"And lavender, whose spikes of azure bloom shall be, ere-while, in arid bundles bound to lurk amidst the labours of her loom, and crown her kerchiefs with mickle rare perfume."
A scent or aroma has the power to stimulate memory and profoundly affect one's mood. It can be more powerful than looking over old photos, having the ability to transport us back in time, re-awakening memories long forgotten.
The scent of spruce floods me with memories of childhood Christmases past; while the aroma of freshly baked bread takes me back to days spent in the kitchen with my mother baking bread. The exotic scent of lavender, being one of my grandmother's favorite scents, is still a favorite of mine today. With all the 'scent-free' zones now, having a chance encounter with someone wearing a perfume or aftershave has become few and far between. However, on those rare occasions that I should cross paths with someone wearing that particular scent, I am immediately taken back in time, to a moment which is very vivid and surreal.
Lavender, derived from the Latin word “lavare” which means “to wash”, is a flowering plant in the mint family which is native to the 'Old World'. It can be found in the Canary Islands, down through southern Europe, and the Mediterranean. Besides being used in gardens as an ornamental plant, lavender is also used as a culinary herb and for the extraction of essential oils.
Flowers of the lavender plant may be blue, violet or lilac in the wild species, occasionally blackish purple or yellowish in color, and are borne in whorls, held on spikes rising above the foliage. The leaf shape is simple in some of the more commonly cultivated species; whereas in others they are toothed in a feather-like arrangement. In most species the leaves are covered in fine hairs, which normally contain the essential oils.
The plant is grown mainly for the production of essential oil of lavender, which has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and was used in hospitals during World War I. The flowers and leaves are used as an herbal medicine, either in the form of lavender oil or as an herbal tea. These extracts are also used as fragrances for bath products. English lavender yields an essential oil with sweet overtones, and can be used in balms, salves, perfumes, cosmetics, and topical applications. Dutch lavender, yields a similar essential oil, but with higher levels of organic compounds, which add a sharper overtone to the fragrance.
The ancient Greeks called lavender nardus or nard, after the Syrian city of Naarda. The Greeks discovered early on that lavender, if crushed and treated correctly, would release a relaxing fume when burned. Lavender was one of the holy herbs used in the biblical temple to prepare the holy essence, and is mentioned in the Song of Solomon.
Lavender essential oil, when diluted with a carrier oil, is commonly used as a relaxant with massage therapy. Products for home use, such as lotions, eye pillows (including lavender flowers or the essential oil itself) and bath oils, etc., are also used. Both the petals and the oil are the most popular ingredients in handmade soap.
Dried lavender flowers and lavender essential oil are also used as a prevention against clothing moths, which do not like the scent.
Benefits of Lavender
• Helps suppress visible effects of aging by reducing the look of pores and fine lines
• Reduces acne outbreaks
• Protects skin from damaging free radicals
• Helps encourage wound healing and soothes inflammation
• Soothes insect bites and stings
Combining lavender oil with other essential oils, such as frankincense or cedarwood giving you a variety of scent options, which can also be used as a perfume.
Sleep Aid and Relaxation:
The following options can be used to aid sleep and relaxation, as well as alleviation related sleep disturbances and anxiety, (and also helps calm the elderly struggling with dementia).
1. Placing a sachet of lavender seeds and flowers in pillows.
2. Diluting 2 to 4 drops of the essential oil in 2 to 3 cups of boiling water, inhaling the vapor by wafting, not directly inhaling steam.
3. Adding flower heads to 2-3 cups of boiling water, again inhaling the vapor by wafting.
4. Drinking a cup of any of the organic lavender tea blends, such as honey-lavender herbal tea or chamomile- lavender tea.
5. Placing 2 to 3 drops of the lavender essential oil in the palms of your hands, and rubbing together and applying directly to the temples, hair, or clothing.
6. Also placing 2 drops of lavender oil into a spray bottle with approximately 1 cup of water (shake to mix and spray the area).
*There are also various essential oil diffusers available for a continual running air purifier.
Stress and Headache Relief:
Combine a drop of lavender oil and a drop of peppermint oil in the palms of your hands, apply directly to the temples.
Bee Stings and Insect Bites:
To reduce redness, swelling and itching, place a drop of lavender oil on the affected area.
*Bunches of lavender will also repel insects.
Minor Cuts and Burns:
Cleanse area, place 2 to 3 drops of lavender oil on the affected area to alleviate pain and redness.
Cold Sores and Chapped Lips:
Add lavender oil to a carrier oil, such as coconut oil and apply to cold sore or chapped lips.
Dandruff or Dry Scalp:
Mix 10 drops of lavender oil with 2 tablespoons olive or coconut oil. Heat in the microwave for about 10 seconds or until it feels warm. Dampen hair and massage oil into your scalp, cover with a shower cap or towel for about an hour, then shampoo.
Alleviate symptoms of hay fever by rubbing a drop of lavender oil between your palms and inhaling deeply.
Acne and Sunburn:
Dilute 1 part lavender oil with 10 parts water, rosewater, or witch hazel and apply to acne or sunburned area.
Eczema or Psoriasis:
Mix a couple of drops of lavender oil with 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil.
Spray lavender oil on your skin and clothes or rub it into your temples to alleviate motion sickness or upset stomach.
*A survey paper on lavender and the nervous system published in 2013 states that, "there is growing evidence suggesting that lavender oil may be an effective medicament in treatment of several neurological disorders."
Health precautions - Lavender is traditionally regarded as a 'safe' oil although it is not recommended for use while pregnant or breast-feeding. If used by young boys, caution should also be used due to possible hormonal effects; and may cause skin irritation.
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