You might have come across one or more aromatic plants before but if you think you haven’t, just be rest assured that you’ve indirectly done so even without you being aware. There are several aromatic plants in existence, both the naturally occurring ones and the artificially grown ones. Aromatic plants are cultivated mainly for producing essential oils, medicines, perfumes, toothpaste, cosmetics and for food preparations.
One remarkable aromatic plant that has gained global interest is the lavender, which is also known as Lavandula. Lavender is a genus of about 25 - 30 species of flowering plants in the mint family of Lamiaceae. The term “lavender” originated from the Latin word “lavare”, which connotes “to wash”. This plant is originally from the Mediterranean part of the world, Europe, Asia and Africa before spreading to other parts of the globe.
Lavenders are evergreen plants that bear varying ranges of bluish to violet colour flowers with lobed or unlobed leaves. Two main types of lavenders are the tender and hardy lavenders, which are distinguished from each other by their varying sizes. Lavenders thrive best under sunny weather and rich, well-drained soil and it usually blossoms between June to September.
While the tender lavenders (Lavandula dentata and Lavandula stoechas) grow tall with conspicuous bracts at their flowers’ apex, the hardy ones (Lavandula angustifolia, Lavandula latifolia and Lavandula intermedia) tend to grow short. This shrubby, herbaceous plant usually grows between 1 to 3 ft tall and produces greyish leaves with either blunt or narrow flower spikes.
There are several species of lavender such as; Lavandula stoechas, Lavandula dhofarensis, Lavandula burnamii, Lavandula officinalis, Lavandula latifolia, Lavandula pedunculata Mill, Lavandula intermedia, Lavandula viridis, Lavandula multifida L., Lavandula pinnata L., Lavandula saharica, Lavandula dentate and Lavandula angustifolia etc. However, Lavandula angustifolia, which is also known as the English lavender is the most common species.
Lavenders are grown mostly for producing lavender essential oils. The lavender oil is believed to contain essential properties such as; anti-inflammatory (reduces inflammation), sedative (tranquilizing, calming), anxiolytic (relieves anxiety), analgesic (relieves pain), antiseptic (prevents the growth of disease-causing microorganisms), aphrodisiac (stimulates sexual desire), expectorant (promotes the secretion of sputum), antiflatulent (prevents excessive intestinal gas), antidepressive (alleviate depression), antispasmodic (relieves spasm), diuretic (increases the passage of urine), vulnerary (aids healing of wounds), nervine (calms the nerves), cicatrizant (aids wound healing), antiemetic (prevents vomiting) and carminative (relieves flatulence). These essential properties of the lavender oil are attributed to its constituent of limonene, linalool, cineole, linalyl acetate and camphor.
18 Distinctive Benefits of Lavender
Lavender can be used as a food condiment for preparing and garnishing assorted food such as salads, cakes, infused cupcakes, baked goods, desserts, confectionaries, jellies, lavender syrup, lavender scones and lavender herbal teas.
Treatment of Insomnia
Several studies have recommended the use of lavender as a natural treatment for insomnia and for promoting sleep quality. Insomnia is referred to as the inability to sleep or poor sleeping behaviour beyond the period of one month as evidenced in some individuals. In an attempt to ascertain the impact of lavender oil on insomnia, Fismer and Pilkington (2012) carried out a single-blind randomized studies. The investigation showed that lavender improved the sleep quality of the study groups of individuals.
Wang et al., (2012) assessed the neuroprotective effects of lavender oil against ischemia/reperfusion (IR) injury in mice. The focal cerebral ischemia was induced by the intraluminal occlusion method with a nylon string. In comparison with the model group, the results showed that treatment with lavender oil is significantly effective against cerebral ischemia and reperfusion injury. The neuroprotective properties of lavender are attributed to its antioxidant properties.
