Just Aromatherapy - Health Benefits of Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender Essential Oil
Find out why lavender is such an important oil in aromatherapy and why it deserves to be the first oil in your forthcoming collection. Discover how to enjoy its gentle purfume in relaxing bath blends and how to use its natural healing properties.
LAVENDER - GENTLE AND EFFECTIVE
Lavender can take much of the credit for the revival and interest in aromatherapy today. At different stages in history lavender has been valued for its impressive healing powers and it is these healing properties that make it one of our most important essential oils. Not only is it a natural antibiotic, antiseptic, anti-depressant, sedative and de-toxifier, it is also able to promote healing and prevent scarring.
Most essential oils need diluting in carrier oil (e.g. grapeseed or sweet almond oil) before use, but lavender is exceptional because it's so gentle you can use it neat in some instances. A drop on the cushion pad of a plaster, for example, can speed up the healing process and can protect the skin from infection. A drop on your pillow, or a few drops in a bath, at night-time can aid sleep and, if you get nervous or anxious, you can put a drop on a cotton wool pad and sniff it through the day to calm frazzled nerves.
By itself lavender's distinctive but light, floral aroma has a calming effect on the mind and the oil is helpful for its ability to bring both mind and body back into state of balance, so that healing can take place.
Used in massage blend or in the bath, lavender is also good for muscular pain, whether caused by tension, exercise or rheumatism. Massaged gently into the lower abdomen, lavender will also help relieve menstrual pain.
Lavender's gentle nature makes it ideal for children and babies too. Lavender is useful for childhood infections as well as helpful for soothing temper tantrums and upsets.
Fact file LAVENDER
BLENDING NOTE: Middle to top
MAIN BENEFIT: Its healing properties
USEFULNESS: A must!
PERFUME GROUP: Herbaceous-floral
Lavender is great starter oil. It's safe, soothing and incredibly versatile.
Heavily scented Lavendula Hidcote is one of the best varieties for growing in the garden. The essential oil of lavender is most often derived from Lavendula angustifolia. Gather fresh lavender before or after the main heat of the day and enjoy the fresh, floral scent of it in your home.
BLENDING ADVICE - LAVENDER ESSENTIAL OIL
For massage, lavender works especially well with herbaceous and citrus oils.
Revitalizing 10ml diluted lavender oil 2 drops pure grapefruit essential oil 1 drop pure rosemary essential oil
Lavender's name reflects its ancient past - it probably comes from the latin lavare, meaning 'to wash' or livere meaning 'to be bluish in colour'
FROM FLOWER TO OIL
Aromatherapy usually uses common lavender (known as Lavendula angustifolia, Lavendula officinalis or Lavandula vera). Common lavender shouldn't be confused with lavendin or spike lavender, both of which have different effects on the body and mind. Although rarely available, avoid essential oil made from Lavendula stoechas, as this doesn't have the same properties as common lavender and isn't suitable for home use.
The south of France is still the main producer of lavender. For many years lavender was gathered from hillsides by shepherds and local people who sold it to the perfumes of Grasse. In the 1950s, how-ever, with demand for the oil increasing, cultivation was stepped up and lavender fields containing neat rows of bushes were introduced. So great is the call for lavender in recent years that it is now grown in places such as China and Tasmania. England also has a history of lavender growing. To turn the bright purple flowers into essential oil, the stems are laid on a grid and steam is passed through them. The plant essence from the flowers is released in the form of a vapour, which is cooled in tanks to make the essential oil.
TESTED BY TIME
Through the ages lavender has been recommended for just about every complaint known to mankind! It was even used by the ancient Greeks, for throat infections, constipation and chest complaints.
The Romans put lavender flower heads in their communal baths, probably as much as an antiseptic as for their fragrance! Many medieval European herbalists advised on the use of lavender water to prevent head lice, and for centuries lavender flowers have been tied into small bundles and placed in laundry to make it smell fresh and keep the moths away. Bundles of lavender were also placed in pillows to make them smell sweet and to deter bed bugs!
