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Lavender

Lavender

Description

Lavender is a hardy perennial in the Lamiaciae, or mint, family. The herb is a Mediterranean native. There are many species of lavendula which vary somewhat in appearance and aromatic quality. English lavender, L. augustifolia, also known as true lavender, is commercially valuable in the perfume industry and is a mainstay of English country gardens. French lavender, L.stoechas, is the species most probably used in Roman times as a scenting agent in washing water . The species L. officinalis is the official species used in medicinal preparations, though all lavenders have medicinal properties in varying degrees.

This fragrant, bushy shrub has been widely cultivated for its essential oil. The tiny, tubular, mauve-blue blossoms grow in whorls of six to ten flowers along square, angular stems and form a terminal spike. These flower spikes stretch upward beyond the 12-18 inch (3.6-5.4 m) height of the shrub, blooming from June to August. The blossoms are well liked by bees and a good source of honey. The needle-like, evergreen, downy leaves are a light, silver-gray. They are lanceolate, opposite, and sessile, and grow from a branched stem. The bark is gray and flaky. The herb thrives in full sun and poor soil. Ancient Greeks and Romans used lavender blossoms to scent bath water, a common use that gave the herb its name, derived from the Latin lavare, meaning to wash.

General use

Lavender is best known and loved for its fragrance. The herb has been used since ancient times in perfumery. As an aromatic plant, lavender lifts the spirits and chases melancholy. Taking just a few whiffs of this sweet-smelling herb is said to dispel dizziness . Traditionally, women in labor clutched sprigs of lavender to bring added courage and strength to the task of childbearing. A decoction of the flower may be used as a feminine douche for leucorrhoea. The dried blossoms, sewn into sachets, may be used to repel moths and to scent clothing, or may be lit like incense to scent a room. Because of its fumigant properties, the herb was hung in the home to repel flies and mosquitoes, and strewn about to sanitize the floors. Lavender essential oil was a component of smelling salts in Victorian times.

The essential oil of certain lavender species has a sedative, antispasmodic, and tranquilizing effect. Lavender has been long valued as a headache remedy. It can be taken in a mild infusion, or can be rubbed on the temples, or sniffed like smelling salts to provide relief from headaches caused by stress . Lavender oil is antiseptic, and has been used as a topical disinfectant for wounds . In high doses, it can kill many common bacteria such as typhoid, diphtheria, streptococcus, and pneumococcus, according to some research. The essential oil has also been used as a folk treatment for the bite of some venomous snakes. When used in hydrotherapy as part of an aromatic, Epsom salt bath, the essential oils of some species will soothe tired nerves and relieve the pain of neuralgia . They are also used topically on burns and have been shown to speed healing. It is also a fine addition to a foot bath for sore feet. Lavender essence makes a pleasant massage oil for kneading sore muscles and joints. Acting internally, lavender's chemical properties increase the flow of bile into the intestines, relieving indigestion . Its carminative properties help expel intestinal gas . Lavender is an adjuvant and may be used in combination with other herbs to make a tonic cordial to strengthen the nervous system.

A 2002 report from Korea showed that aromatherapy massage with lavender oil and tea tree oil on patients undergoing hemodialysis for kidney failure received relief from the itching the treatment often causes.

Preparations

The medicinal properties of lavender are extracted primarily from the oil glands in the leaf and blossom. The plant contains volatile oil, tannins, coumarins, flavonoids, and triterpenoids as active chemical components. These phytochemicals are the plant constituents responsible for the medicinal properties. Lavender's volatile oil is best when extracted from flowers picked before they reach maximum bloom and following a long period of hot and dry temperatures. The flower spikes dry quickly when spread on a mat in an airy place away from direct sun.

Distilled oil: The essential oil of lavender is extracted by steam distillation. Just a few drops of this essential oil are effective for topical applications. Commercial distillations of this essential oil are readily available.

