Lavender is one of the most-used herbs in today’s cosmetics, fragrances, and aromatherapy circles, and is gaining popularity in culinary application as well. The plant is a rich source of essential oils that can have powerful effects on the human body, as well as one of the most unique and beloved scents in the world.
Thirty-nine plants within the mint family are classified as lavender, the most common being Lavandula angustifolia– the variety from which the color “lavender” is derived. This genus of flowering plants is found in Europe, Africa, the Mediterranean, and parts of Asia, as well as other small corners of the “Old World”. Though none of the plants in the genus are native to North America, several of them can be successfully grown in many parts of the continent.
Lavender is best known for it’s soothing effect, making it a top choice for combating stress, anxiety, restlessness and insomnia. Antioxidants found in lavender can impact the endocrine system, helping to lower the levels of stress hormones in the body. According to OrganicFacts.net, “The natural organic compounds in the leaves and flowers of lavender can be ground between the fingers and then rubbed into the temples. This topical application can soothe the body and mind, relieving anxious thoughts and balancing out mood.”
-If you want to learn about other edible plants nature provides, check out our Edible Plants Guide
In addition to it’s antioxidant properties, lavender is also an incredible anti-inflammatory. Add a few flowers to a hot bath to reduce inflammation and relax sore muscles.
Lavender is also an excellent tool for skin-care. It’s anti-inflammatory properties and powerful antiseptic compounds make it very useful in combatting acne and soothing irritated skin. Steep a few flowers in hot water (as if you were making tea) and let it cool, storing the mixture in a sealed container. Use as a mild- but powerful- face wash for sensitive skin.
The relaxing properties of lavender are good for your insides, too! By reducing blood pressure and easing the tension of blood vessels, lavender can help prevent cardiovascular issues, and lower your risk of stroke and heart attacks.
One of lavender’s most popular applications is in tea-form: simply brew a few fresh flowers in hot water for 10-15 minutes and strain. If you don’t have access to fresh lavender, there are a number of supermarket herbal teas that include lavender, or try a local tea shop (Y’know what- visit the local tea shop anyway; they’re second only to bookstores, in my opinion.)
You can also use lavender essential oils to obtain many of the same benefits. But remember- there are 39 varieties to choose from; as always, be sure to do some research before buying.
**Please note– Lavender is a member of the mint family. If you’re allergic to other varieties of mint, there is a chance you may experience an allergic reaction to lavender as well.
Here is a video from About.com providing some great tips for growing your own lavender in your little garden oasis.