At the beginning of this century, the significance of lavender's natural healing properties moved aromatherapy into a new era. Chemist Rene Maurice Gattefosse was working in his father's perfume and cosmetic factory when there was a small explosion and Gattefosse hand was burnt. He immersed it in neat lavender oil and to his astonishment, his hand quickly healed and showed no sign of infection or scarring.
Intrigued by his own experience, Gattefosse decided to collate all the available research on the medicinal qualities of different essential oils and carried out further research himself. Eventually, in 1937, he published the book, Aromatherapie, so giving us the word 'aromatherapy'.
GROW AND DRY YOUR OWN
Although sometimes associated with a hot climate, lavender grows well in cooler places too. The plant needs a light, well drained soil and a sunny position. A real bonus is that it attracts butterflies. Don't over fertilize it. Cut the stems as soon as the flowers open, either in the morning or evening. For dried arrangements, tie into small bunches and hang in a dry, airy place. For loose lavender, spread the stems on trays in a well-aired room. Once dried, strip the florets from the stalks with your fingers.
Top tips for children's ailments.
FIRST AID FOR BRUISES Gently smooth 1 drop of pure lavender essential oil over the bruise then smooth on a small amount of diluted lavender oil on top. Repeat twice a day.
HEADACHE HEALER Add 2 drops of pure lavender essential oil to 5 drops diluted lavender oil. Smooth a tiny amount around the neck, temples and hairline.
BATH BLEND FOR TANTRUMS Drop 2.5ml diluted lavender oil and 1 drop pure camomile essential oil into a full bath.
Beauty essentials with lavender
Practical ways to use your lavender oil to make some great beauty treats.
SOOTHING HAND LOTION
50ml unperfumed lotion (available at chemists, health stores and supermarkets) or a base body lotion 10 drops diluted lavender essential oil 5 drops pure palmarosa essential oil
Stir well to blend in the oils and store in a small cosmetic pot. Use a small amount after doing housework, washing up or gardening. or apply at bedtime so that the lotion soaks in thoroughly overnight.
OLD-FASHIONED LAVENDER WATER
It's a classic that has been used for generations and it's one of the simplest aromatherapy treats to make.
600g fresh lavender heads 1 litre spring water
Heat the water and put it in a jar with the lavender heads. Shake well and leave the jar somewhere sunny for 24 hours. Filter the lavender out using a coffee filter. If you want a stronger smell, repeat the process, adding more lavender. Store in an atomizer or bottle in the fridge.
SOOTHING BATH BLENDS
Fill the bath, then add the oils.
Lavender, mandarin and geranium 2.5ml diluted lavender oil 1 drop pure mandarin essential oil 1 drop pure geranium essential oil
Lavender and vetivert 2.5ml diluted lavender oil 4 drops pure vetivert essential oil 1 drop pure lavender essential oil
Lavender, geranium and petitgrain 2.5ml diluted lavender oil 2 drops pure geranium essential oil 1 drop pure petitgrain essential oil
ZINGY BODY SPLASH
Good for sultry summers or when winter central heating dries your skin, this splash is great for freshening up you and your skin - but be careful if your skin is sensitive to alcohol.
10ml vodka 3 drops pure lavender essential oil 2 drops pure grapefruit essential oil 1 drop pure palmarosa essential oil 200ml spring water
Shake the oils and vodka together in a jar, then add the water and shake again. Store in an atomizer in the fridge and shake before use.
REFRESHING BURNER BLEND
Filling your home with subtle aromas is best done using a burner. This recipe should wake up your senses. To energize a tired body or mind, fill the small bowl of the burner with water. Then add:
5 drops pure lavender essential oil 2 drops pure lemon essential oil 1 drop pure grapefruit essential oil
Light a night light candle under the bowl to heat up the oils. Never leave unattended and top up the water regularly so the bowl does not run dry.
Home esentials with lavender
Bring the scent of lavender into your home and enjoy the effects of using the colour itself for decorating.
COLOUR IN THE HOME
The many shades of lavender can bring a welcoming freshness to any room in the home.
Most people associate lavender with country gardens and fields, with fresh air and sunny skies. This has a direct psychological effect, lifting the spirits.
