My most recent travels took me to the charming Provence Region of France. Alluring images of lavender fields occupied my mind long before my journey began. Just imagining their rich color, beauty, and aroma had a calming effect on my nervous system as I pushed through the last few months of my rewarding yet stressful job.
A little history: Lavender, known as the soul of Provence belongs to the Lamiaceae, a botanical family that comprises several well-known aromatic plants such as thyme, savory, salvia and surprisingly mint. The first plants cultivated in Provence came from Persia and were later classified by the Greeks as “the precious plant”. The best time to see Lavender in Provence is between late June and early August, when it is harvested. Lavender is regularly used in beauty products and to spice up local cuisine.
Aside from its incredible fragrance, Lavender oil is known for its anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antidepressant, antiseptic, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties. It can be used for a number of ailments such as sinus congestion, headaches, and muscle pain. Insomnia, stress, and anxiety are some of the more common uses of Lavender.
Insomnia- Lavender has a calming effect on the mind and can help with deep relaxation. Researchers have found that lavender increased slow-wave sleep, the very deep slumber in which the heartbeat slows and muscles relax.
How to use? Dried herbs can be boiled to make in to a tea along with chamomile at bedtime. Allow herbs to seep for 5-10 minutes before enjoying this relaxing beverage. Essential oil of Lavender can be used in an aromatherapy diffuser or you can try adding a few drops on a tissue under your pillow. I have a sachet of Lavender next to my bed which has helped me get over jetlag!
Anxiety and Stress – In clinical trials, Lavender oil aromatherapy has been shown to be effective in the management of stress and anxiety. Clinical Research has shown taking a specific capsule containing Lavender oil daily for 8-10 wks improved anxiety and sleep scores in those with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It was also found that Lavender extract can be as effective as low dosage benzodiazepines for those with attenuating anxiety.
How to use essential oil of Lavender? The essential oil of Lavender can be applied to any base oil such as olive, jojoba, coconut, or almond and can be used for massage. Adding 1-2 drops to a hot bath is another way to get the stress relieving benefits as Lavender oil also aids in muscle relaxation. Bath salts containing organic lavender are easily found online or in health food stores. I soak in lavender bath salts a few times a week right before bed and watch my stress melt away. During a particularly stressful or anxious moment, try smelling Lavender oil directly or adding a few drops to boiling water and steaming. Practitioners of aromatherapy believe that fragrances in the oils stimulate nerves in the nose which then sends impulses to the part of the brain that controls memory and emotion.
*When purchasing store bought Lavender oil, it is essential to make sure it is labeled Certified Organic as there are many synthetic lavender products on the market which can cause allergies. Growing Lavender at home is also another wonderful option!