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Lavender is commonly known for its soothing and calming effects.
There are many different types of lavender plants, so in this article I will be focusing on a variety named ‘Hidcote’ (Lavandula ‘Hidcote’, also known as English Lavender. Usually when people think of lavender, this is the one that immediately comes to mind. It’s also the one I have tattooed on my ankle.
How to recognise lavender
Lavender typically appears as a blooming bush. The most striking feature must be the purple flowers, which bloom late Spring and early Summer. They are of a deep violet-purple color and spike about three to four cm in length. The flowers themselves are quite fragrant, but if you rub a leave between your fingers you’ll notice that it will also give off an amazing scent. The leaves are narrow, silvery-grey.
Medical use of lavender
For centuries, lavender has been used as an herbal remedy. It contains an oil that seems to have sedating effects and might relax certain muscles. Internally, lavender is believed to help with a large amount of problems, including stress, anxiety, exhaustion, irritability, headaches, migraines, insomnia, depression, colds, digestion, flatulence, upset stomach, liver and gallbladder problems, nervousness, loss of appetite, and as a breath freshener and mouthwash. (source) Drinking lavender as a tea could help with these problems, although repeated studies are still needed to confirm effective proportions of lavender for insomnia and depression. (source) It is not advised to take lavender essential oil orally, because it is capable of making you very nauseous.
This study suggests that lavender can be effective in combating antifungal-resistant infections. The researchers found that lavender oil was lethal to a range of strains that can cause disease in the skin. The research showed that the essential oil of Lavandula viridis from Portugal “may be useful in the clinical treatment of fungal diseases, particularly dermatophytosis and candidosis”. Always go to your GP first before experimenting with essential oils and serious fungal infections though.
Lavender in the kitchen
The English Lavender is most commonly used in cooking. As an aromatic, it has a sweet fragrance with citrus notes. The leaves are a bit like rosemary and can be used as a spice or condiment in pastas, salads and dressings. The flowers can be used for desserts and make a lovely syrup. Lavender flowers are occasionally blended with black, green or herbal teas.
Usually it is not recommended to put undiluted essential oils on your skin, but lavender oil is one of the few oils that can be used full-strength on the skin. It can be applied to cuts, scrapes, wounds, burns, insect stings, rashes, muscle aches, rheumatism, arthritis, cold sores, blisters and bruises. (source) When you have a migraine or headache, you can massage the oil directly onto the temples.