Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Lavender Blue

Ask anyone on the street what single oil they would name in association with aromatherapy and they would state: "Lavender". There are many, many varieties of lavender. There is a lot of confusion about the names, and gardeners have their own names for some of them. Therapists only use 3 to 4 varieties in treatment, so I'll concentrate on these.

In my own practice, I only use True lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), as well as the lesser known Lavendin (Lavandula x intermedia) and Spike Lavender (Lavandula spica/latifolia). These three are related to each other - Lavendin is a hybrid of the other two. True lavender likes to grow high up in the mountains, and the other two will grow happily on the lower slopes. French Lavender, the ones with the 'ears' (Lavandula stoechas) also produces an essential oil, but I find it is very strong and there are other things I can use instead.

True lavender is soft and sweet in its fragrance. It's very gentleness soothes us and sends us to sleep. My children do sleep deeper when I burn lavender in their room - I only use it if they are very restless and excited, have a snuffly nose (with Ravensara or Myrtle) or a drop on the pillow for the older one if she has a headache. I put it on neat on the back of my skull if I have a mild headache, but if it is a strong tension or flu headache you might need to massage it vigorously in the area top of the foot between the big toe and second toe. It is good for chronic grumpiness, maybe I need an automatic spray of it in the morning! Hmm. I'll make up a lavender flower water spritzer to wake me and my skin, and maybe I will have a calmer kind of morning! And it will help with spots or the time of the month. I also use it to clean scrapes and grazes and it helps calm the person who has fallen down.

If I had to choose one First Aid oil for my kit, it would be this lavender. It has a broad spectrum of uses and is gentle on the skin. I keep a special bottle in the kitchen for burns I get from cooking - hot oven, spitting oil. It stops blisters and scars from forming. It is brilliant for healing wounds and clearing inflammation: cooling skin that is red and hot. Like sunburn! Or a sprained ankle, or a hot arthritic knee (with Lemon Eucalyptus). If you are caught out without the Tiger Balm, lavender will help with insect bites. I always put lavender in an eczema blend to sooth the skin - and use lavender with ravensara and geranium to cool itchy chickenpox and prevent from scarring.

The other two do a lot of the same things - lavender isn't only for sedation - it is a balancing oil - which means that if you are hyper: it calms you, and if you are listless or fatigued: it will energise you. Lavendin is that little bit more energising, so I would select it if I was tired but needed to function clearly. I would select it in a blend for aching muscles. If my client had to go to work with a cold I would choose Lavendin, so they would not get too sleepy!

For someone with a seriously bad cold I would move a notch up to Spike Lavender - it has a stronger action on the Lungs and better for infection in that area. I choose it for someone who gets so tense that they get depressed and make themselves ill. It is very heart calming but vigorous. And I use it a lot in muscular blends. It does smell a lot like minyak angin! That is perhaps from its camphor content, which has that familiar decongesting smell.

A lot of the time I have a bigger bottle of L.angustifolia than anything else in my collection. Sometimes I take it for granted, it is easy to use and blends with so many things, often harmonising the mixture and making it more pleasant. For its gentle power and breadth, none can match it. We would be very much the poorer if we could not have lavender in our toolkit.


Kathryn said...

MMMM! I love lavender! Thanks for this great post. It answered some questions for me. I didn't realize it was so balancing but explains why I use it for so much. My instincts were right- yay!

Ok - now I have to try the three types. ;-)

msiagirl said...

kathryn: I think lavender is a top fave with most people but I do get a few who come in and say NO! It reminds them of scary aunt or something. Smell really brings primitive memories to light. Wondered what your answered questions were!