The magical properties of Lavender
Lavender is a herb with a rich fragrance which, when one inhales, would feel a sense of sereneness and warmth. This is the exquisite property of Lavender that makes it one of the most sought-after herbs in the world for extracting its oil and aroma. Also, due to its unique colour, Lavender has given birth to a shade of its own, the ‘lavender’.
Where do Lavenders originate?
Primarily, English Lavenders can be geotagged to the French valley where it grows in a beautiful blue and gold. The entire valley looks picturesque, and when the wind blows, the blue and gold plants move gently along with it, and one can get a whiff of the herbal-green aroma of it. Apart from France, it also grows in Spain. Originally a Mediterranean herb, it can also be found in eastern Africa and the south-eastern side of India as well. In Australia, a variety of Lavender is found, but it is marked as a weed and does not find much of a commercial benefit.
What are the uses of Lavender?
Lavender herbs are harvested mainly to extract its essential oil and for further fragrance extraction. It is also used as a culinary item, often used for dressing French cuisines. But commercially, lavenders are used to extract its fragrance for manufacturing soaps, hair oils, shampoos, face creams and other cosmetic items. Because of it’s excellent soothing and calming aroma, it also is heavily used in aromatherapy techniques. But the characteristic nature of Lavender which makes it immensely popular in both commercial cosmetics industry and aromatherapy business is its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. Apart from these, the oil extracted from Lavender has also been proven for its sedative, carminative and anti-depressive properties.
The origin story of Lavender’s therapeutic properties
René-Maurice Gattefossé, a French chemist, was working in his lab when an explosion occurred. This incident had happened in his family business factory, which specialized in the extraction of essential oils from various plants. This explosion that occurred in 1910 would be the defining point in not just his career but the essential oil industry as well. Gattefossé had severely burned his hand as a result of the explosion and in swift action to find relief from his pain, he dipped his hand in a container which he thought had contained water. But it wasn’t water which was present in the container but lavender oil extract. The pain immediately soothed and miraculously, over the course of the next few days, no boils developed. This was unique as what generally happened when a burn was cooled with water was that it immediately developed blisters. But Gattefossé had observed that after dipping his hand in lavender water, no blisters developed. This became the turning point in his career, and he started experimenting with more essential oils and eventually founded a Perfumery journal. He went ahead to make himself a known scholar in the field of natural and synthetic aromatics and is now known as the father of Aromatherapy.
What makes lavender anti-inflammatory?
There are multiple scientific kinds of literature which cite the evidence of Lavender’s therapeutic properties. One such literature provided evidence that the essential oil contained chemical compounds such as 1,8-cineole, borneol and camphor in high concentrations, and thus, these were the compounds that played a direct role in its anti-inflammatory properties. But another interesting point that the literature made was that when used in extremely high concentrations, the therapeutic benefits reduced considerably. Thus, it was suggested that the essential oils be diluted before use to gain the benefits of it.
What makes lavender antiseptic?
Lavender essential oil consists of a few chemical compounds in minor concentrations which exhibit antiseptic properties. One study focused on the anti-microbial effect of lavender essential oil wherein the authors justified that the presence of 2 chemicals named linalool and linalyl acetate aided in the depletion of the total microbial count of disease-causing microorganisms. The study mainly targeted the microbiome of the facial skin and provided evidence that lavender essential oil does have the ability to maintain good skin microbiology.
How is Lavender essential oil obtained?
The science of using essential oils to gain therapeutic benefits is not new. Old scriptures have depicted the use of the aromatherapy techniques by Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and ancient Indians as well. They extracted the oil from the stem and leaf of the plant using water. This age-old technique is now known as water-distillation. In this technique, the parts of the plants are soaked in water and boiled at a high temperature in a sealed container. In one end or side of the container, a long arm would be present which would be connected to a smaller separate container. Under the boiling condition, the essential oils would come out of the plant and would enter the water. Along with the water, the oil would vaporize and then start cooling once it reaches the long arm. As the water and oil mixture cool down, they trickle down the arm and enter the smaller container. The water and oil phase remain separate, and later, the oil is separated from the water phase. This is how the natural oil is extracted even today.
How to use pure Lavender essential oil?
There is one salient rule that must be followed when using any essential oil. It should NOT be used NEAT. The essential oil must always be diluted before use. The dilution should be performed in a carrier oil, for example, coconut oil. It is always recommended to perform a patch test before proceeding.
Patch test: 2-3 drops of the lavender oil should be mixed with coconut oil, and this should be applied to a small section of your forearm. If any redness is not observed for 24-48hrs in that location, you can use lavender oil without the fear of allergic reactions.
Massage oil: To use lavender oil for massage purposes, 1-5 drops of the oil can be added to 1 tsp of coconut or almond oil. This mixture can be directly applied to the skin.
Inhalation: 2-4 drops of lavender essential oil can be poured into hot water, and then the vapours of it can be inhaled. This would help in relaxing your nerves along with alleviating any tension. Alternatively, you can pour two drops of the oil on your pillow before going to sleep.
Bath: This oil can be used while bathing as well. Four drops of this oil should be poured into the bathwater, and after gently mixing the water, you can directly pour the water on to your skin.
All the techniques mentioned above have been proven for helping with skin irritations, mood swings and even aids in better sleep.
Alternatively, you can also use products which contain natural lavender fragrance to gain these benefits as well. Some cosmetic items that contain lavender as a fragrance material include perfumes, deodorants, soaps, shampoos, creams, face mask, aftershave, etc.
Lavender has a bouquet of therapeutic benefits that it has to offer. If used correctly and in the right way, Lavender can help you feel rejuvenated and can help you feel relaxed at the end of your everyday fast life.