Can we talk about one of my favorite herbs for a minute? Lavender. I use lavender in a lot of my medicinal formulas, herbal teas, and infused oils. It is so gentle and effective you really can’t go wrong with it.
That being said, lavender has been in the limelight for so long that it’s one of those herbs that has a lot of buzz around it. This could potentially get in the way of the real remedial uses of the plant. As in, you might be using it wrong.
Myths About Lavender
First, let's dispel some rumors about what lavender isn’t and then get to the crux of what we’re here to talk about: what lavender excels at.
Is lavender estrogenic?
We get this question every once in awhile and the answer is no. Absolutely not! There was a 2007 study that suggested this connection, but the sample size was really small… just three boys. The unnamed products that were used to conduct the study contained lavender and tea tree oils, but they were diluted with a chemical that is a known estrogen mimicker (dimethyl sulfoxide.)
This study on three young boys is literally the only study ever conducted that had this result. Though often cited, these findings have not been duplicated, nor has lavender been linked to estrogenic issues in the past.
Lavender has been used medicinally for centuries and has never been touted as an aid to women during their moon cycle or during the change of life. If it was estrogenic in any way, it would have been thoroughly vetted by herbalists hundreds of years ago and suggested to women to use when estrogen mimicking would be useful to them.
What about lavender for anxious feelings?
So this is sort of an ambiguity that herbalists are faced with sometimes when talking about the most magical plants. Lavender is often touted as a great calming herb and though I don’t disagree, I want to make it clear that I wouldn’t use it alone for chronic, pervasive anxious feelings.
Lavender is naturally calming and helps with the occasional nervous stomach aches, so if you’re feeling nervous and you have lavender, use it, smell it, drink it in a tea, bathe with it—do it all if you can. It is a gentle tonic so you can use the herb long term so: go team lavender!
I personally love lavender when I’m feeling angry, stressed, or sad because it’s calming and a great pick-me-up in the moment. Used with a long-term plan, lavender can be a great supplemental ally, but it’s not the first (or the second) herb that comes to mind as a solution to anxious emotions.
I used a Lavender-scented (insert product here) and it gave me a headache/caused a reaction/smelled terrible
We can talk about synthetically herbal-scented products all day long but when it comes down to it, they aren’t good for you, they don’t have the healing properties of the herbs, and they give herbs a bad rap. Products that use a chemically-produced lavender scent have ruined this wonderful herb for a lot of people. This adulteration of such a special plant is actually pretty offensive to the plant and herbalists alike. So many people don’t (or won’t) experience the benefits of lavender because of it.
If you’re one of these people, you’re not alone. I suggest going to your local herb shop and picking up a good essential oil right away. Put a couple of drops into a pot of boiling water or your humidifier and try it out. You deserve the real thing.
What Lavender Excels At
I’m going to try not to make a four-page list here because lavender is so versatile that I probably could. Lavender is such a gentle powerhouse that it can be used topically and internally with amazing benefits. It’s safe to use with the kiddos (fur babies and human babies) and it’s strong enough to use on adult complaints.
Topical uses for Lavender
Lavender on Your Skin!
Lavender has a rich history of being a skin herb! Up until World War II, lavender was used while dressing wounds and the essential oil is so gentle that it’s one of the few that can be used directly on the skin in small doses.
We use lavender in almost (if not) all of our products because it’s recommended for all skin types – it’s balancing for oily skin and soothing for dry skin!
Use it as an Insect Repellent
Don’t let the sweet smell fool you, it keeps the bugs away! It can be used in the sachets (like the ones that we send with every order) to repel moths and bugs in clothing. I even use it in my homemade bug repellent for camping and backpacking trips.
During the bubonic plague, people used lavender in the sick room to stop the spread of the disease, and people that kept lavender on their person often did not get the illness. It was a miracle then, but now we know that the illness was spread by lice and fleas and lavender is such a great insect repellent that it kept people healthy by keeping insects away from them.
