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Lavender: the Swiss Army Knife of essential oils.

Lavender is one of the most used and versatile of all essential oils. As we progress through this article I think you'll understand why I make this statement.

Of course, just as a reminder that every essential oil that I would ever write about or talk about would only be a therapeutic-grade (Grade A, see the May/June issue of COUNTRYSIDE for grade definitions) essential oil. I do not use other oils that are contaminated or adulterated in any way at all.

Because the skin is the largest organ of the body, anything applied topically is absorbed directly into the blood stream. Even when inhaling oils from a bottle, their effects go directly to the brain. So it just does not make sense at all to use an essential oil that is not pure for self-use or for animal use. Why would one choose to apply or inhale essential oils that contain chemicals or solvents by their own choice when they have healthier options?

A quick course in chemistry

Before we get into the details about lavender, I'd like to share something that was written by Dr. David Stewart, PhD.

"Because of the tiny molecular structure of the components of an essential oil, they are extremely concentrated. One drop contains approximately 40 million-trillion molecules. Numerically that is a 4 with 19 zeros after it: 40,000,000,000,000,000,000. We have 100 trillion cells in our bodies, and that's a lot. But one drop of essential oil contains enough molecules to cover every cell in our bodies with 40,000 molecules. Considering that it only takes one molecule of the right kind to open a receptor site and communicate with the DNA to alter cellular function, you can see why even inhaling a small amount of oil vapor can have profound effects on the body, brain, and emotions. Sometimes too many oil molecules overload the receptor sites, and they freeze up without responding at all, when a smaller amount would have been just right. This is why we say that when using oils, "sometimes less is better." Sometimes more is better, too. Knowing the difference is the art of aromatherapy."

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Lavender

(Lavandula angustifolia)

This article is very specifically about the plant that is typically called "true lavender." Let's get some of the details out of the way so we can get into the fun part of learning about lavender.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) Botanical family: Lamiaceae or Labiatae (mint)

Key constituents:

* Linalyl Acetate

* Linalol

The meaning of the word lavender literally means "to be washed" or "to wash." This remarkable plant has been cherished for its unmistakable aroma and its treasured medicinal properties for thousands of years.

Historical data

The earliest civilizations used lavender to shroud the dead, fight insomnia, treat insanity and even common ailments like backache. In the late 17th century it was believed that bunches of lavender fastened to each wrist would protect the individual from the deadly plague.

Around the time of World War I, the French scientist Rene Gattefosse was the first to discover lavender's ability to promote tissue regeneration and speed wound healing when he severely burned his arm in a laboratory accident. Today, lavender is one of the few essential oils to still be listed in the British Pharmacopoeia.

During World War I, lavender was recognized and widely used as an antiseptic. It was also used to treat wounds and burns when traditional medical supplies were running low.

Like many plants, there are a variety of species and acceptable applications. Lavender certainly is no exception to this time-tested rule. Belonging to the mint family, lavender's official origin is from the plant species Lamiaceae. The Latin name for the Lavender genus is Lavandula.

For countless years throughout many different industries, lavender has been used extensively. We all know that it is used in perfumes, health and beauty and even industry.

This is a great opportunity to make the point that not all essential oils and all species of plants are the same, even though they may share a common name. For example, the most commonly used lavender without exception is actually a hybrid lavender known as Lavandin. Lavandin is a cross between two different Lavandula species: Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula latifolia. Essential oil bottles will actually be labeled as lavender when it really contains lavandin.

Note the difference in the key constituents of Lavandula angustifolia (above) and the hybrid lavandin: Lavandin key constituents:

* Linalyl acetate

* Linalol

* Camphor

Lavandin has a significant amount of camphor, which can be useful for some applications but it's wise to know and understand the differences when using either one medicinally. Applying lavandin to a burn will actually cause it to become worse due to the camphor.

Going back to Lavandula angustifolia or what is also commonly known as "true lavender," it is known as an excellent essential oil for healing tissues. Whereas lavandin with its camphor is actually very harmful for use on open wounds or bums.

France currently produces more lavender than any other country. Unfortunately, however, the world's supply of lavender is beginning to diminish at an alarming rate and France currently exports more than 100 times more lavender oil than it actually produces.

How can that be you might be asking yourself, to sell more than what you make of a certain product? Wouldn't all of us who are creating businesses love to find a way to be able to do that?

Perhaps this offers a simple explanation as to why much of the lavender sold by this common name actually represents the more caustic hybrid lavandin. It is used to increase yield and volume. True lavender is often extended with hybrid lavender (lavandin) or even synthetic chemically-based linalol and linalyl acetate.

