Lavender Essential Oil: A Must-Have For Every Natural Medicine Chest | Herbal Academy | Learn all about lavender essential oil and how to use it safely in your home and for your family's health.
7 Sep 2016

Lavender Essential Oil: A Must-Have For Every Natural Medicine Chest

The lavender essential oil botanical family “Lamiaceae” is prolific in its production of aromatic and medicinal plants. One of its most famous members is lavender essential oil (Lavandula angustifolia), one of the most widely researched and commonly used essential oils in our modern pharmacopeia. It is so useful, in fact, that it is often called the “Swiss Army Knife of Essential Oils.” It would take a small book to describe all that is currently known about this precious oil, so this post will only hit some of the highlights for its helpfulness and use in everyday life.

Lavender Essential Oil Synergy

Lavender essential oil (Lavandula angustifolia) falls into a special category of essential oil chemistry.

In this group, oils demonstrate certain characteristics attributed to the beautiful synergy between monoterpenol constituents and ester constituents. In lavender, the primary constituents are linalool, a monoterpenol, and linalyl acetate, an ester. Other oils with this synergy are bergamot mint (Mentha citrata), linaloe berry (Bursera delpechiana), petitgrain (Bigarade) (Citrus aurantium var. amara) , and neroli/petitgrain co-distill (Citrus aurantium var. amara).

Lavender Essential Oil: A Must-Have For Every Natural Medicine Chest | Herbal Academy | Learn all about lavender essential oil and how to use it safely in your home and for your family's health.

Lavender Essential Oil Safety Notes

Lavender is one of the safest essential oils, yet good safety practices are still necessary when using this powerful oil.  So often when we think of something as being “relatively” safe, we forget the word “relatively,” and we also forget just how powerfully effective that oil can still be. Lavender essential oil should still be diluted appropriately for topical use. Linalool oxidizes easily, so lavender essential oil bottles should be kept closed, in a cool location, and away from direct light. Oxidized lavender has a greater risk of being sensitizing and irritating to the skin.

Lavandula angustifolia is one of the first essential oils that can be used with young children over the age of two years. Use it in very low dilutions, up to 1%, according to the child’s age. Lavender hydrolat is quite safe to use with all young children.

Although lavender is powerful, it does not replace emergency care in a serious situation. It may be helpful to use lavender in some cases while waiting for emergency care, but even then, do not use when the essential oil’s actions may mask important symptoms (i.e., in cases of head injury).

Lavender Essential Oil’s Calming Reputation

Lavender is well-known for its ability to calm and address anxiety. For “anxiety,” people often think of the clinical definition, causing some to think, “that does not apply to me, I do not suffer from anxiety.” Lavender helps in many different situations (e.g. nausea, pain, concentration issues, performance anxiety, breathlessness, stress, seizures, allergy attacks…), calming and soothing the mind, thereby often incidentally addressing the primary, obvious issue. In some cases using lavender may address both the emotional and physical issues. Try inhaling lavender aroma the next time you receive a vaccination or have a blood draw, both during and after the event (Kim, et al., 2011). 

For all suggestions below, unless otherwise noted, lavender essential oil and any blends mentioned should be diluted appropriately for the situation before topical use. Inhalation is often faster-acting and more powerfully effective than topical use for many of the symptoms for which lavender is recommended.

Lavender Essential Oil First Aid Uses

Symptom Inhalation Topical Blending suggestion Reference
Headache X X Combine with Ocimum basilicum ct. linalool Sasannejad et al., 2012
General pain X X Equal parts with Rosmarinus officinalis ct. 1,8 cineole
“Hay fever” X Equal parts with Citrus limon and Mentha x piperita.  Or 2 parts lavender + 1 part Citrus sinensis + 1 part Laurus nobilis.
Bug bites & stings X Lavender hydrolat can be used for young children. Lavender essential oil can be appropriately diluted for on-going application to the bite or sting site until discomfort abates.
First-degree burns (including sunburn) X Use aloe vera gel as a carrier. Hydrolat sprays work well. Combine with Calendula officinalis or Boswellia spp. hydrolats.
Menstrual cramps X X  2% dilution for abdominal massage. Also blends well with Salvia sclarea, Chamaemelum nobile, Citrus bergamia, and Origanum marjorana. Raisi Dehkordi, et al., 2014; Bakhtshirin, et al., 2015
Occasional sleeplessness X 1 drop on the pillowcase. Can also put 1 drop on travel pillow to help with sleep while traveling.
Nasal congestion X Combine with other respiratory essential oils as well as Citrus sinensis. DeRapper et al., 2013
Scrapes & scratches X especially lavender hydrolat Combine with aloe vera gel and skin-healing hydrolats for a pain relieving and healing supportive spray.
Irritated skin (from hair removal, eczema, itching, sensitivity) X Lavender hydrolat alone or in combination with other hydrolats.
Mouth ulcers X Altaei, 2012
Antimicrobial action for wound healing, boils, and abscesses X Combine with Citrus sinensis DeRapper et al., 2013
Athlete’s foot X Combine with Melaleuca alternifolia Cassella et al., 2002
Candida albicans infection X Combine with Cupressus sempervirens or Litsea cubeba.

