Today’s herb is Lavender… Everyone knows that purple little flower, but do you know all of what it can do?
The fresh, sweet aroma of lavender — whether in the garden, dried, or in a high quality essential oil — has relaxing and uplifting qualities that leave users with a sense of calm and balance, making it one of today’s most popular scents. Lavender is a multi-purpose herb: when dried, the flowers are used in potpourris, sachets, crafting and home decor. Lavender has also been used throughout history for medicinal purposes, to encourage love and passion, and in the preparation of food dishes. Today it is most commonly used in aromatherapy and the perfume industry.
The use of lavender has been recorded for more than 2,500 years. Egyptians, Phoenicians and the people of Arabia used lavender as a perfume — and also for mummification, by wrapping the dead in lavender-dipped shrouds. In ancient Greece, lavender was called “nardus,” “nard,” or “spikenard” (named for the Syrian city of Naarda) and was used as a cure for everything from insomnia and aching backs to insanity.
By Roman times, lavender had already become a prized commodity. Lavender flowers were sold to ancient Romans for 100 denarii per pound — equivalent to a full month’s wage for a farm laborer — and were used to scent the water in Roman baths. In fact, the baths served as the root of the plant’s current name. “Lavender” is derived from the Latin lavare, meaning, “to wash.” Romans also used lavender as a perfume, insect repellent and flavoring. They even added dried lavender to their smoking mixtures.
A number of studies have reported that lavender essential oil may be beneficial in a variety of conditions, including insomnia, alopecia (hair loss), anxiety, stress, and postoperative pain. However, most of these studies have been small. Lavender is also being studied for antibacterial and antiviral properties. Lavender oil is often used in other forms of integrative medicine, such as massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic manipulation.