By Hayden Stebbins
Genus and Species: Lavandula spp. (latifolia, angustifolia, stoechas, intermedia)
Common Names: Lavender, English Lavender (L. angustifolia, formerly L. vera and L. spica), French or Spanish Lavender (L. stoechas), Mediterranean Lavender (L. latifolia) (Examine.com, 2017)
Energetics: Relaxing, warming
Properties: Analgesic (anodyne), antifungal, aromatic, relaxant, anxiolytic
Taste: Bitter, aromatic, astringent
Degree of Action: 3rd
Tissue State: Tense, cold, moist
Key Uses: Lavender is a nerve sedative for “headaches, anxiety, insomnia, and depression that comes from constant worry and for ‘high strung, nervous, self-absorbed people who need to relax’ (Easley, 2016e).” Lavender tincture is a powerful digestive bitter and carminative, and is a mild analgesic that “can ease headaches and migraines when taken soon after onset (Easley, 2016e).” Lavender essential oil is a topical analgesic (McDonald, Easley, & Chalmers, 2016). Indications for lavender include when the head droops from fatigue, nervous exhaustion, picky, detailed oriented people with insomnia or IBS, nervous high strung people who are too much “up in their heads,” and for asthma where nervousness is a factor (Easley, 2016d). The tincture is different than the essential oil (as it includes bitter properties) and combines well with rosemary and Holy Basil for stagnant depression from trauma or subclinical PTSD where a person is fixated on an event or trauma where the person is in fog and has difficulty thinking (Thomas Easley, personal communication, February 16, 2017). The essential oil can be used as a sleep aid inhaled before bed, or added to baths an hour before bed (Easley, 2016c).
History: Lavender essential oil was used as a perfume for cloth cleaning (Fenner, 1888b), as an ingredient in a jelly for “sun-burn, tan, chap, (and) chafe,” in lip salve, perfume (Fenner, 1888a), and the dried flowers were put in pillows as a sleep aid and as a part of a “vulnerary spirit” (Fennner, 1888c).
Matthew Wood says that lavender is a burn remedy and Deer medicine, and is used for dogs that get bitten by asps, grows the capillary bed, spreads the blood out and sooths, and that the higher in the mountain it grows, the higher quality the plant medicine (persona communication, January 11, 2017).
Lavender was an Unani Exhilarant which “arouses the vitality in the spiritual heart and inclines the spirit toward joy (Easley, 2016a).”
Externally, Lavendula angustifolia used as a “soothing lotion for the headache of debility and in fevers” and was added to smelling salts for headaches and tendency to faint (Felter, 1922). It was a stimulant and carminative, used to “allay gastric uneasiness and nausea, in flatulent colic, hysteria, nervous debility, general languor and tendency to fainting (Felter, 1922).” “For nervous and weak individuals, who faint easily and are prone to hysterical seizures (Felter, 1922).” It was used as a corrigent and adjuvant for “less agreeable medicines,” and used in Cypripedium by Scudder (Felter, 1922).
Lavender essential oil was used for “nervous languor and headache,” and used for “conditions of nervous debility” and as an adjuvant for other medicines (Wood & Bache, 1849).
“Lavender is the child’s stimulant, and nothing, so far as I am aware, exercises so kind an influence upon the digestive apparatus and the nervous system (Scudder, 1893).”
Clinical Uses: The following studies confirm lavender essential oil’s historical use as an anxiolytic, and also to improve some measurements of cognition elderly with cognitive decline. Aromatherapy with lavender essential oil has been shown to reduce heart rate, blood pressure, measures of anxiety, and elevate measurements of mood and relaxation without sedation. Time and proximity to olfactory organs appear to play a role in the effectiveness of aromatherapy; the further from the nose, the lesser the effect, and exposure times below 20 minutes were less effective than exposure times over. However, some studies did show that essential oil diffusers in rooms were effective as long as ventilation did not interfere with patient exposure to the essential oil.
Internal use of standardized encapsulated lavender essential oil (Silexan) has also been found to have an effect on generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, neurasthenia anxiety-related restlessness and disturbed sleep, and other anxiety related disorders comparable to benzodiazepines and SSRIs without many of the side effects associated with these drugs. There were some events of GI distress though not at rates higher than comparable drugs.
Smelling lavender essential oil soon after the onset of headache or migraine has been shown to decrease duration and severity of the headache or migraine.
Lavender essential oil works as an antifungal mixed with cajeput and thyme and diluted in a fixed oil (Easley, 2016b)