Medicinal properties and uses

Lavender is a complex oil which creates a broad spectrum of effects in the body. There has been notable research on lavender, all of which offers support and credibility to this miraculous essential oil. Lavender is commonly used in aromatherapy and massage. Its major clinical benefits are believed to be on the central nervous system. Studies which have been conducted on both animals and humans conclude that lavender essential oil is effective for use as a sedative, mood modulator, analgesic (reduced pain), anti-carcinogenic, digestive aid, antimicrobial activity against bacteria, fungi and even insects. Lavender has been reported to be beneficial for allergic responses in the body. It truly is a broad spectrum, efficacious oil with far reaching benefits.

Before listing a few more of its beneficial effects I'd like to interject a true story here regarding allergic responses. I have a dear friend living in the state of Washington who used to suffer every spring from severe seasonal allergies. Once she started using the essential oils, she found she loved lavender so much that she would apply a drop on one wrist every morning and rub her two wrists together so she could smell it all day long.

Well, spring came along two years ago and her husband finally mentioned to her that she had not had any of her normal seasonal allergy symptoms at all. The only thing she could attribute it to was the use of her lavender oil every day. She wrote me an overwhelmingly excited email telling me what had occurred and it made perfect sense to me. Lavender is known as a natural antihistamine. She had been unknowingly working on her body for nearly a year with a natural antihistamine and her response from it was no more suffering of allergies.

Continuing with other properties we find that lavender also is antiseptic, anticoagulant, antidepressant, anti-infectious, antispasmodic, antitoxic, cardiotonic, regenerative, sedative, antifungal, analgesic, antitumoral, anticonvulsant, vasodilating, relaxant, anti-inflammatory.

It can also be used for respiratory infections, high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, skin conditions (perineal repair, acne, eczema, psoriasis, minimizes scarring, stretch marks), insomnia, nervous tension, acne, allergies, burns (cell renewal), cramps (leg), dandruff, diaper rash, flatulence, hair loss, herpes, indigestion, insomnia, lymphatic system drainage, menopausal conditions, mouth abscess, nausea, phlebitis, pre-menstrual conditions, tachycardia, thrush, water retention.

Other possible uses

Lavender is a universal oil that has traditionally been known to balance the body and to work wherever there is a need. "If in doubt, use lavender" has been a wise saying that has existed for years. It may help arthritis, asthmas, balancing body systems, boils, bronchitis, bruises, cold sores, convulsions, earaches, hay fever, relieve headaches, heart (irregularity), hives, hysteria, insect bites (including fire ant bites) and bee stings, infection, influenza, injuries, laryngitis, migraine headaches, mouth abscess, reduce mucus, nervous tension, pineal gland (activates), respiratory function, rheumatism, skin conditions (eczema, psoriasis, rashes), sprains, stress, sunburns (including lips), sunstroke, tension, throat infections, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, whooping cough, wounds, and natural insect repellant.

A quick side-step with a woman's testimony (Beverly in Indiana). She said her daughter was grilling out and the mosquito's were attacking her so she put on some lavender and they stopped bothering her. Beverly has also put lavender on her hands, then rubbed the oil into her cat's fur to help keep the fleas away.

Truly this is just a small sampling of the list lavender has been known to be of help with. But even with all of this (and I tried my best not to repeat things) you might have a better understanding why lavender is considered the Swiss Army Knife of essential oils.

Fragrance influence

Calming, relaxing, and balancing, both physically and emotionally. University researchers in Japan found that diffusing certain aromas in an office environment dramatically improved mental accuracy and concentration. When aromas were diffused during test taking, scores increased by as much as 50 percent. Diffused aromas have been documented to improve concentration and mental acuity.

Application possibilities

Apply 2-4 drops on location, directly inhale, diffuse, or take as a dietary supplement.

Here's a great story and usage: Lynn from Illinois says she started using lavender when her boys got the chicken pox (doctors wanted them to get the shots but she held out till they got the pox). She said they were planning a trip and didn't want her kids to be covered in scabs, so she would put them in a tub with baking soda and lavender, about eight drops per tub and told them to soak in it. Instead of the usual 21 days, they were done and healed (no scabs or marks) in two weeks and their vacation plans were a go!

Another lady, Sharon in Tennessee, says she had picked up ringworm, most likely at a pool. When she first discovered it, she used lavender oil immediately. Within 24 hours, the ringworm was gone.

You see lavender's uses are only limited to your imagination, your needs, and your quick thinking to grab it first to give it a try.

Research results

As a general rule essential oils are concentrated and are very powerful in their action. Consequently, even smaller amounts of a pure, therapeutic grade essential oil can create significant change and outcomes when used properly.

In a study published in 1996, patients in a general hospital were screened both objectively and subjectively for the restfulness of the sleep they achieved at night. Initially, as reported in the study, 73% of all patients experienced a restful night's sleep, however, 90% of those patients were medicated to achieve those results. One drop of essential oil was placed on the top corner of each patient's bed sheet at night prior to sleep. The result was astonishing.