Lavender tea: An infusion of the fresh or dried flowers and leaf can be made by pouring a pint of boiling water over one ounce of the dry leaf and flower, or two ounces fresh herb, in a non-metallic pot. It can be steeped (covered) for about ten minutes, strained and sweetened to taste. It should be drunk while still warm. Lavender tea may be taken throughout the day, a mouthful at a time, or warm, by the cup, up to three cups per day. Lavender works well in combination with other medicinal herbs in infusion.

Lavender oil extract: In a glass container, one ounce of freshly harvested lavender flowers can be combined with 1-1/2 pints of olive oil, sufficient to cover the herb. It should be placed in a sunny windowsill for about three days and shaken daily. After three days, the mixture should be strained through muslin or cheesecloth. More fresh flowers should be added and the process repeated until the oil has the desired aromatic strength. Lavender extract can be safely used internally to treat migraines, and nervous indigestion. A few drops on a sugar cube can speed headache relief. Externally, a small amount of lavender oil, rubbed on sore joints, can relieve rheumatism. The essential oil has also been used to minimize scar tissue when applied to burned skin.

Lavender sachet: Dried lavender blossoms and leaves can be sewn into a small cloth bag to scent linens and deter insects. The bag may be placed beneath the pillow as an aromatherapy.

Lavender vinegar: Fresh leaves and blossoms may be steeped in white vinegar for seven days, then strained and stored in a tightly capped bottle.

Precautions

Lavender has a long history of use as an essential oil and as a mildly sedative tea. When taken in moderation the tea is safe. It is important to note that, as with all essential oils, high or chronic doses of lavender essential oil are toxic to the kidney and liver. Infants are even more easily overdosed than adults.

Interestingly, lavenderís relaxant effects were put to the test in a 2002 study on aromatherapyís effects on improved mental or physical performance. It seems that study subjects who smelled lavender actually did worse on mental tests than those who smelled nothing at all. So those choosing to use lavenderís soothing effects should perhaps choose the timing carefully.

Side effects

No known side effects.

Interactions

As an adjuvant, lavender can enhance the helpful properties of other herbs when used in combination. Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis ) leaves can be combined with lavender as a headache infusion. For cramping, an infusion of lavender and valerian (Valeriana officinalis ) makes a soothing tea. Lavender's pleasant scent works well to cover disagreeable odors of other herbs in medicinal combinations. A tonic cordial can be made by combining fresh rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ) leaves, cinnamon, nutmeg , and sandlewood with the lavender blossoms and steeping the mixture in brandy for about a week.

Resources

BOOKS

Blumenthal, Mark. The Complete German Commission E Monographs, Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines Massachusetts: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998.

Bown, Deni. The Herb Society of America, Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses. New York: D.K. Publications, Inc., 1995

Kowalchik, Claire and Hylton, William H., Editors. Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. Pennsylvania: Rodale Press, 1987

Lust, John B. The Herb Book. New York: Bantam Books, 1974.

Mabey, Richard. The New Age Herbalist. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1998.

McIntyre, Anne. The Medicinal Garden. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1997.

McVicar, Jekka. Herbs For The Home. New York: Penguin Books, 1994.

Peterson, Nocola. Culpeper Guides, Herbs And Health. New York: Seafarer Books, Penguin Books, 1994.

Forsell, Mary. Heirloom Herbs. New York: Villard Books, 1990.

Phillips, Roger and Foy, Nicky. The Random House Book of Herbs. New York: Random House, 1990.

PERIODICALS

Carlson, Mike, et al. "Rosemary on my Mind (Memory Booster)." Menís Fitness (August 2002): 28.

Ro, You-Ja, et al. "The Effects of Aromatherapy on Pruritis in Patients Undergoing Hemodialysis." Dermatology Nursing (August 2002):231-238.

Clare Hanrahan

Teresa G. Odle

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"Lavender." Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lavender

Lavender

Lavender

Definition

Lavender is the shrub-like aromatic plant, Lavandula officinalis, sometimes called Lavandula vera or true lavender.

Purpose

Lavender is a mild sedative and antispasmodic. The essential oil derived from lavender is used in aromatherapy to treat anxiety, difficulty sleeping, nervousness, and restlessness. Other preparations of the plant are taken internally to treat sleep disturbances, stomach complaints, loss of appetite, and as a general tonic.

