Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ingredient Spotlight: Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender essential oil is one of the most popular and well known essential oils. It is generally known to calm and relax the body to the point that it is often used to promote sleep. Did you know that it is also antibacterial and helps burns to heal faster and without scaring? Lavender oil is also one of the safest essential oils and can be used to treat children’s minor cuts and scrapes. Many essential oils are not safe to use on children.

© Beisea | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Lavender essential oil comes from over 20 different species and they can be grouped into 3 main varieties. 

1.   True lavender. Lavandula angustifolia, L. officinalis, and L. vera are commonly known as common lavender or English lavender. These plants feature narrow leaves, short, crooked stems, and barrel-shaped flowers. The flower gives off a sweet, floral scent that sooths, calms, and relaxes.

2.   Spike lavender essential oil. L. spica and L. latifolia are coarser plants, with broader leaves than true lavender (L. officinalis). While these varieties yields up to three times the amount of essential oil as true lavender, the scent is less highly prized. The oil from spike lavender flowers is more akin to a combination of eucalyptus and lavender. 

3.   Lavandin essential oil. L. hybrida is a sterile hybrid plant that results from the cross-pollination of English lavender and spike lavender. This oil is more camphorous than L. angustifolia and has similar, but less pronounced, therapeutic properties. It can be included in formulations intended for pain relief or disinfection. Compared to true lavender plants, these plants have larger leaves, longer stems, and larger flowers that are pointed at the tip. Lavandin produces more oil than true lavender; however, the scent is quite different from true lavender. Lavandin tends to have a woody scent with a hint of a spicy-green, camphor aroma. While Lavandin does have therapeutic properties, it is not be used as a substitute for true lavender since the therapeutic properties differ. 

Lavender Oil is often the first essential oil that is used to help recover from burns. Here is an interesting tidbit: This amazing property of lavender essential oil was first discovered by René-Maurice Gattefossé in 1910. The following is a tale traditionally told about his discovery:

“In 1910 French chemist and scholar René-Maurice Gattefossé discovered the virtues of the essential oil of lavender. Gattefossé badly burned his hand during an experiment in a perfumery plant and plunged his hand into the nearest tub of liquid, which just happened to be lavender essential oil. He was later amazed at how quickly his burn healed and with very little scarring. This started a fascination with essential oils and inspired him to experiment with them during the First World War on soldiers in the military hospitals.”

While there is some truth to this tale, the real story as told by Gattefossé himself, in his book Aromathérapie: Les Huiles Essentielles Hormones Végétales (buy here translated into English), states:

“The external application of small quantities of esences rapidly stops the spread of gangrenous sores. In my personal experience, after a laboratory explosion covered me with burning substances which I extinguished by rolling on a grassy lawn, both my hands were covered with a rapidly developing gas gangrene. Just one rinse with lavender essence stopped “the gasification of the tissue”. This treatment was followed by profuse sweating, and healing began the next day (July 1910).”

Ladybug Soapworks Lavender Soap

Ladybug Soapworks uses lavender essential oil in our lavender soap, lavender bath salts, lavender roll-on perfume oil, and lavender bath oil. Try some of these products to experience the calming and relaxing properties of lavender oil.

For more information see:  - Great website with lots of information on essential oils. - Good site with the true story of how René-Maurice Gattefossé found the burn healing properties of lavender.