by Sara Tipton, Ready Nutrition:
Most of us have already heard of a few of the many benefits of lavender, but its healing properties go way beyond simple aromatherapy. Whether it’s in the form of a tea, an essential oil, or a dried herb for food, lavender is a must for those seeking a healthy way of life naturally.
Lavender’s history can be traced back all the way to ancient Egypt. Did you know that when King Tut’s tomb was opened in 1923, there was said to be a faint scent of lavender that could still be detected after 3,000 years? The Romans also used lavender to fragrance their baths and introduced both the baths and as perfumes.
Lavender is an essential part of many gardens. It’s not only aromatic but beautiful as well making it a treat for the eyes and nose, as well as the body. But how do you know which plant is right for you? There are, after all, several varieties of lavender, so we’ll focus on the three most popular and widely grown varieties, however, there are about 40 different types of lavender.
If you choose to grow lavender, the first step is to choose the right variety for the climate you live in. This will affect the scent of the flowers and any essential oils you make, the flavor of any teas, and the flavor of the foods you use it on, so keep that in mind when making your selection.
- French Lavender (Lavandula dentata) is better for the humid South, where they’re often grown as annuals. Use moderate amounts when cooking as this lavender can overpower a dish. French types do well in climate zones 8-11.
- Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechas) is also better for the humid South, where they’re often grown as annuals. Spanish lavender works well in non-sweet dishes, as it is not as sweet as English lavender. It is abundant in zone 8, working well in warmer climates.
- English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) types are widely grown, thanks to their tolerance for winter moisture and humidity. English types will do well in climate zones 2-24. This is a sweetly fragrant lavender used for perfume and sachets; which is also good for flavoring ice cream, jams, sweeter meat rubs, and pastries.
Lavender Fields Forever located in Jacksonville, Oregon grows a whopping 7 different varieties of lavender. They cultivate white, pink and blue/purple lavender for culinary use, crafting, and essential oil production. Most climates will not be so fortunate to have so many options for lavender plants. But stopping by a place such as Lavender Fields Forever in your area which offers so many varieties may help you decide which type of plant (or plants) is right for you!
All lavender plant varieties will thrive in full sun and well-drained soil; adding organic matter will improve heavy soils. Water plants deeply but infrequently when the soil is almost dry. Once you’ve planted some lavender, start using it in your foods! Cook with it by rubbing it on meats an fish or add some to your jams. You can also dry it for some delicious and calming teas and add it to a bath.
Lavender as a medicine
The medicinal uses for lavender are many. Most already understand that just its fragrance can offer a calm and stress-relieving environment. The aromatherapy benefits are outstanding, but lavender’s use in natural medicine goes much further. Because of its powerful antioxidant, antimicrobial, sedative, calming and antidepressive properties, lavender oil has been used for therapeutic and natural remedies for thousands of years.
Because lavender oil contains such versatile properties and is gentle enough to apply directly to the skin, it can be considered it a must-have oil, especially if you are just getting started with using essential oils for your natural health.
Combat Free Radicals
Lavender is an antioxidant and offers the body natural protection against damaging free radicles, which are often the most dangerous and most common risk factor for every disease that affects Americans today. Free radicals are responsible for shutting down your immune system and can cause unbelievable damage to your body The body’s natural response to free radical damage is to create antioxidant enzymes — especially glutathione, catalase and superoxide dismutase (SOD) — that prevent these free radicals from doing their damage. Unfortunately, your body can actually become deficient in antioxidants if the free radical burden is great enough, which has become relatively common in the United States because of poor diet and a high exposure to toxins. Thankfully, lavender essential oil is a natural antioxidant that works to prevent and reverse disease.
Neurological Disorder Treatments
The neurological benefits of lavender essential oil don’t stop at its ability to treat depression and boost your mood either. Research has also shown that lavender oil serves as a natural treatment for Alzheimer’s disease! Studies conducted on rats show that inhaling lavender essential oil vapor can help to prevent brain oxidative stress and improve cognitive impairment. [1, 2] To reap the benefits at home, diffuse in a high-quality essential oil diffuser directly into the air, add to pulse points such as wrists, neck or temples, or inhale the sent directly from the bottle.