Provides Pain Relief and Psychological Support during Labor
Labour pain has remained a major challenge in childbirth and this has led to the adoption of several medical intervention approaches. A remarkable natural approach to labour pain relief is aromatherapy of which lavender is an integral aromatic plant suitable for this method of treatment. Zahra and Leila (2013) investigated the effect of aromatherapy massage with Lavender oil on primiparous women (giving birth for the first time) in 38 to 42 week gestational age.
These women were expected to have a normal delivery. The study women (n=60) were randomly categorized into two groups whereby the first group were given only massage (n=30) while the second group (n=30) were applied aromatherapy massage using lavender oil. The magnitude of the pain was measured using the visual analogue scale (VAS). The results showed that the level of pain 'pre and post' the intervention reduced significantly in the group treated with lavender oil.
Furthermore, those women that received aromatherapy intervention also had a reduced period of first and second stages of labour. The results were so remarkable and supportive of the effectiveness of lavender oil in offering pain relief and psychological support during childbirth and labour. The ability of lavender oil to offer relief to labour pain is attributed to its analgesic properties. Interestingly, the lavender oil massage method is so cheap and affordable compared to other expensive medical interventions.
Treatment of Depression
Nikfarjam et al., (2013) investigated the effect of Lavandula angustifilia infusion on depression in patients taking Citalopram. Based on the results, Lavandula angustifilia infusion was observed to possess positive therapeutic effects on depressed patients. As a result, it can be used as a standalone antidepressant therapy or paired with other antidepressant drugs for tackling depression.
Chemical Composition and Antimicrobial Activity
Jianu et al., (2013) assessed the chemical composition and antimicrobial properties of the essential oils (EOs) isolated from lavender (L. angustifolia Miller) and lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia). The essential oils isolation process was carried out using steam distillation from inflorescences and were analyzed using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GC-MS).
The main components of L. angustifolia Miller essential oil are caryophyllene (24.1%), beta-phellandrene (16%) and eucalyptol (15.6%), while the essential oil of Lavandula x intermedia contains camphor (32.7%) and eucalyptol (26.9%). Furthermore, these researchers evaluated the antimicrobial activity of these essential oils using the Kirby-Bauer method. The antimicrobial tests supported the antimicrobial activity of these essential oils against Staphylococcus aureus, Shigella flexneri, E. coli and Salmonella typhimurium.
However, Streptococcus pyogenes appeared non-sensitive to the activities of these two essential oils. The study also showed that the essential oils isolated and analyzed from lavender (L. angustifolia Miller) and lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia) exhibited significant bactericidal potentials against microorganisms such as Staphylococcus aureus, Shigella flexneri and E. coli even in the absence of active chemical components such as linalyl acetate and linalool. The results suggest that the antimicrobial activity of the essential oils is attributed to the antibacterial properties of both the main and minor chemical components.
Lavender can be used for making cosmetics, perfumes, detergents, body balms, perfumes, soaps, powders, shampoo and massage oils. Prusinowska and Śmigielski (2014) recommended the use of lavender hydrolate for preventing and treating skin problems such as burns, insect bites, cuts etc. To soothe minor burns, dilute a few drops of lavender essential oil with water and gently rub the mixture onto the skin.
Alleviates Agitation in Dementia Patients
Anxiety or nervous excitement in dementia patients remains a major concern that necessitates naturopathy interventions due to several adverse effects observed in pharmacological interventions. In an attempt to shed light on this area, Lin et al., (2007) investigated the efficacy of lavandula angustifolia (lavender) in tackling agitation in dementia patients in Hong Kong.
This cross-over randomized trial involved the selection of 70 Chinese older adults with dementia. Half of these individuals were randomly placed in the active group that required lavender inhalation for a period of three weeks before switching to the control group that required sunflower inhalation for another three weeks. The opposite of this process was carried out by the other half.
The clinical response was measured using the Chinese versions of Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory (CCMAI) and Neuropsychiatric Inventory (CNPI). From the findings, it was observed that lavender is suitable for alleviating agitated behaviours in individuals with dementia. This natural approach is particularly useful especially in patients that are allergic to psychotropic medications. Furthermore, Prusinowska and Śmigielski (2014) supported that lavender extract is capable of preventing dementia. Here are other 23 powerful plants for treating dementia.
