Lavender, History and Medicinal Uses

Lavender: lavandarius, from the Latin word lavare, meaning to wash. A Mediterranean mint that is widely cultivated for its narrow aromatic leaves and spikes of lilac-purple flowers.

The most widely used herb today, Lavender is considered a romantic flower and long revered in literature as an herb of love. Its use can be traced back to the ancient Greeks who called it nardus or nard, after the Syrian city of Naarda. The Romans added lavender to scent their bath water, thinking it would restore their skin and were the ones who introduced it to Britain where it has been grown ever since. Lavender was used in the biblical Temple to prepare the holy essence, is mentioned in the Song of Solomon, and St. Mark mentions the “Spikenard” (probably L. spica, called by some Nardus Italica). Besides being a beautiful, fragrant perennial for the garden, it is grown commercially for aromatherapy, culinary and medicinal purposes.

Used extensively in herbalism, lavender has been officially recognized in the British Pharmacopceia for over 200 years, where the original recipe was printed in 1746 and there have been no changes since. It is said that the recipe is useful for:

‘against the Falling-sickness, and all cold Distempers of the Head, Womb, Stomach and Nerves; against the Apoplexy, Palsy, Convulsions, Megrim, Vertigo, Loss of Memory, Dimness of Sight, Melancholy, Swooning Fits and Barrenness in Women. It was given in canary, or the Syrup of the Juice of Black-cherries, or in Florence wine. Country people may take it in milk or fair water sweetened with sugar… It is an excellent but costly medicine.’

While we have discovered other, more effective drugs for many of these ailments, lavender is still used and effective, as well as a natural remedy for many of our day to day complaints. Well known for its ability to relieve stress and help you sleep, lavender is also useful for relieving local pains when applied warm in a bag as a compress. Lavender has been used for centuries as a disinfectant for treating wounds and burns. In WWI and WWII it was used when other medical supplies ran short. It is also used in veterinary practices for killing lice and other parasites on animals, and because insects are repelled by its smell, Lavender oil rubbed on the skin is useful in preventing mosquito and midge bites. Because of its many healing properties, Lavender oil is a great addition to the medicine cabinet. For more information regarding the medicinal importance of lavender, uses and indications, how to take it and precautions visit www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/lavender-000260.htm.

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