DeRapper et al., 2013

See Buckle, 2015 regarding vaginal yeast infection

Muscle soreness or injury X Combine with other anti-inflammatory oils.
Smooth muscle cramping (e.g., digestive, respiratory) X X
Shock X Combine with Chamaemelum nobile.
Jet lag X X Especially lavender hydrolat, which can be used as a cooling spritz. Rose, 1999
Teething X Price & Parr, 1996
Bruising X Combine with herbal infused oil of Calendula officinalis, Hypericum perforatum, and Arnica montana. Price & Parr, 1996
Rash or other itchy skin X Lavender hydrolat spray is also very effective.

Lavender Essential Oil: A Must-Have For Every Natural Medicine Chest | Herbal Academy | Learn all about lavender essential oil and how to use it safely in your home and for your family's health.

Other Uses For Lavender Essential Oil

Alzheimers and dementia: used as part of an overall aromatherapy treatment (Daiki et al.,  2009).

Pregnancy: stress, anxiety, headaches, sleeplessness, hypertension, pre-eclampsia, cold and flu, sinus congestion, backache, constipation, labor pain relief, and postnatal wound healing and depression reduction (Tiran, 2012, Tiran, 2016).

Diaper rash: Lavender hydrolat can be used on a baby’s bottom to prevent or treat diaper rash (Catty, 2001).

Traditional Chinese Medicine 

Used for cooling to hot conditions, such as inflammation, spasm, pain, and infection. Cools an overheated liver and stabilizes the heart (Mojay, 1997).

Emotional Use

  • Inhalation is often the most effective way to support the emotions using essential oils.
  • For calm composure: “An aromatic “Rescue Remedy, it works to calm any strong emotions that threaten to overwhelm the mind” (Mojay, 1997).
  • Anxiety, worry: Excellent in combination with Citrus reticulata or Citrus bergamia. 
  • Confusion, frustration, anger, hysteria. 
  • Mood swings, emotional roller coaster.
  • Stress. 
  • Psychological shock of injury (Worwood, 1991). 
  • Children: Use lavender hydrolat in bath water to help soothe an overwrought child. It can also be used as a linen spray, both at home and when traveling, to help a child feel more secure. Monster-B-Gone Spray is easy to make and can also be used for to help a child unwind at bedtime.

Here’s a recipe that is perfect to use when your child may be having emotional issues at bedtime.

Monster-B-Gone Spray

Ingredients

2-ounce PET plastic spray bottle
1 ounce lavender hydrolat (Lavandula angustifolia)
1 ounce purified or distilled water
5 drops Lavandula angustifolia essential oil
5 drops Citrus reticulata (mandarin or tangerine)

Directions
  • Blend together in the spray bottle.
  • Shake well.
  • Shake well before each use. (Solubol or Disper can also be included to blend the oils better.)
  • Make fresh every few weeks.
  • Can be used to spray bed linens lightly before bedtime.
  • Your child can use it to “spray monsters” if he or she awakens in the night and is frightened. One quick spray in the general direction of the closet or other monster hiding spot and the monsters are sure to stay away!

Cosmetic Use

Acne: use at 0.25% dilution (Zu et al., 2010) in aloe vera gel. Lavender hydrolat is also especially useful in the care of oily skin.

Hand cleanser: combine with aloe vera gel for a portable hand cleanser.

Deodorant: Include in handcrafted deodorants.

Lavender hydrolat is highly effective for use in skin care products, especially for fragile or sensitive skin. Be aware that it does not smell the same as lavender essential oil or lavender flowers. Spray on skin both before and after sun exposure to support healthy skin.

House Cleaning

Lavender essential oil has antiseptic and antifungal properties, making it an excellent choice in house cleaning sprays. The lavender hydrolat is also an effective choice, and may be preferred in homes with pets and young children.

Cooking

Both lavender essential oil and lavender hydrolat can be used in cooking and baking. One usually sees lavender extracts as ingredients in ice cream and baked goods, particularly shortbread, cookies, and cakes. 

Different Types of Lavender

Lavender Essential Oil: A Must-Have For Every Natural Medicine Chest | Herbal Academy | Learn all about lavender essential oil and how to use it safely in your home and for your family's health.

