by Kimberly Seymour
“Lavender: the glory of aromatherapy, a mother queen to pacify and console, a cooling tonic relaxer and rescue remedy, a panacea of amazing amplitude, a multiple healer for the heart, the lungs, the digestive tract, a bestower of tranquility and peace…..” Dr. Malte Hozzel
The amazing Lavender is one of the most versatile of essential oils. It sometimes seems as if there is nothing that Lavender can’t do! Lavender lifts you up when you are tired; it settles you down when you are anxious; it aids sleep; it relaxes the muscles; when used in a massage blend it balances and emphasizes the notes in other oils; it uplifts you when you are feeling down; and it soothes the skin.
Added to all of this, True Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) is one of the safest essential oils, and one that you can put on the skin undiluted; always test patch first to make sure there isn’t a reaction. In fact modern aromatherapy really began when Maurice Gattefosse, a French chemist, used pure Lavender oil on his burned hands after a laboratory explosion, and noticed exceptionally quick and complete healing.
There are so many different types of Lavender, and this can be confusing. So to help you through the maze, I have some Lavender facts that will help you choose the correct lavender for your needs.
The Genus Lavandula: Lavenders cross pollinate to produce seed, and also hybridize between themselves. The seed therefore never runs true to its parent plant, which means that a particular variety grown from seed may, after two or three generations, differ significantly from a plant propagated purely from cuttings. To complicate matters further, or perhaps I should say “to add to the joy of diversity”; the same variety of Lavender will produce essential oil of different quality depending on the soil, sunlight, altitude, latitude, etc.
Different Species: There are many different species of lavender which produce variable essential oils that have very different constituents, qualities and uses. Since we are Aromatherapist or lay people rather than academic botanists or gardeners let’s concern ourselves with those varieties that produce readily available essential oils: True lavender, Spike Lavender, Lavender Stoechas and Lavandin.
True Lavender: (Lavendula angustifolia) is produced mainly in France, Bulgaria and Kashmir. It is native to the mountain areas, and plants grown at higher altitudes are often considered to have the highest therapeutic benefit giving essential oils with higher ester content and a more enchanting aroma. The finest quality oil comes from plants growing in the pure clean air high in Provence, which provides the idyllic soil and climate for this most prized lavender. Renowned for its remarkable therapeutic capabilities, diverse applications, and soft, refined, fresh floral fragrance, Lavender High Altitude has particularly powerful relaxing, soothing, and balancing properties. Some uses for this oil can be: analgesic, antibacterial, anticonvulsive, antidepressant, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, balancing, cardio tonic, emmenagogue, insectifuge, neurotonic, wound healing; arthritis, muscle aches/pain, rheumatism, candida, nail fungus, dry eczema, psoriasis, insect bites, sinusitis, cystitis, bruises, sprains, acne, bronchial infections, flu, cramping, headaches, migraines, anxiety, insomnia, tachycardia, burns, scars, varicose ulcers, PMS, painful/scanty menses, childbirth anxiety/pain, hypertension, debility, melancholy, mood swings.
What is Population Lavender? As mentioned earlier, lavender is grown from seed will, within a few generations, give rise to plants with very different characteristics. Fields of wild lavender will display plants of many different hues: deep purple, blue, pink and white. This is known as “population lavender”. Now if we take one particular plant and propagate it purely from cuttings, we restrict this natural variability and replace it with a plant (and an oil) that is more predictable (in terms of makeup and the yield it gives), but perhaps less complex. Examples of these cloned lavenders are Lavender maillette and Lavender matherone. These are frequently cultivated at lower altitudes.
Spike Lavender: (Lavendula Spica or latifolia) is a different species, mostly used as a support for respiratory and muscle conditions and to relieve the discomfort of insect bites and stings. The plant produces a greater abundance of essential oil. It has stronger anti-infectious properties than True Lavender, with a fragrance which is more penetrating; less floral and more herbaceous and camphoraceous, due to the existence of camphor and 1.8 cineol.
Lavender Stoechas: (Lavendula stoechas) contains higher concentrations of ketones (39% Fenchone and 24% camphor being typical). For this reason it should always be used with caution, and its use is generally within the realms of “medical aromatherapy” and not with pregnant women, babies and young children.
