, and helping to preserve the mummies in their pyramids.
- The ancient Greeks used it as a remedy for all manner of diseases and conditions including muscle aches, insomnia and even insanity.
- Lavender was an essential part of the Romans' bathing rituals, to purify the body and soul. In fact, it is the Romans who gave lavender its name, which is derived from the Latin word "Lavare," meaning "to wash" They also used it as a perfume as well as an insect repellent. It was the Romans who introduced the fragrant herb to the English.
- In the Medieval Europe, lavender was used to ward off the plague. During the great plague of the 1600s, a sprig of lavender was fastened to each wrist to protect the wearer form the dreaded Black Death.
- Lavender was used to wash clothes, and clothes were often laid out to dry on lavender bushes. This practice gave washing women the moniker "Lavenders."
- During the First World War, it gained widespread use for its antiseptic properties. Lavender washes were used to bathe soldiers' wounds. Soldiers also had it as an essential in every soldier's burn kit.
Modern-Day Medicinal Uses for Lavender
Lavender is widely used today and is believed to serve many important purposes.
- It has a stimulating effect that helps alleviate depression, mental trauma and nervous exhaustion. It also serves as a nervous system tonic.
- It has sedative properties, and has long been proven to have a relaxing effect on both the mind and body. It is an effective remedy against:
- Sleep disorders like insomnia
- Anxiety and nervous tension
- Stress, tension headaches, and migraines
- Its anti-inflammatory action helps reduce inflammation and ease muscular pain and soreness, joint pains and rheumatism.
- Its anti-microbial and antiseptic properties are effective in fighting infection. Lavender has traditionally been used for a broad variety of skin conditions including:
- Chapped, cracked or irritated skin
- Open wounds, bite and sores
- Eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis
- It is useful for the digestive system, helping with colic, flatulence, nausea, vomiting, indigestion and nervous stomach. It is also used to treat stomach and intestinal infections.
- It is used for conditions affecting the respiratory system, including:
- Coughs, colds and the flu
- Asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia
- Sore throat and laryngitis
Use With Care
As with all natural remedies, it is essential to consult with a licensed health care practitioner before you use lavender as an herbal remedy. This is especially important if you take any sedating medications.