Although “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” the same is not the case with lavender. There are 39 species of Lavandula, several of which are distilled into essential oils, each having a distinct chemistry and therefore action in the human body. They are not interchangeable. Lavandula angustifolia is the lavender we usually want. It is also known as True lavender or English lavender and was formerly known by the botanical names L. officinalis and L. vera. This is the lavender that is famous for being grown primarily in southern France, although beautiful lavender essential oil also comes from Spain, Tasmania, Bulgaria, and the United Kingdom.

Click here to read about how to choose the right type of lavender essential oil for your needs.

You may see names such as Lavandula stoechas, Lavandula x intermedia, Lavandula spica (or spicata), Lavandula latifolia, spike lavender, and lavandin, which have different chemistries and therefore different applications and safety concerns than true lavender. Lavender 40/42 is a standardized oil, which means that the balance of linalool and linalyl acetate are artificially balanced to have the ratio of 40%:42%.

A common misconception is that this oil is synthetic, but that is not necessarily the case. The chemicals used to standardize the ratios of constituents may have a natural provenance; it is only the overall chemistry that has been modified to make the oil smell and act the same from bottle to bottle. Standardization is very important in the fragrance industry and is also an important conversation, best left to another time, in the aromatherapy industry. Lavender is another excellent example of an essential oil where knowing the botanical name is of the utmost importance for safe and effective use.

REFERENCES

Altaei, D.T. (2012). Topical lavender oil for the treatment of recurrent aphthous ulceration. [Abstract]. American Journal of Dentistry, 25(1), 39-43. Retrieved on 08/27/2016 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22558691

Bakhtshirin F, Abedi S, YusefiZoj P, Razmjooee D. (2015). The effect of aromatherapy massage with lavender oil on severity of primary dysmenorrhea in Arsanjan students. Irananian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research, 20(1),156-60. Retrieved on 08/27/2016 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4325408/

Buckle, J. (2015). Clinical aromatherapy: Essential oils in healthcare. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier. 

Cassella, S., J.P. Cassella, & I. Smith. (2002). Synergistic antifungal activity of tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) and lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oils against dermatophyte infection. International Journal of Aromatherapy, 12(1), 2-15.

De Rapper, S., G. Kamatou, A. Vijoen, & S. Van Vuuren. (2013). The in vitro antimicrobial activity of Lavandula angustifolia essential oil in combination with other aroma-therapeutic oils. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013, doi:10.1155/2013/852049. Retrieved on 08/27/2016 from http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2013/852049/cta/

Catty, S. (2001). Hydrosols: The next aromatherapy. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Daiki, J.,Y. Kimura, M. Tamiguchi, M. Inoue, & K. Urakami. (2009). Effect of aromatherapy on patients with Alzheimer’s disease [Abstract].  Psychogeriatrics, 9, 173–179. Retrieved on 08/27/2016 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20377818

Kim, S., H.J. Kim, J. L Yeo, S. J. Hong, J. M. Lee, Y. Jeon. (2011). The effect of lavender oil on stress, bispectral index values, and needle insertion pain in volunteers [Abstract]. Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine, 17(9), 823-826. Retrieved on 08/27/2016 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21854199

Mojay, G. (1997). Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Price, S. & P. P. Parr. (1996). Aromatherapy for babies and children. London, UK: Thorsons. 

Raisi Dehkordi, Z., F. S. Hosseini Baharanchi, R. Bekhradi. (2014). Effect of lavender inhalation on the symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea and the amount of menstrual bleeding: A randomized clinical trial. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 22(2), 212-219. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2013.12.011. Retrieved on 08/27/2016 from http://www.complementarytherapiesinmedicine.com/article/S0965-2299(13)00209-4/fulltext

Rose, J. (1999). 375 Essential oils and hydrosols. Berkeley, CA: Frog Books.

Sasannejad et al. (2012). Lavender essential oil in the treatment of migraine headache; A placebo-controlled clinical trial. European Neurology, 67(5), 288-291. Retrieved on 08/27/2016 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22517298

Tiran, D. (2012). Safety of essential oils in pregnancy and childbirth. United Kingdom: Expectancy, Ltd.

Tiran, D. (2016). Aromatherapy in midwifery practice. London, UK: Singing Dragon.

Worwood, V. A. (1991). The complete book of essential oils and aromatherapy. Novato, CA: New World Library.

Zu, Y., H. Yu, L. Liang, Y. Fu, T. Efferth, X. Liu, N. Wu. (2010). Activities of ten essential oils towards Propionibacterium acnes and PC-3, A-549 and MCF-7 cancer cells. Molecules, 15(5), 3200-3210. Retrieved on 08/27/2016 from http://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/15/5/3200

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