Everyone who was ever a kid knows Lavender! It’s that purple plant in the garden that your Grandmother and her friends always smelled of. It’s the one your Mum tied up in little bags and put in the clothes drawer. Lavender has been a part of most of our lives, but how to use it as a remedy when we are ill?
It’s probably no surprise that Lavender helps us to relax. It’s used in pillows, as oils and as teas for just that reason, but how does it do this?
If I was to summarise the effects of Lavender, it would be by saying that it has an amazing effect on tension in the mind and this translates into a whole range of remedial actions.
Like Lemon Balm, Lavender is a cooling relaxant (If you remember, I wrote a while back that most of the mint family are warming relaxants). You may see it listed in some places as a stimulant, but I reckon that this is because it promotes the free flow of energy and blood by stimulating peripheral circulation and easing the mind, making us feel more energized in some situations.
It has a great effect on the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system and helps that to relax. I mentioned before that Lavender’s effect was on the mind. Well, (here we get a bit technical) the autonomic nervous system translates unconcious thought into physical action, so if the unconscious is relaxed, the body will be too.
It opens the mind so that its contents can be moved out. I’ve found that exposure to Lavender or the Bach Remedy ‘Crab Apple’ can help people who feel like they need to fast or purge. Both these remedies help people who feel in some way ‘unclean’.
How else can Lavender help ease physical symptoms by relaxing our mind?
Tension headaches and tightness in the neck and shoulders that come from anxiety and stress can be relieved. Nausea and stomach ache from stress. Related too are dizziness and fainting from, exhaustion from too much thinking, ruminating and meditating.
We can use Lavender to help those who are perfectionists, detail oriented but whose perfectionism comes from anxiousness and too much thinking about something. It helps us sleep when our minds are too busy.
Being rich in aromatics, Lavender can help us with gum infections and bad breath, coughs and respiratory congestion. Direct contact with the oil is a well known way to relieve pain (I believe it was the first oil to be ‘discovered’ by modern science and that it gave birth to the field of aromatherapy.
I’ve mentioned that Lavender complements Rosemary in its effect on blood sugar. Lavender improves the conversion of sugar stored in the liver into glucose, giving rise to more energy. Rosemary has an effect more like insulin, reducing blood sugar levels when they are too high.
Lavender also has another relationship to Rosemary, it takes blood away fom the head, while Rosemary sends it there.
Lavender can help us relax, increase our energy through easing our mind and letting it flow. It also gives us energy through its effect on blood sugar, this is why it’s a bit of a contradiction when you read about it in some books, it is a relaxant and a stimulant.
There are various hybrids of Lavender, I find English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) to be my favourite. All of them work though.