Description

Lavender is a shrubby evergreen bush that grows to about 3 feet (1 m) tall and 4 feet (1.4 m) in diameter. The plant produces aromatic spiky flowers from June to September. An essential oil used for healing and in perfume is extracted from the flowers just before they open.

Lavender is native to the Mediterranean region and is cultivated in temperate regions across the world. There are many species and subspecies. The preferred lavender for medicinal use is L. officinalis or true lavender. In Europe, lavender has been used as a healing herb for centuries. It was a prominent component of smelling salts popular with women in the late 1800s.

Lavender is used both externally and internally in healing. Externally the essential oil is used in aromatherapy as a relaxant and to improve mood. Aromatherapy can be facilitated through massage, used in the bath, in potpouri jars, and burned in specially-dsigned oil burners. Lavender is also used to treat fatigue , restlessness, nervousness, and difficulty sleeping. Pillows stuffed with lavender have been used as a sleep aid in Europe for many years. Lavender oil applied to the forehead and temples is said to ease headache.

Researchers have isolated the active compounds in lavender. The most important of these is an aromatic volatile oil. Lavender also contains small amounts of coumarins, compounds that dilate (open up) the blood vessels and help control spasms. Some modern scientific research supports the claim that lavender is effective as a mild sedative and a calming agent. In one Japanese study, people exposed to the odor of lavender were found to show less mental stress and more alertness than those not exposed to the fragrance when evaluated by psychological tests. In a peer-reviewed British study, when the sleeping room was perfumed with lavender, elderly nursing home residents with insomnia slept as well as they did when they took sleeping pills and better than they did when they were given neither sleeping pills nor exposed to lavender fragrance.

Other external uses of the essential oil of lavender are as an antiseptic to disinfect wounds. When used on wounds, lavender oil often is combined with other essential oil extracts to enhance its antiseptic and dehydrating properties. Lavender oil added to bathwater is believed to stimulate the circulation.

Taken internally as a tea made from lavender flowers or as a few drops of lavender oil on a sugar cube, this herb is used as a mild sedative and antispasmodic. The German Federal Health Agency's Commission E, established to independently review and evaluate scientific literature and case studies pertaining to medicinal plants, has approved the use of lavender tea or lavender oil on a sugar cube to treat restlessness and insomnia. Despite conflicting scientific claims, this organization has also endorsed the internal use of lavender for stomach upsets, loss of appetite, and excess gas. Animal research confirms that lavender oil has an antispasmodic effect on smooth muscle of the intestine and uterus. These results have not been confirmed in humans.

Recommended dosage

Lavender tea is made by steeping 1 to 2 teaspoons of flowers per cup of boiling water. One cup of tea can be drunk three times a day. Alternatively, 1 to 4 drops of lavender oil can be placed on a sugar cube and eaten once a day. Externally, a few drops of oil can be added to bath water or rubbed on the temples to treat headache. Like any herbal product, the strength of the active ingredients can vary from batch to batch, making it difficult to determine exact dosages.

Precautions

The use of lavender, either alone or in combination with other herbs, is not regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration. Unlike pharmaceuticals, herbal and dietary supplements are not subjected to rigorous scientific testing to prove their claims of safety and effectiveness. The strength of active ingredients varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, and the label may not accurately reflect the contents.

Particular problems with lavender oil revolve around substitution of oil from species of lavender other than Lavandula officinalis, the preferred medicinal lavender. Most often true lavender oil is adulterated with less expensive lavadin oil. Lavadin oil comes from other species of lavender. It has a pleasant lavender odor, but its chemical compositions, and thus its healing actions, are different from true lavender oil. People purchasing lavender oil or tonics containing lavender should be alert to substitutions.

Side effects

When used in the recommended dosage, lavender is not considered harmful. Some people have reported developing contact dermatitis (a rash) when lavender oil is used directly on the skin.

