The phrase 'lay it out in lavender' basically means cool, relaxed and in control and that is exactly how lavender makes me feel! There is no other flower scent that I enjoy more than lavender...it really does bring a sense of calm and ease and there is something so familiar about it that it just makes me want to smile. It has been used for centuries or at least since the medieval period where it was used in medicinal drugs, perfume, flavourings and soaps, in fact, the word lavender actually comes from the Latin word lavare which means 'to wash'. Not only does it smell amazing but it's therapeutic effect is phenomenal and let me tell you why...
Anxiety, Stress, Sleep & Headaches
Aromatherapy is believed to affect the limbic system which is the area of the brain that is responsible for sleep, mood, sex drive, emotion, hunger, thirst, breathing and memory. The perfume of lavender can also increase our alpha brain waves which are associated with the feeling of being relaxed and calm and it helps to reduce stress hormones in the body. Due to it's nervine (nerve calming) and anti-anxioytic (anxiety inhibiting) effects lavender oil on your pillow or rubbed on your temples may help to relieve headaches and migraines. You can also use it in your bath before bed to help with sleep and anxiety, dab the oil on your temples, use a lavender filled eye pillow or use the lavender leaves to make a calming tea. If you have babies, it might be helpful to burn lavender oil in the house to calm them and help them sleep (it might be too strong to apply to their sensitive skin).
Antiseptic and Anti-inflammatory
Lavender also has potent antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties making it very useful in treating wounds and fungal infections. Apply crushed leaves onto your wounds or fungal infection to increase healing time and also prevent the development of local infection of wounds. As an anti-inflammatory, it is also great added to your bath water to soak sore muscles.
Need a chemical free insect repellent? Use lavender, those little bugs don't dig it! Dab a bit of oil on your wrists, neck and ankles to keep the mosquitos away this summer. You can also use it to treat insect bites...just rub some lavender leaves on your bites.
Polyphenols (compounds found in plants) in lavender have antioxidant properties and help to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut which reduces digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas and abdominal cramping. Stress and anxiety induced digestive complaints can also be alleviated with the calming effect of lavender. Use the leaves in your cooking, make yourself a delicious cup of tea or just start chewing them!
Ladies, this one is for you! Lavender aromatherapy has shown to alleviate premenstrual emotional symptoms and we could all do with a little emotional support around that time! So buy yourself a bunch of lavender for your house, burn some lavender oil, put it in your bath and make yourself a cup of tea or a large batch of comforting lavender shortbread biscuits (see my recipes tab)!
Skin & Hair Health
Add some lavender leaves to a spray bottle of water and spritz your skin throughout the day for it's antioxidant, anti-ageing and calming effects. It is also great to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and acne. Try adding the herb to your shampoo or seek out a lavender based shampoo and conditioner (ensure it is certified and not loaded with chemicals that just smell like lavender) to help heal dandruff and promote hair growth.
Broken Heart Syndrome
Yes this is a real medical condition! It mainly affects postmenopausal women and is a heart condition where changes to cardiac function are triggered by extreme physical or emotional stressors. The symptoms and treatment are very similar to that of a heart attack but should not be confused. Lavender foot-baths are used in treatment for Broken Heart Syndrome to relax and calm the patients and reduce cardiac stress. Even if you are not postmenopausal and your broken heart is relationship induced and not medically diagnosed you can still give yourself a beautiful lavender foot bath...it's worth a try right?
***If you experience symptoms including chest pain or tightness and shortness of breath see you doctor immediately or call 000.
Lavender is also a great addition to food, you can add it to your baking, salad dressings, drinks, meat or vegetable seasoning. It is particularly lovely used with lemon and rosemary. Keep an eye out for some culinary treats on my blog this week :)
**Because lavender is in the same family as mint, if you have allergies to mint you may also experience allergy symptoms with lavender.