Wednesday, 17 October 2018

The Many Uses of Lavender

Article by Ann Walker
I am currently writing a monograph on lavender as part of an up-date addition to the Discovering Herbal Medicine course. Delving into the literature for this monograph, even as a herbal practitioner, I have found it astonishing how numerous and diverse are the documented applications of lavender, which extend from actions on the nervous and digestive systems to skin problems and more.

Traditionally, lavender has been used (mainly as a tea) for various psychological conditions, including anxiety, stress and insomnia. Tradition also speaks of its use for somatic conditions, including digestive problems and migraines. Topically, lavender has been used for a variety of skin ailments, ear infections and painful muscles. In more recent times, research has cast new light on the herb’s healthcare potential, as well as supporting some of its traditional uses, including its antimicrobial and anxiolytic properties and its positive effects on mental function (including in Alzheimer’s disease), insomnia and the stress response. It also has a proven role in midwifery, which was not documented in earlier times. Indeed, there are several clinical trials showing benefit of external application of lavender oil to post-natal vaginal and perineal wounds for pain reduction, speeding healing and lowering the risk of infection.

Lavender has a unique mix of calming, balancing and uplifting properties on the human body and is, therefore, well indicated for alleviation of all types of stress and emotional situations. Lavender oil is gentler on the skin than most other essential oils and can be safely applied direct (without dilution) to the skin in small quantities. Less commonly, but increasingly, the oil is used as an oral remedy and capsules of high-quality lavender oil are now available over-the-counter in the UK and EU for relief of symptoms of mild anxiety such as stress and nervousness (see advice from the British Herbal Medicine Association). Despite undoubted medicinal uses, lavender oil is still mainly used for its fine aroma, which, although having therapeutic properties, is also a delightful addition to the bath-water! It is not often that herbs with strong medicinal properties smell good too!

Ann Walker PhD FCPP MNIMH RNutr
Course Director DHM
Herbal Practitioner