Using Plant Allies: lavender

Lavender has been one of my favorite plants to use therapeutically for the past few years.  I love the smell and even the taste when mixed harmoniously with other plants and foods.  I recently moved into a house that has a handful of large lavender plants in the front yard and they are just starting to bloom.  Lavender has wonderful healing properties, some of which I will share here.  There are many ways to enjoy and prepare lavender.  It is one of the most commonly used essential oils and is well known for its relaxing, anti-anxiety effects.  One of my favorite ways to use lavender is to swipe one drop of the essential oil on the bottom of my feet before going to bed.  I find that this invites deep, restful sleep, especially when I am traveling or experiencing transitions (like moving, job change) in life.

Lavender in herbal preparations

When used in herbal preparations such as infusions, lotions, steams, baths, tinctures, and salves, the dried or fresh lavender flower is used.  Lavender is highly aromatic and many of its healing properties come from its volatile oils.  This means that when using lavender it is important to inhale the steam (of the infusion) or inhale the scent of the lavender.  This alone will have a soothing, calming effect.  Lavender is part of the nervine family, a class of herbs that have effects on the nervous system.  Lavender is a mild sedative and has a noticeable calming effect on the nervous system.  It has cooling and anti-inflammatory properties, which make it an excellent addition to facial and body lotions or creams.  These properties also make lavender a great choice for salves for burns, bug bites, and cuts and scrapes.  Lavender has long been used for headache relief by applying a drop of the essential oil at the temples or base of the head.  Lavender is a wonderful addition to many combinations of botanical infusions (I will share one of my favorites at the end!).  An strong infusion of lavender can be added to bath water and is a commonly combined with other herbs in baths for postpartum healing.  Just the smell of lavender can lift and soothe spirits and lavender has both anti-depressant and anti-anxiety properties.  I have come to find lavender as an infusion and as an essential oil a great ally in times of acute stress or anxiety.

Lavender as a flower essence

When used as a flower essence, it is the vibration that lavender carries that becomes the medicine and not the physical properties of the plant.  The uses of lavender as a flower essence are described in this way in the Flower Essence Repertory:

Positive qualities: Spiritual sensitivity, highly refined awareness intact with stable bodily health

Patterns of imbalance: Nervous or high-wired energy states, over-stimulation of mental or spiritual forces, depletion of physical forces, insomnia

The Lavender flower helps those souls who are highly absorbent of spiritual influences.  They tend to be very awake and quite mentally active, with a strong attraction to spiritual practices and various forms of meditation.  However, they often absorb far more energy than can actually be processed through the body.  “High-strung” and “wound up” are words typically used to describe such personalities.  They especially suffer from afflictions to the head, such as headaches or vision problems, and neck and shoulder tension.  They are quite often plagued by insomnia or other nervous maladies.  Lavender first works to sedate and soothe such persons; at a deeper level, it teaches one how to moderate and regulate one’s spiritual-psychic energy.  In this way the soul learns to use its highly sensitive capacities in balance with the physical needs of the body.

Invitation for Practice

Plants are meant to be explored in an experiential and interactive way.  This is the only way to really begin to know how a plant will affect you because every body is unique.  If you have not tried lavender, I invite you to brew a cup of tea.  I like to combine lavender with chamomile (1-2 tsp chamomile + 1/2 tsp lavender flowers in 8 oz boiling water).  Let the tea steep covered for 5 minutes.  Once the tea has brewed, sit down and simply inhale the aroma.  Notice how you body responds or shifts.  Take another inhale and see what happens next.  When you are ready, take a sip and notice the taste and the sensation on your tongue.  Now, enjoy your cup of tea :-)


The Earthwise Herbal: a complete guide to old world medicinal plants by Matthew Wood

Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health by Aviva Romm

Flower Essence Repertory by Patricia Kaminski and Richard Katz