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Lavender - The undisputed champion of essential oils

Preparing for the festive period means different things to different people (personally, we’re already testing mulled wine recipes). You’re probably mulling over different ideas on who to get what this year, so you can ensure the Christmas cheer is felt after what has been another strange year. This is why we thought a discussion on Lavender was worth opening and giving you a certain stocking filler idea for your friend's or family.

Of all the essential oils, Lavender (Lavandula vera, L. officinalis, L. angustifolia and others) is undoubtedly the most popular for home aromatherapy use. It's first documented use was by the Romans in 77 A.D. for repelling insects and soothing insect bites. The bushy strong-scented perennial plant from the Mediterranean, is a highly valued plant across the world. It’s distinctive fragrance and the medicinal properties to the plant also make it one of the most popular essential oils to use. The herb is known for its calming effects, and the oil is used to naturally induce sleep.

Lavender is a native of the Mediterranean. It flourishes all over Europe, since the Romans introduced it to Britain and other Northern European lands, but the best Lavender is still that grown in its original home, around the Mediterranean. The finest quality grows at altitudes between 700 and 1,400 metres.

Here at Ivy Diffusers, the lavender essential oil is a bestseller online and at Portobello Road Market with our customers. So, we want to discuss why and give you all of the information you will ever need on this aromatherapy favourite.

There are several varieties of Lavender in cultivation which are of use medicinally, and confusion sometimes arises over the names of the various species. The 'common’ Lavender, or Lavandula officinalis, which is the most important medicinally, can also be called Lavandula angustifolia, or Lavandula vera, meaning "true Lavender'. This is the most delicately scented Lavender, and the one we associate with lavender water, perfume for clothes and linen, keeping moths at bay and most importantly; essential oil to use in electric diffusers. It is also probably the best-loved and most widely used oil in the whole of aromatherapy.

It was René-Maurice Gattefossé's observation of the healing effect of Lavender oil when he burnt his hand in a laboratory accident, that led him to research essential oils in greater depth, and eventually to create the word 'aromathérapie'. Dr. Bean Valnet used Lavender oil to treat serious burns and war injuries when he was a French army surgeon. Lavender is both antiseptic and analgesic, which makes it an ideal choice for treating burns and all kinds of injuries. Also, it promotes rapid healing and helps to prevent scarring.

Colds & flu's relief

The analgesic, antiseptic and antibiotic properties of Lavender oil also make it a valuable treatment for colds, coughs, catarrh and sinusitis, as well as 'flu, the most effective form of treatment being a steam inhalation. The oil of Lavender added to a hot bowl of water can soothe, decongest and attack the bacteria which cause secondary infections, leading to catarrh and sinusitis following colds or flu. Lavender is also an effective sedative, so such an inhalation, used last thing at night, will aid sleep, and this in itself helps recovery. A little oil of Lavender (neat) can be massaged into the throat to relieve a tickly cough. The sedative action of Lavender calms the tickle, and the warmth of the body releases some of the volatile oil to be breathed in, and this works on the cause of the cough, the infection in the respiratory area.

A drop or two can be massaged in the same way along the bony ridges of the eyebrows and on either side of the nostrils to help catarrh. In doing this, you will be working on some important acupressure points for catarrh, as well as using the decongestant and antibacterial action of the Lavender.

Headache relief

Massaged into the temples, Lavender will relieve many forms of headache. If this alone does not help, a cold compress of Lavender can be placed on the forehead or back of the neck.

Muscular & joints pain relief

One of the most important uses of Lavender is for the relief of muscular pain, whatever the cause. It is best used in a massage oil, either alone or preferably blended with another oil, such as Marjoram or Rosemary. If there is nobody available who can give massage, an aromatic bath with Lavender will also give relief to muscular pain following exercise, or arising from tension, etc. Low back pain can be helped in this way, providing it is first established that the pain is muscular in origin, and does not arise from any spinal irregularity (it is as well to have this checked by an osteopath or chiropractor before undertaking treatment).

The same methods can be used to relieve the pain of rheumatism, sciatica, arthritis, etc., because of the multiple action of Lavender oil in reducing pain locally, lowering the reaction to pain of the central nervous system, reducing inflammation and toning

the system generally.

Skin Treatment

The soothing, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties of Lavender make it valuable for many skin conditions, and its delicate and well-loved aroma lends itself well to blending in creams, lotions, skin-tonics, etc., in concentration of 1% to 2%. Lavender is one of the most valuable oils for the treatment of acne. It inhibits the bacteria which cause the skin infection, while soothing the skin, helping to balance the over-secretion of sebum, which the bacteria thrive on, and helping to reduce scarring.

Insect repellent & bites

The insect repellent and insecticidal properties of Lavender have been used for many centuries to protect clothes and household linens from moths and other small pests, and to delicately perfume the linens at the same time. Lavender oil mixed with Peppermint or Eucalyptus applied to the skin will help you avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, midges and other insects, but if you should get bitten or stung, a little of the neat oil, applied as soon as possible to the skin, will take the pain out of the sting and help to stop the irritation spreading and infection entering at the puncture point.

Mental help & Anxiety relief

On the psychological plane the actions of Lavender can be seen to ‘mirror' many of its physical effects. Because of its primarily balancing nature, it is of great value in helping people who are in an unbalanced emotional state -hysteria, manic depression or widely fluctuating moods). Massage of either side of the spine with Lavender can help

profoundly in such situations, and here the physical touch of the therapist is also a very important part of the healing process. Lavender baths are also very useful - both between treatments and as a very valuable and effective form of self-help. People who are depressed and/or anxious will benefit from using Lavender in the bath, particularly at night.

Sleep aid

Insomnia is one of the states for which Lavender is the supreme choice of essential oil, whether the causes are physical discomfort or mental stress, anxiety or an overactive brain at night. While an aromatic bath is probably the very best method of use, a few drops of the oil on a hankie, or on the pillow case can also be very effective. One or two drops on a nightie or pyjamas will often soothe a sleepless child.


Lavender blends with so many different oils because of its subtle sweet and floral smell. Here's some ideas to enjoy:

  • Oils from the same plant family (Labiatae) such as Rosemary and Marjoram

  • Citrus oils such as Lemon, Sweet Orange or Lemongrass

  • Fresh woody aromas such as Pine, Eucalyptus or Peppermint

Our personal favourite, and what seems to be on Portobello Road, is Lavender, Peppermint and Eucalyptus. It can be simply described as, "smells just like a spa".

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