Lavender Essential Oil is perhaps the most popular essential oil in most aromatherapy clinics and in ordinary homes right now. Everyone knows about lavender and how it can help so many different problems in life!
Lavender has been used throughout history, its ancient origins showing in its name ‘lavender’ deriving from the Latin word ‘lavare’, meaning ‘to wash’. With a history dating back some 2500 years in the Mediterranean, Middle East and India, Lavender essential oil is a celebrity among essential oils. Lavender essential oil was an important part of Ancient Roman bathing rituals thanks to its potent antibacterial properties.
The power of lavender oil was initially discovered by René-Maurice Gattefossé, when, after an explosion in his laboratory he plunged his burnt hand into the nearest container of liquid, which happened to be lavender oil. Gattefossé noted how quickly the pain subsided and how his hand healed with little scarring. He went on to devote his life to the study of Lavender essential oil. During World War I, many soldiers carried lavender oil in their first aid kits, using it on the battlefield for its healing and antiseptic properties.
I read a magazine article some time ago that told me what to do if I could not sleep. Their advice was to ‘sprinkle a few drops of lavender on your pillow before you go to bed’. Having been an aromatherapist for some 20 years now, rather than be glad that aromatherapy was becoming so popular that magazines wrote about it, the article made me angry.
In my world, aromatherapy is a science, so the questions that came into my mind immediately were, how much is a few drops, and which lavender are they talking about?
There are over 500 different types of lavender plants. Some are cloned, some are seeded, some are grown high up in the French mountains and others are grown in Norfolk, England. While all lavender plants contain essential oil, the oil in each plant is different chemically. They all might resemble the lavender aroma, but will not have the same pharmacological effects on the body. For example, if you sprinkle a few drops of spike lavender on the pillow, rather than drop off to sleep, you could be dancing all night! Some lavender oils are better for arthritis, some for asthma, some for burns and skin complaints and some for stress and insomnia.
The lavender oil needed to help promote sleep is True Lavender – Latin name Lavandula angustifolia. This lavender is not usually found in the shops in its original, unadulterated form and so even if you do buy a bottle of lavender with the right name on it, chances are, it will have been adulterated or it could even be a synthetic creation. True Lavender, to be effective, should be steam distilled and put straight into a bottle. Aromatherapists supply this type of essential oil – it is important that the therapist uses good quality essential oils to promote health and harmony in the client. The oil is not being used to freshen the air or polish furniture, but to bring about health and a sense of well-being.
Next we come to the ‘few drops’. Is this 2 drops or 20 drops? With the potency of essential oils, this is an important question indeed. Especially since 2 drops of true lavender will certainly promote sleep, but 20 drops will have the opposite effect! Just as the specification for the lavender oil is important, so is the dosage, especially with children and the elderly or frail.
Essential oils are energy in a bottle. Just the right amount of energy needs to be given to the individual to encourage the needed response. So instead of reading magazines, we should be visiting our local therapists for professional advice. Aromatherapy is more serious and more potent than the modern world would have us believe. While we can buy ‘aromatherapy’ shower gels, shampoos etc, we should realise that these simply refer to the product having a nice smell rather than affecting health.
One of the problems of lavender being so frequently used and widely available in less than organic, therapeutic form, is that members of the public are now developing sensitivities to it, particularly linalool, a component part of synthetic and natural lavender. Because of this it is usually best to do a skin test first or inhale the oil – but making sure the ‘few drops’ is controlled and used appropriately.
Regeneration: Lavender essential oil has been shown to improve blood circulation and promote a youthful complexion. As a cell-regenerating ingredient, it can be used to restore and maintain the epidermis, while its toning effect can help fight signs of aging and leave skin looking fresh and renewed.
Detoxification: Rich in antioxidants, Lavender essential oil helps to protect and promote the skin’s natural barrier as well as drawing out toxins and balancing pH levels for the skin to detox.
Brightening: Thanks to its anti-inflammatory compounds, Lavender essential oil can help improve tone, evenness and restore the skin’s natural luminosity.
Skin conditions: Due to the wonderful chemical mixture of many pharmacological ingredients, lavender can be used to help burns, eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis and many other skin complaints.
Latin name: Lavandula angustifolia
Synonyms: L. vera, L. officinalis
Plant family: Lamiaceae
Extraction: Distillation of the flowering tops
Origin: Lavender essential oil is mostly grown and cultivated in Europe, mainly France
The plant characteristics of Lavender are not to be confused with larger cross-breeds of the lavender family, such as spike or lavandin, as it does not have the same essential oil properties, or appearance, being much smaller and less spectacular. Common to Europe, the flower from this plant yields one of aromatherapy’s favourite essential oils. This hardy herb has a delicate purple-blue flower in spring and summer.
