Lavender


Lavender (Lavandula spp.)

Lavender is an amazing plant, it is one of the most well-known and commonly used herbs for stress relief and sleep, but did you know that lavender has been shown to have neuroprotective effects, have benefit in depression, and even help with menopausal symptoms? This fragrant phenom of the plant world has more than 30 species under its banner, ranging from the beautiful English Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia) to the incredibly aromatic French Lavender (Lavandula Stoechas) and is most often used in its essential oil form in a variety of preparations- creams, caplets, aromatherapy, massage oils and bath salts. The good news is research indicates that lavender oil is rapidly absorbed through the skin and into our blood, where it exerts its many medicinal effects. It can also be made into teas, tinctured*, and the herb ingested in capsule form. (1) *Tincturing herbs is one of my favorite preparations that helps botanicals retain their potency over longer periods of time, be very convenient and easy to use, and save you tons of money. With a special method of tincturing, you can extract larger quantities of lavender essential oil into your herbal concoction. The method is quite simple, and I’ll share it with you just because I love spreading this underrated way to get the healing benefits of herbs. Scroll to the end of this article for a complete how to guide on making herbal extracts (tincturing). Traditional Uses of Lavender Lavender is a relaxant herb that is well suited for conditions of tension of the nervous system and supporting a positively calm mood. It has a history of use as an antiseptic herb for burns, wounds and bites of all kinds. It has also been used for migraines, muscle spasms, epilepsy and indigestion associated with stress. (2) It is specific for symptoms of an overactive mind, similar to passionflower, such as anxiety, panic, depression, nervous exhaustion, inability to sleep and overall mental tension. The great 20th century mystic Rudolf Steiner recommended lavender for “negative states of the soul where the astral body grasps the physical body too tightly, resulting in tense muscles and nervous system degeneration. It has benefit in calming a mind that is constantly thinking, so much so that sleep is difficult. (2) Lavender is also particularly useful in people who are perfectionists to the point of stress, those who have depression & anxiety associated with irritable bowel syndrome and people who are exhausted even after constant meditating. Lavender is also a great natural therapy for migraines, and headaches associated with neck & shoulder tension. (2) Lavender is great for overall nervous system balance, stimulating or sedating as needed by the body-hence why it is used for BOTH anxiety and depression, too seemingly opposite conditions. As many know however, they often go along hand in hand and oscillate like a see saw for those of us unfortunate enough to regularly experience them. Dose Up to 10g in hot water to make a tea Up to 4 ml of herbal extract (that’s about 4-5 droppers full) Lavender essential oil diluted in a carrier oil for massage or a few drops of essential oil in water for aromatherapy Research Lavender has research backing its anxiety relieving, sedative, sleep supportive, anti-depressive and neuroprotective effects. It has sedative effects that were comparable to benzodiazepines when tested on rats, just from inhaling the aroma of lavender! Anxiety: A study on over 200 people suffering from generalized anxiety disorder showed improvement in restlessness, insomnia, and general well-being that was as effective as sedative pharmaceuticals. The study was using 80mg/day of lavender essential oil for over a month. (1) Depression: Studies have shown benefit of lavender as a natural treatment for post-partum depression, mood improvement in those with moderate depression and even helped with some side effects of a pharmaceutical antidepressant (the Tricyclic antidepressant Imipramine). (1) Personal Experience Lavender is one of my favorite plants from the mint family, and in fact of all herbs that I use. I have made very strong teas from it and they have a very warming and relaxing effect, that is instantly noticeable from the first whiff of that aromatic plant. I’ve used the essential oil often when doing aromatherapy and have noticed that it brings a peaceful quality to a room, and noticed it helps me gently fall asleep when I placed a lavender filled satchel next to my pillow or even sprinkled some essential oil on my sheets. It is underrated in use as a tea, making a delicious lavender aroma with a nice bitterness to it. I’ve noticed the tea is by far the most apparently calming, and fastest acting. After drinking a big cup of it my eyelids start getting heavy and my body relaxes. The tinctured form is also quite potent, and similar to the tea in how quickly it calms and the amazing fragrance if it is extracted properly. I have made lavender tinctures infused with wildflower honey and they were just splendidly delicious, and the perfect thing to carry around if I needed some chill on the go. Working with lavender plants in the wild, and growing potted plants was wonderful and I always loved taking parts of the plant and rubbing them between my fingers and inhaling that exquisite aroma that only comes from fresh lavender. If I was to only have 10 plants that I kept in my cupboard lavender would certainly be one, from its uses in supporting a positive mood, calming anxiety and its ability to help wound healing and pain applied on the skin, it really is a plant that has finally gotten well deserved recognition. It has a long use in ancient traditions and is a truly noteworthy plant that has kept its presence and even boomed in recent times with the natural health movement. Here’s that section I promised you on how to make a tincture of Lavender, enjoy working with this remarkable plant! *Making an Herbal Extract that’s High in Lavender’s Essential Oils* 1. First you need alcohol: To pull out more of the fat-soluble compounds in Lavender (the essential oils we know and love such as linalyl acetate and linalool) you need at least 60% alcohol to form the base of the extract. How do you get 60% alcohol you may wonder; isn’t most alcohol you can buy at a liquor store 40%? This is true, UNLESS you ask them to bring you out a bottle of high proof alcohol (ex. Everclear) which is nearly 100% alcohol or 200 Proof. It is not available in all states however, if you can get your hands on it this is best for making a tincture, otherwise a vodka, brandy or your favorite liquor will also work. To get to a 60% alcohol you take that high proof alcohol and dilute it with water! 2. How to make 60% alcohol. To simplify the math, you figure out how much liquid you’ll need for the extract- let’s assume we want to have 1 Liter (1000ml) of extraction fluid. Multiple 1000ml by 0.6% and you get 600ml of alcohol needed in the total of 1000ml of fluid, of which 400ml will need to be water. So, with 600ml of high proof alcohol (near 100%) you add that amount to 400ml of water, making 1 L total of which 6/10 is alcohol or 60%). This approach can be used to make any % of alcohol you wish and will allow you to extract out different medicinal compounds. 3. Now take that 60% alcohol and put it aside and gather together dried lavender that you either picked from the wild and dried or bought in bulk for yourself. It is recommended that you make a 1:5 ratio extract with this lavender, meaning you will need 1 part of herb for every 5 parts of the extraction liquid. Parts of herb are measured in GRAMS and liquid is measured in MILLILITERS, so you will need 1 gram of lavender for every 5ml of alcohol. Given that you have 1L of liquid you simply divide that by 5 to get the amount of herb you’ll need- 250 grams of lavender! Depending on how much moisture is in the lavender you may even want to make a 1:8 or 1:10 ratio tincture. 4. Take that 250g and put it into the 1L of 60% alcohol in a closed glass jar (mason jars are excellent for this) and store it in a cool dark place for 2-4 weeks, shaking it up every few days. The potency is determined by how long you allow it to tincture for, the longer you let the alcohol extract out the medicinal components of the lavender the stronger the tincture will be! 5. When you’re ready you strain the lavender/alcohol mixture through a cheesecloth and there you have it, a herbal extract liquid that contains all the goodies of the lavender herb you put in. This can be done for many other healing herbs so have fun! Works Cited: 1) Koulivand PH, Khaleghi Ghadiri M, Gorji A. Lavender and the nervous system. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:681304. doi:10.1155/2013/681304 2) Wood M. The Book of Herbal Wisdom: Using Plants as Medicines. North Atlantic Books. 1997