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The popular herb reduces anxiety, helps you sleep, and soothes your burns.

The ancient Greeks, Romans, and Persians used it its an antiseptic to disinfect their hospitals mad sick rooms. They also added it to their baths and laundry to purify both body and spirit. If you travel to Tibet today, you may be surprised to find it's being used to treat psychoses and insanity.

We know it best as a decorative garden herb that reduces anxiety and improves sleep. It's become one of the most frequently used fragrances in bath and body products. I'm talking about lavender, an herb known as much for its beauty as its perfume. Now it's being used increasingly for its medicinal qualities.

Of about 20 species of lavender, the most studied is Lavandula angustifolia. English lavender. Here are some of its uses.

Relieves fatigue: Spritzing lavender water on your face, or smelling its aroma, can perk you up whether you've just had a hard day or are fatigued from illness. A group of patients with advanced cancer and debilitating fatigue were given oil of lavender to smell. Then they soaked their feet for three minutes in warm water containing lavender oil. Finally, they were given a l0-minute foot rub with lavender-infused massage oil. All of them felt revitalized for up to four hours. Add a few drops of lavender oil to a vegetable oil and massage your hands or feet with it.

Improves concentration: If your job or hobby requires constant concentration, you may want to refresh yourself with lavender. Three-dozen young men were given computer work requiring a great deal of concentration. They worked for an hour in each of five sessions. In between each session they were given half an hour off. During these recesses some were exposed to lavender, some to jasmine, and some to nothing. Those who smelled the lavender had the best concentration. For periods of mental fatigue, try sniffing a little lavender.

Acts its a sedative: Lavender not only relieves fatigue, it can relax you and help you sleep. In Germany, it is a medicinal tea given for nervous stomachs and sleep disorders. Apparently, the people at Traditional Medicinals knew this. Last year, they added Organic Chamomile with Lavender tea to their line. This is a light, delicate tea you may want when you're feeling a bit queasy or would like a warm beverage before bed. Look for it in your health food store or phone Natural Resources (800-747-0390).

Dementia anxiety: Up to 65% of people with dementia become agitated. The most common treatment is to sedate them with drugs. A study published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry suggests that this may not be necessary. People with severe dementia were placed in a room for two hours where diffusers emitted lavender oil fragrance into the air. Sixty percent of the people improved. If smelling lavender can quiet down someone with severe dementia, it should work beautifully with someone with mild to moderate dementia. Try rubbing a drop of lavender essential oil on the hand of someone who is agitated and see what it does.

Antidepressant: In a study of more than four-dozen outpatients with major depression, adding tincture of lavender (20 drops a day) to imiprimine (100 mg a day) made the drug more effective. Lavender may reduce minor to moderate depression even without drug therapy. But don't stop taking antidepressants without your doctor's knowledge Instead, discuss the possibility of using lavender either alone or in conjunction with your medication. Tinctures of lavender can be found in many health food stores, or ordered through HerbPharm (800-348-4372).

Soothes burns: Its antimicrobial and antibacterial activities make lavender oil an excellent choice for cuts, bruises, insect bites, and burns. One study found it had a strong anesthetic activity. Another found that both water and ethanol extracts of lavender reduced inflammation. Consider adding a drop or two of lavender essential oil, or 10 drops of a tincture to a small spray bottle of water and spray on any inflammation or irritation.

Anti-fungal: In a laboratory cell study, lavender oil (2% killed 100% of the yeast Candida albicans in 15 minutes. If you have a yeast overgrowth, or want to ward one off, you may want to add a drop of lavender essential oil to a cup of herb tea and drink it once or twice a day. Or add a few drops of the oil to a douche. Do this in addition to any anti-candida program you're using.

Using lavender

External use: Add one to five drops of essential oil to your bath, massage oil, or aromatherapy diffuser. There are many types of diffusers, but try using an ordinary vaporizer. Put several drops of lavender essential oil in the little depression often used for menthol. You'll soon fill the room with its scent.

Internal use: Make a tea with one to two teaspoons of lavender blossoms or leaves, or put one to four drops of essential oil on a sugar cube or in one teaspoon of honey.

Quality: Only buy lavender products that are organic and say "angustifolia" on them. This assures you of a high-quality product.

Consider growing your own: If you have the space, and you live in a temperate climate, and some lavender. Save the blooms and some of the leaves when you out them back each fall, and you'll have a ready supply of this useful and fragrant herb.

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Title Annotation:Health on a Shoestring
Author:Fuchs, Nan Kathryn
Publication:Women's Health Letter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2006
Previous Article:Natural solutions for a common, annoying, viral infection.
Next Article:Ask Dr. Nan.

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