Internal Uses for Lavender
As an internal remedy, lavender can be an elegant solution to a lot different issues. We would like to note here that we don’t suggest taking essential oils internally. Lavender essential oil is gentle but it’s still very strong and, like all essential oils, can cause issues with phase two detox in the long run.
Lavender for Inflammation
It’s one of the best. Taken internally, lavender helps with all sorts of inflammation. I’ll drink a strong lavender tea over taking an ibuprofen any day because in addition to the anti-inflammation, it fills me with positivity, doesn’t kill gut flora, calms the nerves, and the infusion is hydrating!
Lavender as a Nerve Tonic
The best way I can describe the potency here is “stage fright level” nerves. Public speaking, going on a first date, catching some sleep before a huge exam, nervous stomach ache, fear—taking lavender internally as a tea or even a tincture is up your ally.
Catch some Z’s: Lavender for Sleep
Lavender is amazing for nightmares and nervous insomnia. I especially like to take an alcohol extraction that is 50% lavender, 50% blue vervain. It calms you right down and allows you to gently drift off to sleep without the morning sleeping pill hangover.
Cook with Lavender, it’ll Blow your Mind
This is pretty self-explanatory. Ask me about sugar cookies and scones with lavender sometime.
Lavender for Digestion
Speaking of cooking with it, it’s great for indigestion, vomiting, nausea, bad breath—really it’s great for digestion altogether because it’s actually a bitter herb!
Lavender for Your Furry Friends
This one is a huge deal. For animals that are prone to stress reactions, the essential oil can dramatically improve their mood and can take effect instantly. Put it on their collars, or on some cardboard by their bed and see how they do.
A lavender rinse can be extremely helpful with itchy skin and fleas (remember the plague?) just make a super strong lavender tea and let it cool completely. It can also be used as an oil to keep your friends flea-less even when they’re running in the forest, just leave the dry flowers in an oil base for a couple of weeks and then strain it out, rub it on their coat before a walk.
I like to add the fresh or dry herbs to my creature’s water, lavender and sage are two of my favorites because they’re cleansing and they smell so good together!
Note: Cats don’t have the ability to break down essential oils in their livers so any kind of essential oils can cause illness in our feline friends. Be careful with dropping the pure essential oil on or around your kitty.
Okay, I think you get the picture. Get some lavender and use it for everything. Better yet, grow it! It’s super easy to grow and it’s a perennial so you’ll only have to do it once if you treat it right. Just keep the soil dry and give it full, direct sun. Talking to your plant every day isn’t essential, but I have found that they really love it. Bees and butterflies love it when it’s flowering so I encourage you to grow it because our pollinators need all the love they can get right now!
What are your favorite uses for lavender? Let us know in the comments?
Alfs, M. (2003). 300 Herbs Their Indications and Contraindications. New Brighton, MN: Old Theology Book House.
Mars, B. (2007). The desktop guide to herbal medicine: The ultimate multidisciplinary reference to the amazing realm of healing plants, in a quick-study, one-stop guide. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Pub.
Tilford, G., & Tilford, M. (2009). Herbs for pets: The natural way to enhance your pet's life(2nd ed.). Laguna Hills, Calif.: BowTie Press.
“Explore lavender essential oil.” Explore lavender essential oil | Aura Cacia. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.
“Prepubertal gynecomastia linked to lavender and tea tree oils.” The New England journal of medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.
“Dimethyl sulfoxide is a potent modulator of estrogen receptor isoforms and xenoestrogen biomarker responses in primary culture of salmon hepatocytes.” Dimethyl sulfoxide is a potent modulator of estrogen receptor isoforms and xenoestrogen biomarker responses in primary culture of salmon hepatocytes. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2015.
Aub is a certified clinical herbalist and content strategist/creator. She is the co-founder of Dandelion Branding, a digital marketing company that works with brands that are focused on revolutionizing their industries. When she's not working on a project, you can usually find her nosing about in the forest or giving congratulatory high fives to every plant in her house for growing.