Attia et al., (2016) investigated the biocide activity of the essential oil of Lavandula angustifolia against Acyrthosiphon pisum by fumigation. The oil was characterised by GC-MS and revealed that linalool was the most abundant component (38.57%), followed by linalyl acetate (29.95%), 1,8-cineole (13,66%), camphor (13,13%), -pinene (3,14%) and terpinene-4-ol (1,54%).
These researchers measured the mortality rate upon treatment with oil concentrations ranging from 5 to 25 µl.l-1 of air. The mortality of aphids increased with oil concentration while the LC50 values were ascertained to be 11.2 µl.l-1 of air. They also prepared the full mixture and compared the toxicity of the individual components. The results showed that lavender oil is suitable for use as a pesticide as it contains significantly low LC50 values.
Note that LC50 (lethal concentration 50) is the standard measure of the level of toxins or poisons in a surrounding medium that can kill half of the sample population of a particular test-animal in a specific period through exposure via inhalation.
Treatment of Infantile Colic
Infantile colic or baby colic is a condition evidenced in healthy babies, which is marked by incessant crying for several hours. This crying behaviour is often accompanied by the passage of gas, pulling the legs into the abdomen and grasping the fists. Çetinkaya and Başbakkal (2012) investigated the efficacy of aromatherapy massage using lavender oil as a treatment for baby colic.
This experiment was carried out on a group of forty babies aged 2 to 6 weeks with gestational ages of 38 to 42 weeks including normal development and growth. The selected babies weighed between 2500 and 4000 g at birth and they showed the signs of colic. The babies were grouped into two; those in the treatment group were applied abdominal massage by their mothers using lavender oil, while those in the control group were not massaged.
The babies in both groups were monitored once on a weekly basis by the researchers for a period of 5 weeks. The impact of the massage was measured based on the changes in the duration the babies cried per week. The results showed that using lavender oil is effective for reducing the symptoms of baby colic.
Sarnim et al., (2012) investigated the in-vitro anthelmintic activity of Lavandula angustifolia Hidcote extracts against Indian adult earthworm Pheretima posthuma. The standard reference used was Piperazine citrate while normal saline was used as the control.
Five different concentrations (2.5, 5.0, 7.5, 10.0 and 12.5 mg/ml) of chloroform and methanol extracts were utilised to establish their effects on the time taken for paralysis and the time for the death of the worms. The two extracts were able to paralyze and kill the earthworms in a dose dependant manner.
But among the two extracts, chloroform extract showed a higher anthelmintic activity. Again, among the entire concentrations of both the chloroform and methanol extracts, only the 12.5 mg/ml exhibited a significant anthelmintic activity. Based on the observations, the researchers deduced that both the chloroform and methanol extracts contain anthelmintic properties thus effective for destroying parasitic worms.
Karthik et al., (2016) investigated the anti-inflammatory effects of lavender oil using HRBC Membrane stabilising method in-vitro. The hypotonicity-induced human red blood cell (HRBC) membrane stabilization method was carried out to determine the anti-inflammatory activity of the lavender extract. The lavender extract was compared with a standard synthetic drug diclofenac.
Furthermore, the haemolysis and protective effects of the drug and lavender oil were examined and analysed. The results showed that the lavender oil exhibited a significant anti-inflammatory activity however, this was lower than that of diclofenac. These researchers highlighted that being a synthetic drug, diclofenac can lead to several side effects unlike the lavender oil, which is natural with little or no side effects.
Malika and Imène (2012) studied the chemical components as well as evaluated the antioxidant activity of the essential oil of dry flowers of lavender (Lavandula stoechas). They extracted the essential oil using water distillation and the essential oils yield was 3.41% (v/w) based on the dry weight. They also used the gas chromatography with flame ionization detector (GC/FID) technique while the separated components were identified based on the retention times in comparison with the respective standards.
