Lavender : The Purple Panacea

Lavender is wholly spent with us, for to perfume linen, and the dried flowers to comfort and dry up the moisture of a cold braine(Parkinson)

Lavender, the once popular English garden herb, was used extensively as a perfume, but the versatility of its oil has made it a remedy for ailments.

History

In classical times, lavender was widely used by the Romans and Libyans as a bath perfume. This was probably how it derived its name from the Latin word Lavare, which means "to wash".

In Spain and Portugal, lavender is used to cover the floors of churches and houses on festive occasions, or make bonfires on St John's Day, when evil spirits are said to be abound.

The Arabians made use of lavender flowers as an expectorant and antispasmodic. People in France and Spain used to hang the flowers upside down in a closed bottle in the sunshine to extract the oil for dressing wounds.

Ecology

Lavender is a shrubby plant native to the mountainous regions of the Western Mediterranean. It is widely cultivated in France, England, Italy and even in Norway. Now it is also grown as a perfume plant in Australia. The scent of lavender is light and mild with a floral scent and woody undertones, and its oil is clear with a mild bitter taste. It has fresh and clean attributes that create a pleasant and soothing ambience. The scent is found on most parts of the shrub but the essential oil comes from the flower.

The lavender grows to 1 to 3 feet high with short, irregular stems covered in yellowish-grey barks with numerous straight, slender, broom-like branches. The leaves have the opposite characteristics of being sessile, linear and blunt. The flowers are produced in terminating, blunt spikes from the young shoots, on long stems. The spikes are made up of rings of 6 to 10 flowers. The flowers are short-stalked, purplish-grey, five-toothed and hairy.

Health Notes

The calming effect of lavender works well on suppressing mood swings. Its mild aroma helps soothe anger and relieves mental stress. The sedative effects are ideal to aid sleep and relieve headaches caused by anxiety. The mild characteristic of its aroma creates a balancing effect on the central nervous system and helps reduce depression.

Like the eucalyptus, lavender is also used as an antiseptic and painkiller. It is able to accelerate the healing process of wounds and burns. In addition, it also works as an insect repellant and relieves stings and insect bites. The oil, in cotton wool, when tied to a little bag and hung in a room, is said to keep flies away.

Although not an anti-inflammatory, lavender has healing properties that help promote cell growth especially for the skin and is good for removal of acne, athlete's foot, fungal growth, swellings, scarring and stretch marks.

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