Essential oil of Lavender is a very pale yellow oil with a sweet, floral, warm, fresh aroma. The smell is significantly different to Spike lavender and marginally different to lavandin.
Lavender essential oil is quite rare compared to Spike and Lavandin and is often hard to source.
Traditionally an ancient folk remedy, Lavender essential oil was used to comfort the stomach and the soul. It was also used extensively in the washing of personal clothes to make them smell fresh.
Lavender has a wide range of therapeutic effects. It is analgesic, anti-bacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, sedative, cardiotonic, cicatrisant (healing), emmenagogic and hypotensive. It is best known for its stress-relieving properties, treating headaches, burns, wounds, irregular periods, asthma, eczema, acne, candida, aches and pains and high blood pressure.
Essential oil of Lavender blends well with most other essential oils, but one of my favourite blends is lavender, Eucalyptus Smithii and Lemon, 2:1:1 in ratio.
There are no known contra-indications, but always check the Latin name when buying lavender oil as there are many other types of lavender that are not at all as effective, or that may carry side effects.
The main chemical constituents of Lavender Essential oil include around 40%-50% Alcohols and around the same of Esters. As Lavender oils vary in quality and origin, these figures can vary. For example, Croatian Lavender essential oil can have 35% of esters, while the French varieties can be from 42% to 52% depending on the height the plants are grown.
*Penny Price Aromatherapy has several blends including Lavender essential oil. Three of these products are Nurture Mobility, Nurture Rest and Head Rollerball.
Nurture Mobility Lotion is blended with anti-inflammatory and circulatory Rosemary essential oil, warming Sweet Marjoram essential oil, diuretic and circulatory Juniper essential oil and good all-rounder and pain-relieving Lavender essential oils. Apart from a pure blend for the bath, we also supply a body lotion to maintain the mobility and health of joints and muscles. This is our best-selling Nurture product – it works!
Using this deeply relaxing blend before sleep is peaceful for both body and mind, helping to unwind before going to bed. Blended with Juniper, Lavender, Palmarosa and Geranium essential oils to calm, sedate, relax and melt away the stresses and strains of the day. Use in a vaporiser, or in the lotion blend before bed. use our Rest and Relax bath foam too, to help you really soak away the dramas of the day.
For when you feel stressed and anxious or when your head just feels heavy, this refreshing and cooling blend of 100% natural pure essential oils with a carrier, helps to relieve feelings of tension and pressure. Head is a blend of essential oils which include Chamomile Roman, Lavender, Peppermint and Rosemary to help you keep your cool, melt away that head tension and keep headaches at bay.
Lavender Essential Oil Recipes
*all products available from Penny Price Aromatherapy
Sleepy Bedtime Vaporiser Blend
To stay relaxed and calm, use the recipe below:
In a 10ml dropper bottle use-
5ml Lavender essential oil
2 ml Ho essential oil
2ml Ylang Ylang essential oil
1ml Sandalwood essential oil
Blend all the oils well in the bottle and push in the dropper cap. Use up to 8 drops at a time in a vaporiser. You can also put a few drops on a tissue to inhale deeply before bed, or use 6-8 drops in a warm bath.
For a gentle moisturising cream that will help to regenerate and calm your skin during the day, along with providing moisturise and balance, use the recipe below:
In a 100ml jar and lid use-
84ml Moisture Cream Base
14ml Evening Primrose Oil
10 drops Lavender essential oil
3 drops Neroli essential oil
2 drops Palmarosa essential oil
Blend all the oils well in the jar and apply the lid after cleaning the edges. Use a small amount of cream, massaging into the skin, morning and evening for best effect.
Recharging Facial Spritz Blend
For a beautiful spritz that will help to regenerate your skin during the day, moisturise and balance, use the recipe below:
In a 100ml spray bottle use-
50ml Lavender hydrolat
49ml aloe Vera gel
10 drops Lavender essential oil
3 drops Rose essential oil
2 drops Palmarosa essential oil
Blend all the hydrolat and aloe gel with the oils in the bottle and attach the spray cap. Shake really well until everything is mixed together. Spritz whenever your face feels dry or your skin feels tight.
Relaxing Bath Foam
This is a really relaxing way to end the day that will also help you to reduce your stress and tension levels to prepare you for a good night’s sleep.
In a 100ml bottle with pump top blend the following recipe-
99ml Bath Foam Base
15 drops Lavender essential oil
8 drops Patchouli essential oil
7 drops Rosemary essential oil
Put the bath foam into a small bowl and add the essential oils. Stir really well and then, using a funnel, put the blend into the bottle and apply the lid. This can take some time so be patient! Use a dessert spoonful in each bath and soak for at least 20 minutes.