by Geraldine Zelinsky
William Turner (Herbal, 1545)
I judge that the flowers of lavender quilted in a cappe and dayly worn are good
for all diseases of the head that come of a cold cause and that they comfort the braine very well.
From ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, Syria and Persia, through the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Victorian Era the use of Lavender has been noted for its healing, antiseptic and cosmetic properties. It was not until the Modern Era that a French perfume chemist, Rene Gattefosse, and French Army Surgeon, Dr Jean Valnet, verified the healing and antiseptic properties of Lavender oil. Lavender was used extensively during World Wars I and II when medical antiseptics and anti-inflammatories were in short supply.
WILL THE REAL LAVENDER PLEASE STAND UP?
Before we can begin any discussion on the subject of Lavender, however, we must define exactly what type of Lavender we will be discussing. Not all lavenders are the same! According to Dr Jeanine Davis of NC State University and many other sources the phytochemistry varies greatly between the genus Lavandula. Lavenders are made up of a multitude of chemical constituents which make up the plant oils healing properties. The chemical constituents and their healing properties can be vastly different. It is critical to know the Latin binomial (name) of the particular plant to get an idea of its constituents to determine which will
provide the best application for a specific use. 1Essential oils distilled from members of the genus Lavandula have been used both cosmetically and therapeutically for centuries with the most commonly used species being L. angustifolia, L. latifolia, L. stoechas and L. x intermedia.
For the purpose of this document, we will be looking at the various constituents and healing properties of Lavandula vera (aka L. angustifolia, L. officinalis). This particular Lavender, grown in the mountain districts of Southern France, has a very high content of Linalyl acetate and Linalool. Because of the aforementioned chemical constituents, the healing properties are wide ranging and varied. Lavender oil is the most researched and the most widely used, according to one of the most important people of our generation in the world of aromatherapy, Robert Tisserand. He further states that properties of Lavender oil are antibacterial, antifungal, immune stimulant, analgesic and anxiolytic and much more.
L. vera is made up of two primary chemical constituents, Linalyl acetate and Linalool (comprising over 62% of the overall makeup in the oil we sourced). 2Chemically, Linalyl acetate is the acetate ester of linalool, and the two often occur in conjunction. Synthetic Linalyl acetate is sometimes used as an adulterant in essential oils to make them more marketable. For example, it may be added to lavandin oil which is then sold as more desirable lavender oil. Linalyl acetate is known primarily for its antiseptic, antifungal, anti-infectious and anti-mycotic properties. A recent German study found 3as proven in vitro, essential oils represent a cheap and effective antiseptic topical treatment option even for antibiotic-resistant strains as MRSA and antimycotic-resistant Candida species.
Linalool is primarily known for its relaxing, anti-inflammatory properties. Linalool is a 2naturally occurring terpene alcohol chemical found in many flowers and spice plants with many commercial applications, the majority of which are based on its pleasant scent (floral, with a touch of spiciness). It has other names such as ß-linalool, linalyl alcohol, linaloyl oxide, p-linalool, allo-ocimenol, and 2,6-dimethyl-2,7-octadien-6-ol.
4Lavender aromatherapy reduced serum cortisol and improved CFVR (coronary flow velocity reserve) in healthy men. These findings suggest that lavender aromatherapy has relaxation effects and may have beneficial acute effects on coronary circulation. In Korea, 5Lavender aromatherapy in volunteers provided a significant decrease in the stress levels and in the BIS values. In addition, it significantly reduced the pain intensity of needle insertion.
A study conducted in Italy shows that 6Lavender oil shows both fungistatic and fungicidal activity against C. albicans strains.
The USDA only recognizes Flavor and Fragrance grade essential oils and not Medical or Therapeutic grade. We do know that the ‘therapeutic and/or medical’ value and subsequent application response is greatly enhanced when an oil comes from a known, reputable source where the highest integrity is used in the growing, harvesting and distillation.
We can now begin to understand the incredible versatility this plant offers. Lavender from plant to bottle and beyond is a gift of nature. We cherish its beauty, its fragrance and its healing properties. Some days it is just really nice to open that little blue bottle, take a whiff, and say…………….aaahhhh!
1 Phytother Res. 2002 Jun;16(4):301-8. Biological activities of
lavender essential oil. Cavanagh HM, Wilkinson JM. Source School of Biomedical Sciences,
Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2678, Australia.
3 J Craniomaxillofac Surg.
2009 Oct;37(7):392-7. Epub 2009 May 26. The battle against multi-resistant
strains: Renaissance of antimicrobial essential oils as a promising force to
fight hospital-acquired infections. Warnke PH, Becker ST, Podschun R, Sivananthan S, Springer IN, Russo PA, Wiltfang J, Fickenscher H, Sherry E. Source Department
of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, University of Kiel, Germany.
warnke @ mkg.uni-kiel.de
4 Int J Cardiol. 2008 Sep
26;129(2):193-7. Epub 2007 Aug 8. Relaxation effects of lavender
aromatherapy improve coronary flow velocity reserve in healthy men evaluated by
transthoracic Doppler echocardiography. Shiina Y, Funabashi N, Lee K, Toyoda T, Sekine T, Honjo S, Hasegawa R, Kawata T, Wakatsuki Y, Hayashi S, Murakami S, Koike K, Daimon M, Komuro I. Source
of Cardiovascular Science and Medicine, Chiba University Graduate School of
Medicine, 1-8-1 Inohana, Chuo-ku, Chiba City, Chiba 260-8670, Japan.
5 J Altern Complement Med. 2011 Sep;17(9):823-6. Epub 2011 Aug 19. The effect of
lavender oil on stress, bispectral index values, and needle insertion pain in
volunteers. Kim S, Kim HJ, Yeo JS, Hong SJ, Lee JM, Jeon Y. Source
Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, School of Dentistry,
Kyungpook National University, Daegu, Korea.
6 Med Mycol. 2005 Aug;43(5):391-6. Antifungal
activity of Lavandula angustifolia essential oil against Candida albicans yeast
and mycelial form. D’Auria FD, Tecca M, Strippoli V, Salvatore G, Battinelli L, Mazzanti G. Source Department of
Public Health, University La Sapienza, Rome, Italy.
A Note From The Editor: This is the same Lavender Essential Oil that is used in the manufacture of the new Stockton Aloe 1 Youth Derm Ointment (2012) made with 70% aloe Vera Gel.