Essential oils come from the natural aromatic liquids found in plants, trees, and shrubs. The distinctive components that defend a plant against insects, environmental pollutants and disease, and allow it to grow and adapt to its surroundings, make up the plant’s essence. The essence is extracted from the plant’s flowers, leaves, roots, seeds, or peels into a concentrated volatile liquid, most often through steam distillation. They are highly concentrated and more potent than any dried herb. Essential oils will strengthen most holistic programs, including herbal and nutritional supplements.
The best-known healing oil
Lavender essential oil has many wonderful uses. One of the best known healing oils, lavender oil has a chemically complex structure with over 150 active constituents, which explains its effectiveness at helping with everything from insect bites to rheumatism. The botanical name, Lavandula, comes from Latin, lavare, which means “to wash,” probably for its history of use cleansing wounds, as well as washing linens and in personal bathing. It is a known anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antidepressant, antiseptic, antibacterial, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, analgesic, calmative, detoxifier, hypotensive, and sedative.
Among the most versatile of oils, lavender is very effective at soothing, calming, balancing (both mind and body), and revitalizing. It is used through inhalation, massage, bath or shower, humidifier or vaporizer, or added to skin and personal care products. Your female ancestors most likely used lavender water as perfume. It is good for all skin types including sensitive skin, unless the scent puts you off – this seems to be a built-in warning system useful for gauging your compatibility with all the essential oils. Too much can be toxic to any system, so obey your nose and avoid it if you don’t care for the smell.
Lavender oil has a well documented history of effectively treating burns and scalds. It’s pain relieving properties, combined with its antibacterial and antiseptic properties make it an effective wound treatment that stimulates the cells of a wound to regenerate more quickly, and prevent scarring. It is useful for treating headaches, insomnia, fever blisters, acne, anxiety, stress, and depression. Additional uses include:
• Apply lavender oil to insect bites, including bee and wasp stings, to neutralize pain and swelling almost immediately
• Mix with aloe vera to treat sunburns
• A cool compress on the forehead with lavender eases sinus headaches
• Add it to shampoos to prevent dandruff and reduce hair loss
• Lavender in your linen closet repels moths
• Add a few drops to the rinse water to give your laundry a good smell
• It is a great room deodorizer; add to potpourri
• A drop or two on a pillow or pajamas will encourage sleep
• Lavender in bath water will help relax children for bedtime
• Place leaves and flowers in sachets for your underwear drawer
• It can be used to treat urinary tract, bladder, and yeast infections
• Lavender is an effective at-home treatment for athlete’s foot and other fungal infections
• It eases coughs and colds, and reduces fever
• Lavender can be used to treat animals for fleas
• It is an effective treatment for head lice
• Lavender stimulates growth of healthy new cells
• Add a few drops of oil to unscented lotion or make your own perfume water for a nice, clean personal scent
• Lavender is useful in easing motion sickness and high blood pressure
• A couple drops on a cotton ball in the bottom of a trash can or diaper pail helps neutralize odors
• Add a few drops to a carrier oil – something in your kitchen will probably work, such as olive or almond – for a massage of muscles or joints
Lavender also combines well with several other oils to make nice blends, which extends its usefulness. For example, mix with grapefruit or eucalyptus for insect repellent.
Lavender, the plant and its oil, has been used continuously for thousands of years and is native to the Mediterranean. There are several varieties, and they grow at varying altitudes. The finest, which is for medicinal use, grows at higher altitudes, making it more difficult to cultivate, which in turn makes it more expensive. The more common and available lavender is best for most users and uses. For around $15 you can have a great addition to your at-home health cabinet. As you only need a drop or two for most uses it will last a long time. For access to the plant itself, lavender is widely grown today and there are many ‘pick your own’ farms here in the U.S. There are probably plants for sale at your local nursery if you’d like to grow your own.
Rules for use
Essential oils should not be applied directly to the skin in their concentrated, undiluted form. They are not for internal use, unless under the care of a qualified practitioner. Avoid contact with eyes and mucous membranes. Keep out of reach of children and pets. Always store oils tightly closed in a cool, dark place as they are sensitive to heat and light. If they are in dark glass bottles, they should keep for a long time if stored properly. Do not use in conjunction with flower essences or homeopathy without guidance. Several oils should be avoided during the first trimesters of pregnancy and by those with conditions such as high blood pressure or epilepsy, again, unless under the care of a qualified aromatherapist. Sensitivity or even allergy to essential oils is possible, so trust your instincts – and your nose.
Essential oils are powerful, ancient medicine. Today, they are also readily available in less volatile varieties for ease of use by laypeople for topical and everyday purposes. There are lots of recipes online, or pick up a good book on essential oils. You’ll probably save yourself some money and some exposure to the chemicals in most personal care products and topical treatments.