Lavender lacks the formality of regal purple and is easy to work with. It's often thought of as a feminine colour but when combined with its opposite colour - bold, bright yellow - or even a deep, dark blue it can work well in masculine rooms.
Lavender cushions, blinds and furnishing covers can calm down a bright, stressful room, or add colour to a bland bathroom or lounge, and are a good place to start introducing this highly beneficial colour into your home.
Talented interior designer, Caroline Quartermaine, uses lavender to create 'pools of intensity'. Her tip is to use lighter shades on the walls and bolder ones for key accessories like throws and cushions.
Ideal for your airing cupbourd, or linen drawers, these small, decorative sachets last for ages.
You will need - organza - embroidery thread and needle - sewing thread - dried lavender - lavender oil
1 for each sachet, cut two 12cm squares of organza. Place the wrong sides together and machine stitch a 1cm seam around three of the sides. Turn through to right side and fill with lavender. Be careful not to put too much into each sachet there should be room for the lavender to shake around in the sachet, helping it to give off scent. Drop a little essential oil onto the dried lavender for an extra long lasting aroma. Pin and then slip-stitch the fourth side together.
2 Using three strands of embroidery thread, sew a decorative border around the edges. Chain stitch, feather stitch or French knots would all work well. Bear in mind, however, that if you want to refill these sachets at a later stage, complicated stitching will make them more difficult to reopen.
Healing with lavender essential oil
Great for so many minor ailments, here we show you haw to use lavender for, after sun care, scalds, acne, minor cuts and grazes, insomnia and fleas.
BENEFITS OF LAVENDER ESSENTIAL OIL
ON THE BODY
Lavender essential oil is useful in the treatment of scalds, minor burns, cuts grazes, inflammation, eczema, dermatitis, fainting, headaches, insomnia, migrain, nausea, bacterial infections, acne, boils, rheumatism and arthritis.
ON THE MIND
Lavender alleviates anxiety, stress and tension. Use for calming, soothing and relaxation.
After Sun Care
Cooling bath If you want to keep a suntan, don't soak in a piping hot bath - it only encourages the outer layer of the skin to soften, flake or peel. Opt, instead, for this lukewarm bath which will calm the skin. 2.5ml diluted lavender essential oil 2 drops pure lavender essential oil 1 drop pure camomile essential oil Add the oils to a bath filled with lukewarm water.
Soothing gel Aloe vera is an excellent skin coolant. Like lavender, it has tremendous healing properties, and can be used safely with essential oils for a soothing gel. 5ml aloe vera gel 5 drops pure lavender essential oil
Mix together in the palms of the hands and apply to any slightly reddended skin.
After sun spray Keep this spray in an atomizer in the fridge and use it when the skin needs cooling down. 250ml still spring water 20 drops pure lavender essential oil
Shake well before spraying onto the skin.
If you are sure that the scald is not too serious, cool the area first with cold water, then apply neat lavender essential oil immediately and cover with sterile gauze. Change the dressing regularly, and when the area is less painful, expose it to fresh air. Once the area starts to heal, add one or two drops of pure lavender essential oil to a small amount of aloe vera gel and apply regularly.
Lavender essential oil is exceptional in its ability to combat insomnia. Calming and soothing, it can make all the difference to anyone who's struggling to get to sleep. Try these suggestions and feel the benefits fir yourself.
5ml diluted lavender essential oil 2 drops pure lavender essential oil 2 drops pure camomile essential oil
Stroke a small amount onto the chest and over the solar plexus 9where the ribcage makes a v-shape).
2 drops pure lavender essential oil 2 drops pure eucalyptus essential oil
Add to a bowl of steaming hot water and place it by your bed, so that you can inhale the aromas all night.
The pure stuff
The simplest way to use lavender essential oil to aid sleep is to sprinkle 4 drops of pure lavender essential oil onto your pillow.
A change of diet often helps, especially avoiding pre-packed foods, and very sugary or fatty foods. Eat lots of fresh green vegetables and fruit.
