19 September 2018
This article excerpted from the materia medica of Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Healing for Women, who we're delighted to be welcoming back to the Herbal Conference again this year!
Lavendula officinalis and related species
Parts used: flowers and leaves
Lavender is one of my favorite herbs for nerve stress and tension. It has a special affinity with women’s spirit. Often thought of as a delicate ornamental, lavender is not only beautiful and aromatic, but pungent and powerful. Native to the Mediterranean, where it grows wild on sun-drenched hills, it has traveled far and wide and has taken up residence in gardens everywhere. With its lovely, lavender blue flowers and fragrant pungent odor, it as entwined itself into the hearts of women everywhere and is a very useful herb if we open to its strengthening and empowering qualities.
Lavender has long been valued for its ability to bring courage and strength to the user. Traditionally, sprigs of lavender were tied in bundles and placed in the hands of women in labor. Squeezing the fragrant bundles was believed to give them added strength and courage during childbirth. Lavender has long been used to calm nervous stress and is especially useful during menopause and menstrual difficulties. During the Middle Ages it was a valued remedy for hysteria. I’ve found it can be very healing to women undergoing their periods of intense stress to place sprigs of lavender and lavender oil in the rooms of their home. Its essence brings calmness and inner strength to the user.
Though beautiful and fragrant, lavender is a potent herb and is best when used in combination with other herbs when taken internally. For headaches, lavender should be combined with melissa (lemon balm) and skullcap. For muscle spasms and cramps, it works wonders when combined with valerian. For depression, lavender should be mixed with borage flowers. Because of its exceptionally high concentration of volatile oils, lavender is also very effective when used externally, and it is often found in herbal baths, steams, and massage oils. Hot water opens pores, and the volatile oils are rapidly absorbed and diffused throughout the body. It’s like immersing oneself in a giant cup of calming tea. Lavender baths are excellent for pregnant women are are highly recommended during the entire pregnancy. For people who are bedridden, lavender sponge baths are invigorating, refreshing and revitalizing.
Today most women are introduced to lavender as a potpourri and sachet herb. Though certainly these are two of its many used, lavender is for more than just a lovely aromatic flower. A potent healing plant, it is a crone among herbs—wise, ancient, and powerful.
There are no reported side effects or toxic reactions from the use of lavender.