The benefits of lavender oil
One of the most popular and versatile essential oils used in aromatherapy, lavender oil is associated with multiple health and wellbeing benefits. We asked clinical aromatherapist and psychotherapist Jules McClean to explain how we might use lavender oil to ease our ailments.
What is it?
Lavender oil is extracted from the flowers of the lavender bush using steam distillation. It has a familiar, sweet, floral fragrance, and is a common ingredient in bath products and perfumes. The oil was first used by the Romans to scent their baths and newly washed linen. Lavender’s name comes from the Latin lavare, meaning ‘to wash’. The earliest record of its medicinal use is by the Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides (AD 40-90). These days it’s widely used by aromatherapists for a range of conditions and is one of the most versatile essential oils around.
How it can help you?
Headaches Lavender oil has minor painkilling properties; it appears to reduce the transmission of nerve impulses that carry pain signals. To help clear headaches, add three to five drops of the pure essential oil to a bowl of very hot water (not boiling) and inhale the vapour for 5-10 minutes. Or, if you’re out and about, apply a few drops of the essential oil to a tissue and inhale at regular intervals. You could also add a drop to the tip of each forefinger and massage your temples (using undiluted lavender essential oil is generally safe, but avoid applying directly if you have sensitive skin, as it can cause discomfort for some).
Anxiety Lavender has soothing properties and is often associated with calming or relieving anxiety due to its sedative effects. A recent clinical study found inhaling the vapours from lavender essential oil eased agitation in people with dementia. It’s a great oil to sniff when you are feeling stressed or worried.
Insomnia Its relaxing properties also means it may help if you have trouble sleeping. Try putting two or three drops on your pillowcase before going to bed.
Spots, bites and stings It’s antibacterial and is one of the few essential oils that can be applied direct to the skin – dab neat onto the affected area. Lavender also relieves itching, thanks to its anti-inflammatory action.
IBS Lavender oil is antispasmodic, so it can help relieve IBS-related cramps when used in abdominal massage. For an effective blend, mix together 20ml of base oil, such as grapeseed, and add four drops of lavender, two drops of peppermint or black pepper, and two drops of chamomile.
How to use it
Lavender combines well with most other essential oils, so you could try mixing it with rose or jasmine for a luxurious blend of scents. Or use it with neroli or bergamot for the ultimate in relaxation.
Vaporisation Using oils in a vaporiser is an easy way to add ambience to your home. Simply add 6-12 drops of lavender essential oil and breathe in the fragrant perfume for a soothing effect.
Massage This is such a relaxing way to enjoy lavender’s maximum benefits – ask your partner to knead your back and shoulders with a lavender blend. Use up to five drops of the pure essential oil, or a blend of oils, in a base of 10-15ml (one tablespoon) of wheatgerm or jojoba oil.
Bathing Benefit from lavender’s relaxing properties by adding 8-10 drops of essential oil – a single oil or a blend – to a full bath. Stir up the water to help disperse the oil. While you relax in the bath, the skin will absorb a small amount of the oil.