Facial sauna 2 drops pure lavender essential oil 1 drop pure lemon essential oil
Clense the face thoroughly, then put your face over a bowl of steaming hot water containing these oils. Cover your head with a towel, keep your eyes closed, and come up for air when needed. Use once a week and cleanse the face again after, using lavender water as a toner.
10ml witch hazel 1 drop pure lemon essential oil 3 drops pure lavender essential oil 2 drops pure tea tree essential oil
Using a clean cotton bud, dad the lotion gently onto spots.
Anti-acne facial oil
20ml almond oil or apricot kernel oil 10ml diluted lavender essential oil 1 drop pure geranium essential oil 1 drop pure lemon essential oil
Apply a tiny amount over face, neck and back before bedtime.
MINOR CUTS AND GRAZES
1. Wash with water and clean with a cupful of boiled and cooled water to which you've added two drops each of pure lavender essential oil and pure tea tree essential oil.
2. Apply pure lavender essential oil around the injured area.
3. Put 2 drops of pure lavender essential oil onto a piece of sterile gauze and cover the wound, replacing the dressing two of three timis a day.
The difficulty is the fleas' breeding pattern - rugs, carpets and even beds can provide nests for their eggs. If you are really plagued with this problem, consult a vet.
Dogs are easier to treat than cats, because essential oils must not get into the eyes - cats often rub their paws around their eyes. Be careful not to leave any neat oil on their fur. The best method is to wash your pet's bedding regularly, putting a couple of drops of pure lavender essential oil in the water and to use it in an aerosol spray on your carpets and rugs.
600ml warm water 2 drops pure cedarwood essential oil
swish the essential oils around well to disperse them in the water. Take a dog brush and soak the bristles in this solution. Then brush the dog through. Alternatively, soak a piece of disposable cloth in the solution and rub it over the coat. Make sure you avoid the face and delicate sections of the underneath area. Continue untill the whole coat is covered.
Soak an ordinary fabric collar in the following solution. Allow to dry before using. Repeat every 4-6 weeks.
150ml water 5ml alcohol (vodka is good) 3 drops pure lavender essential oil 3 drops pure citronella essential oil
Or use this light spray in a plant mister on bedding. Repeat every week for six weeks.
150ml water 5ml alcohol (e.g. vodka) 1 drop pure lavender essential oil 1 drop pure citronella essential oil
Starter massage with lavender essential oil
This relaxing back massage back sequence shows you three of the five basic techniques used in most forms of massage - stroking, kneeding and pressures. Follow the steps below to begin your course on massage.
STROKING KNEADING PRESSURES
AREAS WORKED ON IN THIS MASSAGE
BACK SHOULDERS NECK
MAKING SURE YOU ARE COMFORTABLE
Check that the room is warm and that it will be quiet. Keep the lighting soft, or use scented candles or a burner.
Have plenty of towels to cover your partner. Lay blankets or a duvet on the floor and put cushions or rolled up towels under their head and ankles to make them extra comfortable.
To give a good massage you need to be relaxed, so your comfort is just as important. Face the direction of your strokes and don't stay in one position for too long. Try to move with the rhythm of the strokes, using your body weight rather than just your arms and hands. This way you are less likely to get tired.
SOOTHE THE CARES AWAY
Having a massage is one of the quickest ways of increasing your sense of wellbeing. In fact, it's something that we all do instinctively. A mother cuddles a baby, we stroke our family pets and if we accidentally knock a limb we immediately rub it better.
A great way to relax, massage helps sooth anxiety, unknots tense and aching muscles and encourages the mind to switch off. Even the simplest massage can have a tremendously comforting effect. By practising this starter back massage you will master your first set of basic techniques and see for yourself how this special language of touch is so valuable for yourself and others.
Begin with the back
To a professional masseur or aromatherapist, the back is the key to good health. The nerves that run inside of the spine fan out to and from all the parts of the body, so massage of the back can affect much of the nervous system. The nervous system has the vital role of regulating all of the different activities of the body. Massage alone can have a beneficial effect on the body, but by using essential oils as well, you can increase its potential rewards.
