Lavender / Lavande
Lavandula angustifolia (Lamiaciae family) Lavender is also known as elf lead, nard, spike and spikenard.
Parts Used: The herb consists of the top 30% of the aerial parts of the plant picked as its flowers begin to open from late June to mid July. Lavender will sometimes flower twice in a season and both flowerings can be harvested.
Habitat: Perennial. This plant is not native to North America, but originated in the Mediterranean. In Ontario it can be treated as an annual or as a tender perennial. It needs to be mulched heavily in order to survive a Canadian winter. The plant does not grow from seed very easily and is best propagated from cutting or by layering. Rich fertile soil encourages leaf growth as opposed to blossom and should be avoided. It is helpful at the beginning of the flowering season to cut it back, but not into the woody stems. Plants have a tendency to become straggly and lose vitality after about 5 years.
Properties: Analgesic, antibacterial, anticonvulsant, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic (digestive, general), anxiolytic, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, febrifuge, nervine, relaxant, tranquilizer, and vasodilator (neural, peripheral).
Uses: Lavender is used for burns, headaches, muscle spasms, cuts and wounds, insomnia, digestive problems, nervousness and other anxiety related disorders. It is an excellent tonic for the nervous system. Lavender has been found to have analgesic properties and can be used to relieve pain. Linalool (a constituent in the essential oil) works to increase a person’s pain threshold. The plant also inhibits the action of hormones that cause inflammation. Aside from acting to encourage wound healing, it is also antibacterial and acts against viruses. As an antispasmodic it can be used for digestive conditions and to calm the smooth muscle of the uterus. It can be effective for menstrual cramps. Lavender oil is one of the few essential oils that is safe to apply directly to the skin without a carrier oil. The oil is especially effective at preventing scars, particularly from burns.
Preparation/Dosage: Fresh or dried tea, tincture of essential oil. Lavender has a strong distinctive flavour and sometimes will need to be masked by another herb in a formula to make it more palatable.
Safety Considerations: Because of its action on the smooth muscle of the uterus, large doses are not recommended during pregnancy.