So much to say and so much to read… why don’t I tell the story from a personal point of view instead of aping repeated lists upon lists of uses… My personal panacea, from the flowers, to the essential oil, to the Tarot des Fleurs, lavender is an ally.
I remember my earliest interactions with plants began in the backyards of both my grandparents, specifically in the gardens of my grandmothers. Now, neither of them were herbalists, I don’t come from a long line of healers, but they were plant lovers and through them I inherited that adoration. My grandmothers had greatly diverse styles and tastes. My father’s mother loved that old English Enclosure look, with manicured topiary, Pachysandra neatly clipped and Columbine in rows. Potted colorful geraniums and Blue Ageratum flowers, when I see Dusty Miller’s (Senecio cineraria) I will always think if her, Mary Theresa MacAnallen Moore Wu. She loved colors and form and organization. While my mother’s mother, has a different style, a bit more country, a bit wilder, and elegant, with Tree Roses, Tiger Lilies, Sweet Peas lining a quarter of a mile-long driveway, wild Black Raspberries and horse pastures. At her house, things were a bit more tactile, with pelts of exotic animals, gifts from one of my grandfather’s clients, wild flowers hanging in bunches and rows of books upon books upon books… Grandma Yvonne has Lemon and Rose Geraniums, not known for their vibrant colors but for their strong aroma. And she always has had patches of lavender, which I see in my 9-year-old mind’s eye covered in bees, feasting on their pollen. How romantic the sights and sounds of rolling alfalfa hills of Upstate New York. I remember vividly the feeling of pinching Lavender flowers and stems, the stickiness of each leaf, the burst of flora. The color purple.
Lavender for me has and will always be associated with Grandmother… and did you know, that you existed inside of your grandmother? When she carried your mother, your mother had already developed all the eggs she would ever have, all the potential for her to give life, and one of those eggs was you. You lived in the womb of your grandmother as she lived within hers, and the chain is never broken. We can forget their names and stories, but the resonant beating of their heart we hear from inside the endometrial sack, the rhythm to which we step and breathe. Lavender, it offers us a way to connect deeply with our ancestors, especially those who walked the female line. We live in a modern time, where the majority of people take their father’s name, yet for millennia, many children did not know who their fathers were, as women were free unto themselves, embodied archetypal Maiden’s, who knew men, but were not their property. Children could only be certain who their mothers were, and through these women, children received nourishment and the means to survive. When we give thanks for these precious human lives, we thank our mother for carrying us, for baring us, for being whoever she was and is, in all her humanity, the Magna Mater, the Matrix, Creatrix, lover her or hate her, she’s the only one you got.
If I could bring one medicinal plant to the deserted island, it would be lavender. I typically engage Lavender as an essential oil, and there are many grades of lavender EO, from Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula officinalis to the lesser quality hybridized Lavandin and Lavandula latifolia also known as Spike Lavender. They all will stimulate similar effects, though I prefer organic, small batch crops from Bulgaria and France. The inhalation, immediately calming, reduces anxiety and tension associated with racing mind, overthinking, stress and annoyances. The anti-inflammatory action reduces bouts of anger, while lightening the mood and dissolving negativity. While most essential oils need to be diluted, Lavender is so gentle it can be dabbed directly onto the skin, avoiding the eyes. I put a dot under my nose, behind my ears, on my third eye and on my heart. Lavender EO also calms irritated skin and is my favorite acne treatment. Diluted in apple cider vinegar and water, it makes a refreshing hair and scalp rinse for mild itching and irritation. It can be used as a deodorant, as a refreshing spritz in a water bottle or as a toner in Witch Hazel. In clinic, we always have a bottle of Lavender in water and someone designated as the lavender fairy to ease the anxieties of the dis-eased. Cooling to the skin, it is an excellent remedy for sunburn alone or mixed with either black tea or oat water. In first aid, Lavender EO can be applied directly to a kitchen burn, to insect and animal bites, for scrapes and abrasions, bruises, sprains and strains. For some people, it can be mildly sedative, an inhalation or a dab below the nostrils before bed, helps ease people into deeper sleep. For those experiencing anxiety from overuse or misuse of Cannabis, Lavender inhalation is also a wonderful remedy. As an inhalation is it also effective for the relief of mild sinus headaches and as a steam inhalation for sinus infections. In the bathtub or as a body oil, it penetrates deeper into the muscles as an antispasmodic relaxant. The antispasmodic activity can also be applied in emergency medicine in place of an inhaler for milder to midgrade cases of an asthma attack. Some people are averse to the smell of Lavender, so you always ask before spritzing, dabbing, rubbing or huffing.
Lavender flowers can be smoked in floral blends with or without Tobacco for those who enjoy that form of medicine and burned in a sensor as an incense to clear the room of negative energy. Psycho-spiritually, Lavender is the 43rd card in the Tarot des Fleurs, my first deck. Without the Major and Minor Arcana correspondences and just a little book written in German, French and English, learning these cards was the most beautiful way to connect with the plant spirits. Lavender is for Spiritual Appeal, the seventh and final chakra, the crown, connecting us to the cosmos and the super consciousness of the universe. Spiritual appeal, Lavender can be employed to draw nature spirits in and keep the bad ones out. A gate keeper much like Elder Berry, stands of Lavender act like an invisible fence around your living space. People in our newer age community are increasingly interested and participating in entheogenic experiences with strongly purgative formulas like Ayahuasca. For some this medicine is deeply transformative, for some, a spiritual bypass, for others dark and demonic. I have been asked by students, “Are there other plants that are also as transformative and awakening? Do all plants have these profound messages like what I experienced with Ayahuasca?” … my answer is always YES! You do not need heavy purges, or many day long retreats into the Amazon or hipster houses in L.A. to experience the depth of plant spirit. All plants are connected by the roots to the heart of the world, they are the voices of the mystery, the givers, keepers and receivers of all life. Their bodies consume the sun, providing us with oxygen and food, that they then offer to the soil for more life to thrive. The best plants to connect deeply with spirit are those who have walked with us humans throughout history, Lavender, Rose, Elder, Rue, Ginseng, Sage, Artemisia, Blue Vervain, Bitter Melon, Willow and Oak. While the entheogenic plants and mushrooms of the rainforests, deserts and tundra are critical to our human awakening, we cannot forget to hear the subtler voices of our common friends. Lavender helps us tune in, quiet the mind and listen to the heart so we can listen to the cries and laughter of everything else around us.
Internally as a water infused tea of the flowers and leaves, Lavender moves stagnant womb blood as well as alleviate gas and cramping in the digestive system. Use along with Chamomile and Yarrow Tea for sluggish menstrual period with clotting and cramping. Use with Peppermint and Chamomile for a soothing after dinner tea.
From the Latin word Lavare, Lavender takes its name due to its highly antiseptic and aromatic qualities that made it a favorite for soaps and bathing oils to the ancient Romans. Lavender is native to the Mediterranean and Asia Minor, first noted in the 6th century BCE and on by famous physicians and scholars such as Theophrastus, Cato the Elder, Varro, Vergil and Pliny the Elder. Used throughout the Middle Ages in monastic and country gardens, it had a strong place in the Unani-Tibb (Greco-Arabic) medicine as an antiepileptic.
Widely cultivated around temperate regions of the globe, Lavender scent can be found in everything from body lotions, shampoos, household cleaners, decorative sachets, dream pillows and eye masks. Select only organically grown Lavender from reputable companies… I personally like Floracopea, Aroma Flor, Pangea Organics and Mountain Rose Herbs.