From the findings, 6 compounds were identified of which the key ones are: linalyl acetate (15.26%), linalool (10.68%), 1-8 cineole (10.25%), γ-terpinene (11.2%) and camphor (11.25%). The antioxidant potential of the oil was done using 1,1-diphenyl-2-picryhydrazyl (DPPH•) method. The results showed that lavender essential oil contains antioxidant activity however, its antioxidant activity is less effective when compared with vitamin E.
Effect of Lavender on Dysmenorrhea
Dehkordi et al., (2014) investigated the impact of Lavandula angustifolia (lavender) inhalation on the symptoms of dysmenorrhea and the amount of menstrual bleeding in female students suffering from primary dysmenorrhea. Dysmenorrhea is painful menstruation, which is often accompanied by abdominal cramps. The enrolled female students were randomly placed into two groups.
The experimental group, which were 48 in number inhaled lavender based sesame oil, while the placebo (n = 48) inhaled only sesame oil. The researchers measured the intensity of the dysmenorrhea symptoms using a questionnaire while the quantity of menstrual bleeding was measured using sanitary towels. It was observed that the symptoms of dysmenorrhea were significantly reduced in the lavender group unlike that of the placebo group (p < 0.001).
Furthermore, the menstrual bleeding in the lavender group reduced when compared to the placebo group however, the difference was not statistically significant (p = 0.25). There was no observed significant difference for blood clot among the students. Based on the study findings, lavender inhalation is considered effective for relieving dysmenorrhea symptoms.
Shiina et al., (2008) examined the effects of lavender aromatherapy on coronary circulation by measuring the coronary flow velocity reserve (CFVR) with noninvasive transthoracic Doppler echocardiography (TTDE). These researchers selected 30 young healthy men under the ages of 24 to 40 years. The experiments showed that the lavender aromatherapy reduced the serum cortisol and improved the coronary flow velocity reserve (CFVR) in healthy men. It can then be deduced that lavender aromatherapy possesses relaxation effects and could potentially be useful for coronary circulation and mental relaxation.
Other Medicinal Uses of Lavenders
Lavenders flowers are considered effective for several medicinal purposes. According to Chu and Kemper (2001) lavender is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for treating several ailments such as fever, infertility, infection and stomachaches. Lavenders can also be used for tackling intestinal worms, ulcers, depression, motion sickness, headaches, stress, kidney problems, anxiety, dizziness, fatigue, carpal tunnel syndrome, hypertension, hair loss and insect bites.
Lavender can be grown around the house for ornamental purposes and for adding beauty to the environment. This is attributed to the fragrant, pale purple flowers and colourful features of this plant.
Other Uses of Lavender
Lavender can be used for adding scents to linens/cloths, for producing candles and for making scented potpourris, wedding confetti, wedding gifts and wedding lavender bouquet.
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DISCLAIMER This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnosis and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.
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2] Çetinkaya, B. and Başbakkal, Z. (2012), The effectiveness of aromatherapy massage using lavender oil as a treatment for infantile colic, International Journal of Nursing Practice > Vol 18 Issue 2, pp.164–169.
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8] Lin et al., (2007), Efficacy of aromatherapy (Lavandula angustifolia) as an intervention for agitated behaviours in Chinese older persons with dementia: a cross-over randomized trial, International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 22: pp. 405–410.
9] Malika, B. and Imène, L. (2012), Antioxidant activity of the essential oil from the flowers of Lavandula stoechas, Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy 4(7): 96 - 101.
10] Nikfarjam, M., Parvin, N., Assarzadegan, N. and Asghari, S. (2013), The Effects of Lavandula Angustifolia Mill Infusion on Depression in Patients Using Citalopram: A comparison Study, Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal, 15(8): 734-9.
11] Pixabay (2016) Images from Pixabay
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14] Shiina et al., (2008), Relaxation effects of lavender aromatherapy improve coronary flow velocity reserve in healthy men evaluated by transthoracic Doppler echocardiography, International Journal of Cardiology, Volume 129, Issue 2, Pages 193–197.
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