There is nothing more enjoyable than walking in a lavender garden. This small aromatic shrub with delicate flowers lends joy to any environment and is an indispensable plant in the modern garden. Lavender can be identified by its thin leaves, covered with fine white hair. The flower is small and lipped with marked nerves, varying in color from white to purple. Its name comes from the Latin word ‘lavare’ and is indicative of its former primary use as perfume for bath and laundry.
Perfume and Disinfectant
Ancient Romans, Egyptians and Liberians valued the sensual aroma of lavender and used its leaves, flowers and essential oil in their bath water. In Italy, they added it to the water to wash the undergarments and when they wanted to give a good perfume to the rest of the clothes, they hung them in the lavender bushes. In the medicinal traditions of Persian and Greek, lavender was recognized mainly for its antiseptic effect and was used to purify hospitals and health care centers. In France, the vinegar of the four thieves included lavender as one of the main ingredients and supposedly offered protection against the black plague. Today, lavender essential oil is still used in perfumes, soaps and home cleansers, both for its good smell and for its ability to eliminate bacteria and fungi.
Aromatherapy and Burns
In 1927, a French chemist named René-Maurice Gattefossé discovered the effectiveness of lavender oil in the treatment of burns. On one occasion, he burned his hand working in his laboratory and in his panic he reached into the nearest liquid, which happened to be a container of lavender oil. Gattefossé then noticed how quickly his hand healed, without any infection or scar. This experience motivated him to follow the medical value of herbal oils, which he called aromatherapy and published his studies the following year in a book with the same name.
Relief to Stress and Nervous Problems
While lavender was associated with love and sensuality in Europe, its ability to promote happiness and relaxation was valued in the East. In the traditions of India, Tibet and China, lavender was used to calm any stress and nerve problems i.e. stress-induced headache, hyperactivity, insomnia, irritability, dizziness caused by nerves, depression and lack of appetite and stomach pain caused by nerves. To relieve stress-related problems, lavender tea was often prescribed several times a day. Other methods of relieving stress with lavender include adding the essential oil to bath water or adding it to a neutral oil for use in massages. It was also mixed with wine, letting it stand for a week or more, and was taken as a remedy for headache, insomnia, stress or other nervous problems. In Germany, a lavender drink with vodka, gin or whiskey was prescribed to relieve migraine. Today, lavender is a major ingredient in herbal medicine to relieve muscle aches, headaches and menstrual discomforts.