Although used in small concentrations to flavor food, lavender is cultivated mainly as an ingredient in perfumes or potpourris and for decorations. Some people believe its scent has a calming effect. France is a major producer of lavender products.
Lavender comes from the flowering tops and stalks of Lavandula officinalis and other Lavandula species. Native to the Mediterranean area, lavender is cultivated widely in American gardens for its color and fragrance. Lavandin, a popular variety, is a hybrid of spike lavender and true lavender.
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.
Common doses of lavender
Lavender comes as oils, flowers, and leaves. Some experts recommend the following doses:
- As a tea, steep 1 to 2 teaspoons of the herb in 150 milliliters of hot water for approximately 10 minutes.
- As an oil, place 1 to 4 drops of oil on a sugar cube and take orally.
- As an astringent for external use, add 20 to 100 grams of lavender to 7.7 gallons (20 liters) of water (to avoid too strong a scent).
Uses of lavender
- Muscle strain
- Sharp stabbing pains
- To stimulate the appetite
- Upper abdominal discomfort caused by nervousness
Lavender aromatherapy has become an increasingly popular way to ease anxiety, fatique, and headaches; it can even increase your mental functioning. Besides being inhaled the herb may also be taken orally or be rubbed on the skin to treat such conditions as toothache, loss of appetite and sprains. Adding a touch of lavender oil to your bath can improve your circulation not to mention relieve your tired and achy feet after some marathon shopping at the mall or to un-stress after a bad day at work. The lavender plant does seem to have 1001 uses.
Side effects of lavender
Call your health care practitioner if you experience unusual symptoms when taking lavender. Consuming large doses may cause:
- euphoria, mental dullness, confusion, and drowsiness
- nervous system depression, causing excessive sleepiness or drowsiness, slow breathing, and reduced mental alertness
- skin inflammation
- small pupils
Combining herbs with certain drugs may alter their action or produce unwanted side effects. Don’t use lavender when drinking alcohol or taking drugs that cause sedation, such as:
- benzodiazepines (for instance, Ativan, Dalmane, Halcion, Restoril, or Valium)
- narcotic pain relievers.
Important points to remember
- Don’t take lavender if you’re pregnant or breast-feeding.
- Know that lavender oil is potentially poisonous. Large doses can cause narcotic-like effects. Don’t consume more than 2 drops of the volatile oil.
- Before using lavender as a sleep aid, consider such alternatives as behavior modification, light therapy, and a regular bedtime to combat insomnia. Also be aware that prescription sedative and hypnotic drugs have known risks and benefits, whereas lavender doesn’t.
What the research shows
Although lavender has been used medicinally for centuries, scientific studies haven’t shown its value in treating any disease or condition. Until controlled studies with people are done, medical experts won’t recommend this herb.
Other names for lavender : –
Other names for lavender include aspic, echter lavendel, English lavender (Lavendula angustifolia), esplieg, French lavender, garden lavender, lavanda, lavande commun, lavandin, nardo, Spanish lavender (L. stoechas), spigo, spike lavender, and true lavender.
Products containing lavender are sold under such names as Lavender and Lavender Flowers.