People usually associate lavender with two specific traits: its fragrance and its color. But you may not know that the lavender flower and the oil derived from it have long histories in herbal medicine.
Its name derives from the Latin root lavare, which literally means, “to wash.” The earliest recorded use of lavender dates back to ancient Egypt. There, lavender oil played a role in the mummification process.
During later historical periods, lavender became a bath additive in several regions, including Persia, ancient Greece, and Rome. These ancient cultures believed that lavender helped purify the body and mind.
Since ancient times, lavender has been used to treat many different ailments, including:
- mental health issues
- hair loss
- skin irritations
Lavender is most commonly used in aromatherapy. Fragrance from the essential oils of the lavender plant is believed to help promote calmness and wellness. It’s also said to help reduce stress, anxiety, and possibly even mild pain. One study found that topically applying lavender, plus sage and rose, could reduce the severity of menstrual cramps.
This form of aromatherapy has been used to help people with cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, fragrant aromatherapy can help manage side effects of cancer treatment. Smell receptors send messages that can affect mood to the brain. It may also help adults who suffer from dementia.
While many people swear by its aromatic healing powers, there isn’t much scientific evidence to support these claims. Many of the tests conducted around lavender have had conflicting results.
It can help you sleep. Once upon a time, lavender was recommended for people suffering from insomnia or other sleep disorders. People stuffed their pillows with lavender flowers to help them fall asleep and get a better night’s rest.
Today, aromatherapists use lavender to treat headaches and nervousness or restlessness. Massage therapists sometimes apply lavender oil to the skin, which might function both as a calming agent and a potential sleep aid. In Germany, lavender tea has been approved as a supplement to treat sleep disruptions, restlessness, and stomach irritation.