Restful sleep increased to 97% of the patients and the required medication dropped from 90% to just 36% of the patients requiring medication for sleep after one drop of essential oil. Lavender was one of the oils used in that study.

Take a look at this cute story: Bindy, who is a nurse in New York, says she had difficulty staying asleep for the past three years until a few months ago when a friend told her that she applies lavender oil to the bottom of her feet. So Bindy ordered lavender oil, applied it to her feet, and has been sleeping all night every night.

And then she tells about her mother-in-law, who has not slept all night in years. "I gave her a bottle of lavender and she now sleeps all night, but told me that it works so well she doesn't want to get out of bed in the morning."

Even if you do not clearly understand all of the chemistry of essential oils, you can easily access all their extraordinary advantages by doing only one thing-simply use them.

Pure, therapeutic grade lavender oil can be directly inhaled, diffused, applied topically or taken internally as a supplement.

In short, lavender is a multiuse, non-aggressive essential oil that has been applied for centuries to clean, heal, soothe burns, create a calming atmosphere, and sustain sleep and relaxation and so much more. One of the most widely used oils in products purchased for everyday health-care, lavender is a versatile, anti-microbial essential oil which is soothing and healing to the body and soul.

Recipes

Perhaps this is the time to get into some recipes. The first one actually has nothing at all to do with using lavender in food. Instead this is one that can be used for newborns, children, adults, and the aging. Baby Wipes!

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Please forgive me for inserting this hint into the recipe section and especially right before the food part. But this could be very helpful for newborn babies and their mommies. This comes from Jessica who is a Doula in Arizona. "Tell mom one of the best tricks I ever learned is to put a little bit of olive oil on baby's bottom before the first diaper goes on. That way that meconium (baby's first poop, it is like tar!) wipes right off! Repeat the applications with every change until baby has passed all of the meconium, usually two days or so, when baby's poops look like "seedy mustard".

Now this is getting a little personal for me, but I can testify to the effectiveness and soothing capability of these homemade baby wipes. I just recently had to go through that horrible "night before" episode of preparing for a colonoscopy. You know, the ones you hear about where once you go into the bathroom you don't come out till morning! These baby wipes are the absolute most awesome thing that happened to me through the entire preparation for the procedure. So here is the recipe.

Baby wipes

Use a roll of absorbent paper towels and cut in half (do not use a serrated knife as this will shred the paper towels). Remove the inner cardboard core. Find a container with a lid for the roll to fit snugly into. Cut an X or very small opening in the center of the lid. This is to pull the paper towels from the center of the roll through. In fact, get the first one started before the next step. Gently stir together the below ingredients and slowly pour over the towels to allow to absorb. These wipes are awesome and 100% chemical free.
2 tablespoons Kosher V-6 Oil or
olive oil (organic)
1 tablespoon unscented Bath Gel
Base
2-6 drops Lavender essential oil
2 cups warm water


Note: I find the V-6 Oil available from the same company as the essential oil is, much lighter on the skin than olive oil.

Now for the wonderful Lavender Lemonade I mentioned in the May/ June issue of COUNTRYSIDE.
Lavender Lemonade

7 lemons, peeled and juiced
2 limes, peeled and juiced
14 cups water
1-1/2 cups Blue Agave
1-5 drops of lavender oil (taste preference)


Mix all ingredients together and chill. Add more water or Blue Agave, depending on the size and tartness of the fruit.
Lavender Roasted Vegetables
3 red potatoes
5 carrots
1/2 cup whole garlic cloves
1 large white onion, sliced or
2 cups pearl onions, whole
2 cups zucchini, cut in 1/2-inch
slices
3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt to taste
2 teaspoons dried lavender buds or
1-2 drops lavender oil


Preheat oven to 400[degrees]F. Coat potatoes carrots, onions, and garlic with olive oil. If using lavender oil, mix with olive oil before coating. Sprinkle lavender buds or oil and sea salt over vegetables. Roast 25 minutes. Add zucchini and bake an additional 15 minutes.

For other hints and help on knowing how to use essential oils in cooking, please refer back to the July/ August 2010 issue of COUNTRYSIDE.

I love talking about essential oils and natural health care. I can be contacted by phone or by email at GenfleWinds@hotmail.com. My mailing address is: PO Box 8, Guffey, CO 80820, 1-719-689-5651.

Until next time, happy oiling!

Just a quick reminder: I am not a doctor or medical professional so I cannot by law diagnose or prescribe even essential oils to anyone. Information provided here is in no way intended to replace proper medical help.

BY MILLIE TROTH

GUFFEY, COLORADO
COPYRIGHT 2010 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Homestead health
Author:Troth, Millie
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2010
Words:2834
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