Lavender brings to our senses the pleasant sweet scent of an aromatic flower commonly used in fragrances, perfumes, room fresheners, toiletries and the flowers of which are used as components of a bouquet often gifted to people.
It is extremely interesting to know that the name of the plant Lavender originates from the word lavare from the Latin dictionary which directly translates into ‘wash’ because this plant was used very often in public baths as a means to cleanse and keep the body clean as well as purify the soul.
It was also used in the olden days and ancient times as meant to soothe and calm the body and the flowers of Lavender were used extensively for decorative purposes. It was believed to have had aphrodisiac properties and would be used by newly married couples as a means of improving the libido both in the male as well as the female owing to its soothing and calming effect on the mind.
Lavender oil is prepared by crushing the fresh flowers which secrete a sweet smelling and highly aromatic extract.
This extract has to pass through many processes so as to obtain the purest form of the lavender oil which can be made to put to use for various purposes.
Chemically, lavender oil consists of many various compounds, majority of them being extremely and highly volatile in nature.
The major components are namely linalyl acetate, cineole, linalool, nerol, borneol among others. The extract of the lavender plant is also rich in tannin’s and flavinoids.
It is important to note here that these essential components are highly unstable and volatile in nature and thus the oil has to be extracted from freshly obtained leaves as they contain the highest amount of these components and the same diminish as the flower grows older and begins to wilt.
Uses of Lavender
It is interesting to know that in earlier days, the pillows of those who would suffer from sleep disorders would be filled with lavender flowers owing to its aroma which would soothe and calm the mind and bring about a peaceful sleep to the person.
Commercially, lavender is available in various forms depending on the specific use.
It is available in the oil form, as a gel that can be used for bathing purposes, in soaps, tea and in the tincture form.
The field of alternative medicine also finds use of this component in various forms.
Aromatherapy promoted the use of Lavender oil where in the same is inhaled so as to obtain its beneficial soothing effects.
The oil is only meant to be inhaled and not ingested as the same can cause certain complications. The vapors from the oil can be inhaled directly or electrical devices are now available which can heat the oil at a slow temperature and spread the vapors across a wider space.
Herbal modes of medication also make use of the oil or add lavender to lotion or soap form which can be scrubbed or applied locally on the body to treat certain conditions.
The oil is also massaged so as to obtain its beneficial effects on the body.
Homoeopathy, another alternative mode makes used of Lavender in the tincture form where in the `essential oil is extracted using alcohol so as to obtain a mother tincture. This is either ingested or applied externally and is used for a range of symptoms ranging from a local skin infection or dermatitis to chronic cases of sleep disorders or insomnia.
Tea infused with Lavender is also available commonly and the same is consumed widely owing to its calming and soothing effects on the mind.
Lavender has been found to be useful in skin conditions especially dermatitis, eczema, allergic rashes and acne.
It use as an antiseptic and anti inflammatory has also been known and thus finds its use in lotions and creams applied on cuts, bruises and wounds.
Local application of lavender oil on the scalp has been found to nourish the same and help with stimulation and regrowth of hair follicles thus helping treat baldness, clinically known as alopecia.
Owing to its action on calming the central nervous system, it is recommended that Lavender not be taken along with certain conventional medication whose pharmacological action on the same has been well studied and documented. Thus is it advised that Lavender not be taken along with anti anxiety and sedatives such as morphine and its derivatives, diazepam, lorazepam and aplrazolam.
Thus is it essential to use the same under the supervision of a registered medical practitioner.
In certain cases, Lavender is known to have caused local irritation and rashes on the skin in those people who have known allergies or suffer from hyper sensitivity reactions.
Thus we can see how this aromatic flower has found its important place in our daily lifestyle both cosmetically and medically right from the early ancient times till date, the understanding of its components and uses only widening with the advances in modern biochemistry and pharmacology.