Lavender essential oil is an excellent oil to use for massage, especially on the back. With its relaxing, balancing and calming properties, it is one of the most frequently used essential oils. Always keep some handy for when you feel the need to de-stress.
Back massage blend
Use 10ml diluted lavender essential oil or make this blend: 10ml diluted lavender essential oil 1 drop pure lemongrass essential oil 1 drop pure bergamot essential oil
Pour the lavender essential oil into a small china dish. Add the lemongrass and bergamot essential oils, and swirl around the dish to blend together.
Don't massage someone with acute back pain, especially if it is shooting down their legs or arms.
If your partner is pregnant just use a basic carrier oil, such as grapeseed or sweet almond oil, and omit the essential oils.
Never apply pressure over the actual bony part of the spine.
Make sure your nails aren't too long and don't press sharply into your partner.
Relax your hands by giving them a shake before giving the massage.
Instead of putting the oil directly on to the body, pour a little into your palms and rub them together slightly to warm it.
Add a little more oil once you feel the skin getting dry.
To give the essential oils time to be really effective, avoid having a shower or bath for at least four hours after a massage.
1. STROKING THE BACK
Rhythmic, flowing strokes form the basis of good massage. Start with a little oil on your hands and place them on the lower back, on either side of the spine. Slowly and firmly stroke up the back and over the shoulders, fan your hands over the tops of the arms, then glide your hands lightly down the sides of the body, pulling up the flesh slightly at the waist, and start again. Repeat about 4 times. Try and cover the whole area of the back with this stroke.
2. KNEADING THE BACK
Kneading helps warm and relax the muscles and is used before you work any deeper with pressures. The movement is similar to kneading dough. Take slightly more oil into your palms. With your knees apart, begin kneading the right side, starting at the buttock and working up the side of the body to the shoulder. Now knead the tops of the shoulders, then move down the left side, finishing with the left buttock, repeat this sequence a couple of times.
3. PRESSURES UP THE SPINE
Use your thumbs to make circular pressing movements - pressures - up either side of the spine, circling your thumbs outwards. These pressures are great for releasing tension and this is just one of the ways you'll learn how to do them. Lean your weight slightly onto your thumbs to give a reasonable amount of pressure but make sure your thumb nails don't dig into your partner's skin.
4. PRESSURES OVER THE SHOULDERS
Continue with the pressures, this time using your fingers, and work on the upper back and over the shoulder blades. Continue over the neck. Many people store a lot of tension in their shoulders and neck, so these areas may feel knotted and tight. Rather than spending too long trying to lessen the muscle spasm, which could make the area sore, return to the shoulders again after steps 5 and 6.
5. WORKING ON THE LOWER BACK
Now work on the lower back. Start with some soothing, continuous strokes. With some more oil in your palms, start at the bottom of the lower back and stroke your hands upwards. Fan them outwards over the sides of the waist, pull up the sides of the waist, and bring them back to your starting point. Now do some more kneading over the lower back and then some pressures, using your fingers, as in step 4. Do 3 more stroking, movements.
6. RELAXING THE NECK
If your partner's neck is tight, they will probably enjoy some more work on this area. With one hand, cup your fingers around the base of the neck and stroke up to the hairline. Make this movement as continuous as possible, lifting your hand briefly away and starting again. Repeat about 8 times. This stroke feels wonderful. Now add a variation by circling the fingers as you do the stroking, to add some light pressure work. Apply more oil if you need it.
7. THE CAT STROKE
As you are coming towards the end of your massage sequence, it is good to come back to some general soothing techniques. This one is known as the cat stroke. With the palms of your hands flat, stroke alternate hands down your partner's back. This stroke should be continuous, so as you lift one hand off and take it to the top again, the otherhand should be stroking downwards. This is a wonderfully relaxing movement.
8. CUPPING AND FINISHING
Cupping is a great way to finish your massage as it feels very reassuring and often helps the person you have been massaging to let go of any last bit of tension. Lightly cup both hands over the lower back for about 1 minute. Now gently circle them once, clockwise, and slowly lift them away from the lower back. Hold them still, just above the back for several seconds so your partner can sence their heat, and then lift them away completely.