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Lavender Essesntial Oil

    History - Lavender essential oil has been in use since the early days of civilization. There is evidence that the ancient Egyptians used lavender oil in their mummification process. They probably knew of lavender's wonderful healing properties and who knows, they may have also ascribed some spiritual powers to it too.

  But there is no doubt those responsible for preparing the pharaohs for the afterlife appreciated the pleasant aroma of this special plant.

The name "lavender" is said to be derived from the latin word "lavere" meaning "to wash". This is certainly plausible since the ancient Romans are known to have added lavender oil to the water in their famous public baths. The Roman army carried lavender oil to be used as a disinfectant on wounds suffered in battle.

During the Great Plague of the Middle Ages, certain robbers who ransacked the belongings of plague victims were rarely affected by the disease themselves. When caught, the robbers credited their health to cleansing with "Four Thieves Vinegar" after their "work" was done. It is said that they were released after sharing that the secret of their "Vinegar" was lavender oil.

In the early 20th century a French perfumer named René-Maurice Gattefossé experienced a serious burn while working in his laboratory. He treated the burn with the substance nearest at hand - lavender oil. Gattefosse noticed that the wound healed much more quickly and with less scarring than would be expected without the treatment. This launched him into research in the aromatic oils and their healing properties, publishing the book Aromathérapie: Les Huiles Essentielles Hormones Végétales in 1937. The book was later translated into English, bringing us the term "Aromatherapy". Lavender played an essential (pun intended) role in leading to scientific research in this therapy.

Here in the 21st century, lavender essential oil is being newly discovered by a generation of people who are recognizing the benefits of natural remedies. Lavender fragrance is common in household and bath products, and it's therapeutic benefits are being applied through aromatherapy, skin care products, and the oil itself has many uses. It has been used successfully in a very wide variety of treatments, from treating baldness, to insect repellent.

Lavender Plants - There are over 30 Species of lavender, but the vast majority of lavender essential oil comes from hybrids called lavandins. These hybrids are a cross between varieties of English Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia) and Spike Lavender (Lavandula Latifolia). It is claimed that the English Lavenders produce a higher quality of oil than the lavandins, but the lavandins produce 4-5 times as much lavender essential oil for a given amount of plant material. In addition, these hybrids are typically very hardy and disease resistant. For these reasons they are preferred by most commercial lavender growers.

Lavender Essential Oil Production - When the lavender plants are in bloom the spikes with the blooms on the end are harvested. While this is still done by hand in many places just as it has been traditionally done for centuries, the larger farms are becoming mechanized in their harvesting methods. The plant material is placed in a still and the oil is typically extracted using steam distillation. Depending on the variety of lavender and the health of the plant at harvest, it will take 2-5 pounds of plant material to produce an ounce of pure lavender oil. A by-product of the distillation process called hydrosol, is the water that remains after the oil has been skimmed off the top. While the hydrosol doesn't have the therapeutic properties of the pure oil, it has plenty of the wonderful scent and can be used in a variety of ways.

Lavender Oil Uses - The amazing number and wide variety of uses for lavender essential oil really are incredible and can be divided into two broad categories: 1) Therapeutic and 2) Aromatic.

Lavender oil has many natural health benefits. It is an antiseptic and can be used to cleanse wounds. It is a mild pain killer when applied externally. Note: Never take lavender or any other essential oil internally! (My son's "growing pains" in his joints are relieved by rubbing lavender oil on them) Many skin conditions are improved from the application of lavender oil. (My daughter has had an eczema condition on her toes that could only be controlled by ongoing use of hydrocortizone, but when she applied lavender oil it cleared up within a few days.) Lavender oil is a mainstay in the practice of aromatherapy and generally produces a calming affect. It has been shown to help many people go to sleep more easily and to sleep more restfully.

Inhalation of the lavender aroma not only tends to make people feel better, but it smells good! For this reason the lavender scent is very popular in the bath products industry and with perfumers. Creams, lotions and soaps made with lavender oil have the dual benefit of smelling wonderful and being good for the skin. Linens sprayed with lavender water smell great and can help a person relax at night. Household products from air fresheners to cleaning solutions are now scented with lavender oil.

If you are just getting started in the use of lavender oil, it would be a good investment to purchase a quality reference book on essential oils and their uses. It really is an incredibly large topic to cover and it is important to have that information handy.

Buying Lavender Essential Oil - When buying lavender essential oil it is most important to be sure that the oil is pure. Start with purchasing a small quantity from a reputable health food store. Getting acquainted with a good aromatherapist or other person knowledgeable in essential oils would also be a good idea. Some people think that it is important to ensure that the oil is certified organic. While you certainly don't want traces of pesticides in your oil, most farms don't need to use them anyway because bugs don't tend to bother lavender. Often the extra cost of being certified as organic is passed on to the consumer and may not be worth it. Many farmers grow organically but don't get certified due to the cost.


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