Calming Lavender: Good for Your Skin and Your Mood

Calming Lavender: Good for Your Skin and Your Mood
When most people think of lavender, they think of that fresh, earthy-floral scent often used in perfumes, soaps, and lotions. It is that stress relieving, relaxing aroma that puts you in a good mood. Its name is derived from the Latin "lavera," meaning to wash. Ancient Romans offered it in their famous baths. It was used in the Egyptians' mummification process and it's said that, when King Tut's tomb was opened in 1923, the faint scent of lavender could still be detected after 3,000 years!

Things Are Catching On

Lavender has been enjoying renewed superstar status as a viable alternative to “conventional” treatments and ingredients. Lavender has been enjoying renewed superstar status as a viable alternative to "conventional" treatments and ingredients. It's now one of the most popular essential oils on the market. Science has only recently begun to pay attention to lavender, but there is already an abundance of evidence pointing to the range of health benefits contained in this plant, and further research is being done all the time. There are hundreds of uses for lavender, both by itself and in conjunction with other essential oils. It's helpful both for its aromatherapy properties and direct medicinal qualities. It's commonly used in cleaners and insect repellents, too. Below, we'll provide just a few highlights of lavender's practical uses.

Skin Deep

Lavender's anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties ease bothersome and uncomfortable skin conditions and reverse signs of aging. The oil has also had positive results in helping with eczema, acne, and diaper rash. It's one of the few aromatherapy oils that can be used undiluted on the skin, making it one of the best ingredients for skin care. Tonic water made with lavender oil is good for delicate and sensitive skin and can speed skin cell replacement. Soaps or face wash utilizing lavender are also wonderfully pampering. This herb has antiseptic qualities and, given the origin of its name, is a wonderful oil to use in your bath. In addition, it is an excellent choice for treating minor burns, cuts, and scrapes. Research shows that it speeds healing of these wounds, attributable to its antimicrobial compounds. A study on rats indicates lavender accelerated the formulation of granulation tissue and promotion of collagen synthesis. Scientists tested lavender oil and found it to be lethal to a range of fungi that cause common skin and nail infections known as dermatophytes, as well as multiple species of Candida. While antifungal drugs out there are causing resistance (as with antibiotics), essential oils do not have that problem. It can be used undiluted as a pain reliever for insect bites and stings and may also be used as a mosquito repellent.

Breathe Deeply

Lavender has a naturally calming essence, relieving anxiety and providing stress relief. Lavender has a naturally calming essence, relieving anxiety and providing stress relief. Some findings suggest it reduces the severity of depression when used in conjunction with an antidepressant medication. One study showed participants felt less anxious and more positive after receiving a massage with lavender oil, as compared to those who just received massage alone. It's been shown to improve PTSD symptoms. Taking daily lavender helped to decrease depression by 33%, and drastically decrease sleep disturbances, moodiness, and improve overall health in 47 people suffering from PTSD. Evidence now suggests that aromatherapy involving lavender may slow the activity of the nervous system and protect against neurological damage, improving sleep quality and lifting the moods of people suffering from sleep disorders. As a result, it's been used to treat insomnia. A recent study shows that lavender increases the time you spend in slow wave (deep) sleep, with the effects being stronger for women than men. Add a few drops to a diffuser or directly onto your pillow before bedtime to get a good night's sleep. Use it in shower gel or bath oil and mix some in with your moisturizer before bed. Add a few drops of the oil to the dryer with your linens.

Super Powers

Lavender is a natural antioxidant, which can work to prevent and reverse disease. A study published in a 2013 Phytomedicine edition showed lavender oil to increase the activity of the body's most powerful antioxidants: glutathione, catalase, and superoxide dismutase (SOD). Further studies have backed that finding, proving lavender to have antioxidant activity, with the ability to prevent and reverse oxidative stress.

The List Goes On

Lavender has been shown to be a healing aid against colds, flu, and migraines. Lavender has been shown to be a healing aid against colds, flu, and migraines. It's beneficial for problems like bronchitis, asthma, colds, laryngitis, throat infections, and whooping cough. Breathing vapors from a diffuser or very hot water may help to relieve tension headache pain. It can also be rubbed directly on the skin. According to a study published in European Neurology, people suffering from migraine headaches saw a significant reduction in pain after inhaling lavender oil for 15 minutes. Another study proved that, when massaged into the skin, lavender oil can help relieve dysmenorrhea (menstrual pain and cramping in the lower abdomen). This suggests that lavender can be used as a natural remedy for PMS and menstrual cramps.

Buyer Beware

Essential oils are widely available on the market, but beware: the disparity in cost is usually directly related to the quality of the oil. Commercially, lavender is found in many personal care products, though usually only in trace amounts and in combination with chemicals that aren't necessarily ideal for your health. There are many varieties of lavender, and multiple varieties are commonly used. The best quality oil comes from Lavandula angustifolia and L. stoechas. "Spike" oil, used to perfume cheaper goods, comes from L. latifolia. "Lavandin," a medium-quality oil, is derived from L. intermedia. Read your ingredients list carefully. When purchasing pure essential oils, you want to be sure to look for "Therapeutic Grade" oils. They will have been cultivated and processed with the highest quality standards, meaning organically grown, processed in a clean environment, and handled and stored in proper packaging.