Reposted from Healthline Magazine
Lavender, well-known in the worlds of gardening, baking, and essential oils, has now amassed substantial research and is taking the scientific world by storm.
As a pharmacognosist who’s studied the science of plants as medicines at King’s College London and now as a director at Dilston Physic Garden, a medicinal plant center and charity for the education of plants for health and medicine, I’ve carried out clinical trials with my teams on reputed plants through history.
And so it’s with confidence I can reason why lavender (Lavandula angustifolia, syn. L. officinalis — no other types) is often introduced as a queen of medicinal plants.
When my co-author and I placed this ancient remedy in the top category of plants for the brain, it was no accident. It was because of the evidence. Research, compared to other plants, is abundant in showing how lavender:
- helps sleep
- boosts moods and memory
- relieves pain
- heals skin
- acts as a protective agent
From the Mediterranean and Middle East, this evergreen perennial woody shrub looks very similar to rosemary. And like rosemary, it likes well-drained soil and plenty of sun.
Both its pinnate, silvery-green leaves and purplish-blue flowers have a scent that’s crisp, clean, floral, and sweet. (I also discovered, from looking at its essential oil ingredients, that lavender’s scent has much in common with rosemary).
Bushes grow up to a meter (3 1/4 feet) tall and look spectacular grown in expanses of dazzling blue, blooming in midsummer.
In 2017, an article in the journal Frontiers in Aging suggested that essential oils should be “developed as multi-potent agents against neurological disorders with better efficacy, safety and cost effectiveness.”
So, can we protect against the ravages of neurological disorders? There’s certainly a case for preventive plant medicine in all its forms. And we can start looking at plants from a scientific perspective. Clinical trials mainly use the essential oil, either in capsule form, inhaled, or applied topically.
Although many of these studies use small sample sizes, lavender’s outlook is very promising. Here’s what the research says about lavender’s benefits:
1. Creates calm and lifts moods
Lavender (alongside the calming kava kava) has now been named as one of the few alternative medicines for generalized anxiety disorder that’s passed the rigors of scientific assessment for efficacy.
In controlled trials lavender promotes calm and lowers anxiety or related restlessness in several settings, comparable to conventional drugs for anxiety.
In pilot studies, lavender also relieved anxiety before and after
- dental treatment
For people in hospice, lavender may relieve depression and improve well-being, too.
2. Induces sleep
In a review of lavender in controlled studies found inhaled lavender improved sleep in people who are in intensive care or have cancer. Students with sleep problems also self-rated improvements in sleep quality and energy, and pilot studies showed a reduction in restless leg syndrome.
3. Improves memory
In other pilot trials inhaling lavender reduced working memory under normal circumstances, but improved working memory during stressful situations.
4. Relieves pain
The essential oil may also relieve pain in the following conditions:
- carpel tunnel
- lower back pain
- during surgery and postsurgery
- Antiseptic effects. Topically applied lavender can treat bruises, burns, and wounds. Controlled trials found it especially effective for birth injuries to the mother.
- Insecticide abilities. Topical lavender is also clinically shown to help treat fleas and lice in humans (and other animals).
- Skin-healing effects. Its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, and wound-healing properties can benefit the skin.
Like most medicinal plants, lavender contains different active chemicals, and it’s the combined effects of these chemicals that make this plant work like a skilled car mechanic: adept at finely tuning the whole body to make it run smoothly.
For lavender, the chemicals are:
- polyphenols like rosmarinic acid
- flavonoids like apigenin
- volatile aromatics
The main anxiety-relieving components are linalool and linalyl acetate. They’re also found in other relaxing aromatic plants, including citrus fruits, like bitter orange (neroli).
Lavender oil also contains the terpenes cineole and camphor. These are also found in memory-boosting European sage and rosemary.
When purchasing lavender essential oil, see if you can ask about its chemical formulation. The composition of essential oils can vary depending on many factors (such as time of harvest), and some oil can be adulterated with synthetic chemicals.
Lavender should contain:
- 25 to 38 percent linalool
- 25 to 45 percent linalyl acetate
- 0.3 to 1.5 percent cineole
Before taking any plant at a medicinal level, always consult a registered medical herbalist and inform your healthcare provider if you’re taking medication or have a health condition.
In general, small doses are beneficial, but it by no means should be your only treatment. Don’t stop taking any prescribed medication. Be sure of the identity of your plant as well, and only take the recommended dose.
With all this science to complement lavender’s 1,000-year-old medicinal use, it’s no surprise that we find it in everything from beauty products and aromatherapy to baking.
It’s one of the most used essential oils in my home. I use it in baths, diffusers, and sprinkle it on pillows to calm my kids. It’s my go-to for reducing the pain and inflammation of insect bites or treating a skin infection.
And you can make use of lavender’s healing potential free by growing it yourself! Gather the leaves and flowers just before blooming to capture the highest concentration of the essential oil. Use it fresh or dried for teas and tinctures.
- Ingredients: Soak 5 grams of dried lavender in 25 milliliters of 40 percent alcohol
- Take daily: 1 teaspoon, 3 times for a medicinal dose
For relaxation, use the leaves and flowers in baths, body oils, or perfumes. You can also cook with it, from biscuits and desserts like creme brulee to roasts, particularly lamb. It’s also great in smoothies and cocktails. Try using a lavender syrup or single drop of the essential oil in vodka or champagne cocktails.
Like all medicinal plants (and many drugs), lavender may affect people differently. Some are sensitive to it, and different doses can have different effects. A little can relax, a lot can stimulate. Overuse can lower its efficacy.
Lavender is one of the safest plants for general use, and even the essential oil has very low toxicity when used at the correct dose. It may be applied undiluted in minute quantities on the skin, too.
But it’s not without its contraindications.
For example, people with sensitive skin may find it irritating. Lavender may also exacerbate sedative or anticonvulsant drugs.
Don’t overuse lavender essential oil or any essential oil.
Medicinal effects of lavender species other than L. angustifolia (syn. L. officinalis) aren’t known. There are hazards associated with taking the attractive species French lavender (L. stoechas) internally, with reports of Toxcitiy in Children
But L. angustifolia is so widely accepted as safe that it’s approved by the European Medicines Agency as a plant medicine to relieve mild symptoms of stress and anxiety.
One question we haven’t answered yet is about lavender and love. Could the love we have for this plant inspire love among each other? Do the antimicrobial and mood-lifting effects of lavender fit with its folkloric use as a protector from the evil eye and a perfume for love?
When calmness is often in short supply, finding out whether lavender can really prompt positive feelings — between family members, workmates, or in the world in general — could give us another reason to fall for this plant.
However, for a plant renowned for inspiring or inducing love, there’s not a single study on lavender’s social bonding, aphrodisiac, or sexual activity effects.
So, for now, loving lavender and all its calming effects will have to do.
To read Full Article see: https://www.healthline.com/health/lavender-history-plant-care-types#the-benefits-of-lavender
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