Lavandin: (Lavendula hybrid) is a hybrid plant, a cross between True Lavender and Spike Lavender. Grown from cuttings, not seeds, it is easier to grow than Lavender and produces a higher yield of essential oil. Lavandin and True Lavender have similar therapeutic properties but Lavandin are better suited for respiratory, muscle, and circulation conditions. Their fragrance is less floral and more herbaceous than the True Lavender. Examples of Lavandins are:
Lavandin Grosso: (Lavendula hybrida) Used extensively in the fragrance trade for a huge range of products. Grosso generally has lower levels of camphor and 1, 8-cineol, compared to Abrialis, which gives products a slightly gentler aroma similar to pure Lavender. Antimicrobial. Can be used for most of the purposes that Lavender is used for. Ideal for easing bronchial congestion caused by colds and flu as well as soothing sore airways. Can relieve the soreness associated with many skin conditions, especially when used in creams or lotions. Can reduce stress related palpitations, depressive states, nervousness. Ideal as a gentle relaxant before sleep to reduce insomnia. Often used in massage where one wishes to achieve relaxation without the soporific effects of pure Lavender. Excellent for muscle stiffness in massage or in the bath. Do NOT use for burns. If susceptible to epilepsy, use Lavandin oil only with caution. Avoid during pregnancy.
Lavandin Super: (Lavandula x intermedia) (a cross between Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula latifolia) this oil is fresh, sweet, floral, more herbaceous than lavender with a slightly camphorous quality. The major constituents varies somewhat between the hybrid species but Linalool, Linalyl acetate, Camphor and 1,8-Cineole are generally the constituents composing the largest percentage of these hybrid oils. Some benefits are; flea and tick repellent, antibacterial and tonic to the nervous system, bronchitis, hypotensive, for those suffering deep anguish, for the respiratory, muscular, and circulatory systems. This oil can be used for the following: abscesses, acne, allergies, athlete's foot, boils, bruises, burns, dandruff, dermatitis, earache, eczema, inflammations, insect bites and stings, insect repellent, lice, psoriasis, ringworm, scabies, sores, spots, wounds, lumbago, muscular aches and pains, rheumatism, sprains, asthma, bronchitis, catarrh, halitosis, laryngitis, throat infections, whooping cough,
abdominal cramps, colic, dyspepsia, flatulence, nausea, depression, headache, hypertension, insomnia, migraine, nervous tension and stress related conditions, PMS, sciatica, shock, vertigo, flu, and colds
NOTE: Do not use Lavandin on burns. Instead use the High Altitude Lavender or True Lavender on burns and for other therapeutic purposes.
How to use your Lavender:
Lavender All-Purpose Cleaner
The word lavender comes from the Latin lavar, meaning to wash. Long before the antimicrobial properties of lavender were discovered, it was used in solutions for bathing and housecleaning. Now you can add it to an all-purpose cleaner made from common household ingredients to impart a pleasing aroma and all the disinfectant benefits.
2 tbsp. white vinegar
1 tsp borax powder
¼ cup liquid castile soap
10 drops lavender essential oil
5 drops lemon essential oil or 1 tsp lemon juice
1. Mix the white vinegar and the borax together in a 16-ounce bottle. Fill the bottle ¾ full with hot purified water. Shake well until the borax is dissolved.
2. Add the liquid castile soap and the essential oils to the solution and shake well. Use as you would any other all-purpose cleaner.
Lavender Blends; Inhalers
Lavender is probably the most famous essential oil for relaxation and soothing nerves . . . if not the most famous essential oil hands down! That’s because it’s so safe, and so good for a wide range of issues.
Emotionally, it’s good for “calming the mind, comforting feelings and alleviating fears, while it is uplifting and revives the spirits.” (That’s from Salvatore Battaglia’s excellent book, The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy.) Lavender may be powerful, but it’s also very gentle, and it’s one of the oils I trust the most in blends for children. Here’s an Aromatherapy inhaler for kids (over five years old) who experience anxiety:
Breathe and Be Calm for Children
2 drops Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
3 drops Cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana)
2 drops Tangerine (Citrus reticulata)
Breathe and Be Calm for Big People
3 drops Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
6 drops Juniperberry (Juniperus communis)
6 drops Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)
Kimberly Seymour is a Clinical Aromatherapist & Co-Founder at the Wholistic Aromatics Institute. Visit www.wholisticaromaticsinstitute.com for more information.