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Why We Love Lavender

If there's one plant that constantly amazes us with its history and multitude of uses, it's lavender. Also known by its genus, Lavandula, this flowering plant is apart of the Lamiaceae, or mint, family and is an ancient remedy. Lavender is native to the Old World, meaning actual record of humans using lavender dates back to ancient times. Ancient Greeks knew lavender as "nárdos," coined from the Syrian city of Naarda. "Nard" is mentioned in Homer's Iliad, as a perfume used by Achilles on the body of Patroclus. The Bible cites it as one of the holy herbs used to make spikenard. Dante Alighieri even references "nard" in the Inferno of his Divine Comedy.

The discovery of lavender's medicinal properties can be accredited to the Romans, who used this plant to scent their baths, beds, clothes, and hair. The Greek physician to the Roman army, Dioscorides, wrote that lavender cleaned external wounds and, if taken internally, would relieve indigestion, sore throats, and headaches. The Romans realized lavender was not only relaxant, but antiseptic, and named it after the Latin word, "lavare," meaning "to wash."

In the 1930s, a French chemist, René-Maurice Gattefossé, made lavender famous for skin healing when he applied the oil to treat a burn, and coined the term "aromatherapy." Lavender was then used by doctors all throughout World War II to heal wounds. Around the same time Marguerite Maury, a French biochemist, developed the aromatherapy massage, applying aromatic plant oils to the skin with massage, which is a service now commonly offered today.

The beauty of lavender not only lies within its physical healing properties, but also in its ability to aid the mind and soul. Asian traditional medicine has used lavender for thousands of years to help the "Shen," or mind, by "cooling" the heart and helping to relax and relieve troubles in the mind that cause tension in the body. We love the importance of mind-body connection in ancient medicinal practices, and lavender is one of those plants that helps to bridge the two worlds.

Used topically, lavender is:

  • antiseptic,

  • anti-inflammatory,

  • and anti-aging.

The inflammation-fighting and disinfectant properties of lavender soothe eczema and dry skin conditions. Topical applications are known to detoxify, calm, and heal skin and reduce redness, blotchy patches, and acne scarring. Lavender can also soothe and heal insect bites, sunburn, cuts, burns, and even acne. To fight aging effects, lavender prevents wrinkles, fine lines, and dark age spots.

Used aromatically, lavender is:

  • anxiolytic,

  • antidepressant,

  • sedative,

  • relaxant,

  • and antihistamine

Lavender lowers blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature, causing positive affects on anxiety and depression. It interacts with neurotransmitter, GABA, to help quiet the brain and nervous system activity, providing relief from migraines, headaches, motion sickness, nervous tension, and emotional stress and reducing nervous exhaustion, restlessness, agitation, anger, and aggression. Lavender treats insomnia and improves overall quality of sleep by increasing time spent in deep, slow-wave sleep. This plant is also beneficial for allergies, soothing symptoms by its ability to calm and reduce inflammation and prevent the enlargement of mucous cells. Lavender aromatherapy is even known to help alleviate PMS symptoms and uplift women who are suffering from postpartum depression!

Used internally, lavender offers: