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Lavender (Lavandula officinalis)
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia Mill.) in the mint family (Lamiaceae) is an aromatic evergreen subshrub native to the Mediterranean region.1 The plant grows to three feet, and has green to grayish-green foliage and small blue or purple flowers. The essential oil is obtained from the flowering tops.
History and Traditional Use
Lavandula angustifolia (syn. L. vera) has been used to prevent intestinal gas, to increase urine secretion, to prevent and relieve spasm, and as a general tonic.1 In Spain, lavender is used as an antidiabetic agent. The flowers are simmered and the steam inhaled as a cold remedy; a tea has been used to induce or increase menstrual flow; and extracts have been used to treat acne and migraines. The fresh flowers and leaves have been used to treat headache and rheumatic pain. Lavender has a multitude of uses in aromatherapy.
Modern Medicinal Use
Lavender flower is approved for internal use by the German Commission E for mood disturbances such as restlessness or insomnia, certain functional abdominal complaints such as gaseous distension of the stomach, Roehmheld's syndrome, and nervous intestinal discomfort; it has been approved in bath therapy for the treatment of functional circulatory disorders.2 In Germany the tea is used additionally for lack of appetite.3 In Europe, lavender is commonly used to prevent spasms of smooth muscle (such as in the stomach), to prevent gas formation in the stomach, and as a mild tranquilizer.4
Modern Consumer Use
Lavender is used as a fragrance component in pharmaceutical products such as antiseptic ointments, creams, lotions, and jellies.4 Cosmetic products such as soaps, detergents, creams, lotions, and perfumes also commonly contain lavender as a fragrance component (especially the oil), and the oil is frequently found in insect repellents. In commercial food preparation, the flowers and more commonly the oil are used as a flavoring in beverages (both alcoholic and nonalcoholic), vinegars, baked goods, candy, gelatins, puddings, and frozen dairy desserts.
1 DerMarderosian A, Beutler JA. The Review of Natural Products: The Most Complete Source of Natural Product Information. 3rd ed. St Louis (MO): Facts and Comparisons; 2002.
2 Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, Gruenwald J, Hall T, Riggins CW, Rister RS, editors. Klein S, Rister RS, translators. The Complete German Commission E Monographs&emdash;Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin (TX): American Botanical Council; Boston: Integrative Medicine Communication; 1998.
3 Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J, editors. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Austin (TX): American Botanical Council; Newton (MA): Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.
4 Leung AY., Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. New York: Wiley-Interscience; 1996.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Disclaimer: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.