Interactions

There are no studies on interactions of lavender with conventional pharmaceuticals. Traditionally lavender has been used in combination with other herbs such as tea oil and lemon balm without adverse interactions.

Resources

BOOKS

Medical Economics Staff. PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company, 1999.

Peirce, Andrea. The American Pharmaceutical Association Practical Guide to Natural Medicines. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1999.

Weiner, Michael and Janet Weiner. Herbs that Heal. Mill Valley, CA: Quantum Books, 1999.

OTHER

"Lavender" Plants for the Future. 2000 (cited 12 March 2002)

<http://www.comp.leeds.ac.uk/pfaf/database/commonL.html>.

Tish Davidson, A.M.

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"Lavender." Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/psychology/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lavender

lavender

lavender, common name for any plant of the genus Lavandula, herbs or shrubby plants of the family Labiatae (mint family), most of which are native to the Mediterranean region but naturalized elsewhere. The true lavender (L. officinalis) has grayish foliage and small blue or pale purplish flowers (white in one variety). It is popular for herb gardens and is cultivated commercially (chiefly in France and England) or, more commonly, gathered wild (in S Europe) for the fragrant flowers, valued for scenting linens and clothes and as the source of oil of lavender. The oil is distilled for use in perfumery, in toilet preparations (e.g., lavender water). Lavender is sometimes used as a flavoring. Spike lavender (L. latifolia), a broader-leaved, less fragrant species, yields spike-lavender oil, which is also used in perfumery and in varnishes and porcelain painting. Lavender is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Lamiales, family Labiatae.

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lavender

lav·en·der / ˈlavəndər/ • n. 1. a small aromatic evergreen shrub (genus Lavandula) of the mint family, with narrow leaves and bluish-purple flowers. ∎  the flowers and stalks of such a shrub dried and used to give a pleasant smell to clothes and bed linens. ∎  (also lavender oil) a scented oil distilled from lavender flowers. ∎  used in names of similar plants, e.g., sea lavender. ∎ inf. used in reference to effeminacy or homosexuality: he has a touch of lavender. ∎ dated used in reference to refinement or gentility: [as adj.] lavender charm. 2. a pale blue color with a trace of mauve. • v. [tr.] perfume with lavender.

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"lavender." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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lavender

lavender the flowers and stalks of lavender were customarily placed among linen or other clothes as a preservative against moths during storage, and from this comes the phrase lay up in lavender, meaning preserve carefully for future use.
lavender and old lace denoting a gentle and old-fashioned style; originally the title of a novel (1902) by Myrtle Reed, later dramatized; the phrase was reworked in Joseph Kesselring's play Arsenic and Old Lace (1941), featuring two respectable spinster sisters who are given to poisoning their lodgers.
lavender list an informal name for the draft of Harold Wilson's last honours list, supposedly first drawn up by his secretary Marcia Falkender on a sheet of lavender notepaper, and later regarded as having some names of questionable merit.

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lavender

lavender fragrant labiate plant. XV. —AN. lavendre, for *lavendle—medL. lavendula
, also livendula, lavindula, etc.; of uncert. orig.

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lavender

lavenderbidder, consider, Jiddah, kidder, whydah •bewilder, builder, guilder, Hilda, Matilda, St Kilda, Tilda, tilde •Belinda, Cabinda, cinder, Clarinda, Dorinda, hinder, Kinder, Linda, Lucinda, Melinda, tinder •Drogheda • shipbuilder • bodybuilder •coachbuilder • boatbuilder • Candida •spina bifida •calendar, calender •Phillida • cylinder • Phasmida •Andromeda • Mérida • Florida •Cressida • lavender • provender •chider, cider, divider, eider, glider, Guider, Haida, hider, Ida, insider, Oneida, outsider, provider, rider, Ryder, Saida, slider, spider, strider, stridor •Wilder •binder, blinder, finder, grinder, kinda, minder, ringbinder, winder •Fassbinder • spellbinder • highbinder •bookbinder • pathfinder •rangefinder • viewfinder • backslider •paraglider • childminder • outrider •joyrider • roughrider • ringsider •Tynesider • sidewinder

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