Many peoples first foray into aromatherapy comes via a bottle of lavender essential oil, it is the most well-known essential oil in the western world and also the most adulterated. More bottles of lavender are sold in the world each year than what is harvested so be selective about where you purchase from.
In 1910 French chemist and scholar René-Maurice Gattefossé discovered the healing properties of the essential oil. Gattefossé badly burned his hand during an experiment in a perfumery plant and plunged his hand into the nearest tub of liquid, which just happened to be lavender essential oil. He was later amazed at how quickly his burn healed and with very little scarring. This started a fascination with essential oils and inspired him to experiment with them during the First World War on soldiers in the military hospitals
Lavandula angustifolia is the latin name for lavender oil although there are many differ strains including spike lavender and lavandin and it is mainly grown in France and Bulgaria. It has a distinct scent that most people can recognise that is flowery and herbaceaous with a woody edge to it.
It is known as being the most versatile oil in aromatherapy as lavender can be used in treating inflamed skin conditions such as acne, dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis and wounds. It has antiseptic and pain reliving qualities as well as being beneficial for aches and pains. Most commonly it is known for its ability to help people sleep which researchers have put down to its harmonising effect on the nervous system.
Lavender oil has been the focus of many clinical trials and has successfully been used in some hospitals as a massage oil, bring vaporised to help dispel anxiety and as an alternative to orthodox medicine to help patients sleep.
The respiratory system also benefits from lavender oil and is recommended for treatments of colds, coughs, bronchitis and throat infections. It also well used for people suffering with headaches.
Being such a diverse essential oil and having so many properties the famous saying is if in doubt use lavender although we recommend using it in the correct dilutions. Contact an aromatherapist for advise before using essential oils.
Henry, J., et al., Lavender oil for night sedation of people with dementia. The international Journal of Aromatherapy, 6(2): 28-30
Lawless J. The encyclopaedia of essential oils. Element Books Limited, Great Britain, 1992.