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What Is Lavender Used For?

Learn how to use lavender in cooking and for health benefits.

Lavender is a beautiful shrub with lavender flowers. Botanically it is known as Lavandula, which covers over 45 recognized species of the lavender plant. Lavender is in the mint family, and this fragrant shrub is cultivated across Asia, India, eastern Africa, Europe, and the Americas. If you are wondering what lavender is used for, keep reading!

What Is Lavender?

Lavender is a member of the mint family. It produces purple-hued flowers atop green stalks. For thousands of years, lavender has been a celebrated herb, perfume ingredient, and healing plant that is celebrated around the globe.

Lavender flowers produce an intense perfume aroma when fresh and after they have been dried. Today, there are lavender varieties that are designated as “culinary” lavender and some that are designated as “ornamental” lavender. If you are going to consume lavender, be sure to choose a varietal listed for culinary purposes.

Lavender essential oil is actually distilled right after harvesting to avoid any decomposition that would compromise the smell and quality of the oil. The distillation process takes hours, and in the south of France, lavender oil is still produced by compacting and pressing fresh flowers and stems into a vat where heat develops and steam is generated.

The distiller then makes the decision—that is equal parts science, intuition, and art—when to open the vat to release the steam and essential oils into the condenser. If the distiller acts too quickly, the lavender oil will be bitter…if the distiller acts too late, the lavender oil will be overprocessed.

To use lavender oil for health purposes, be sure to select one that is labeled as “medicinal-grade” or “therapeutic” grade. Be mindful that the Internet is filled with fake essential oils. Purchase lavender essential oil from a recognized retailer offering a high-quality brand.

What Is Lavender Used For?

Lavender has been used for thousands of years for medicine, in foods, and for perfume. Here are some of the top lavender uses today.

1. Relieve Migraines

Migraines cause intense pain that can be difficult to relieve through conventional medicine practices. In a placebo-controlled clinical trial, researchers found that inhaling lavender essential oil may be effective at reducing migraine pain. In fact, in 92 out of 129 headache attacks, participants in the study reported partial or complete relief after inhaling lavender.

2. Manage Anxiety

Does lavender really help anxiety? The answer is—maybe. A variety of studies have produced varying results. However, in a study published in the journal Phytomedicine, researchers compared the effectiveness of Silexan to Lorazepam for individuals with generalized anxiety disorder.

Silexan is an oral lavender oil preparation that is widely available in the United States. The researchers of the double-blind, randomized controlled study found that Silexan is as effective as lorazepam in adults with generalized anxiety disorder.

3. Ease Pain

Chronic back pain can be debilitating and disrupt daily activities. Lavender oil demonstrates pain-relieving properties when applied topically. Make your own pain-relieving rub and massage it into troublesome areas several times a day, or as needed, to alleviate back pain.

Osteoarthritis of the knee causes severe pain and limits mobility. Massaging lavender essential oil with a carrier oil into your knee may help to relieve discomfort. Or you can try a cooling lavender oil pain rub that contains other refreshing ingredients like camphor and peppermint oil to ease inflammation.

The amino acid supplement Heal can help calm osteoarthritis inflammation and is the perfect therapeutic complement to lavender. 

DIY Lavender Oil Pain Rub.

4. Improve Postpartum Anxiety and Depression

In a pilot study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, women at high risk for anxiety and/or depression after giving birth were given 15-minute sessions of lavender oil aromatherapy inhalation treatments twice a week for four weeks. The researchers found that aromatherapy does help to relieve both anxiety and depression in postpartum women.

5. Treat Hair Loss

According to researchers of a randomized, controlled, double-blind study, a combination of lavender oil, rosemary oil, and cedar wood oil can improve circulation and increase hair growth when applied topically. The study participants treated with the lavender oil mixture experience statistically significant improvement over the placebo group.

6. Improve Sleep Quality

Lavender essential oil has long been touted for its ability to induce relaxation and sleep. And now, researchers have identified that inhaling lavender oil before bed can significantly improve sleep quality compared to a placebo. Simply diffuse a few drops of lavender oil or rub a few drops onto your temples before going to bed to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

7. Enliven Foods

The southern France area known as Provence has long used culinary lavender in recipes. Lavender is a flavorful aromatic that partners beautifully with other members of the mint family to create a lightly floral flavor. Here are a few recipes that include fresh or dried lavender flowers.

Lavender and Lemongrass Green Tea

From Boulder Locavore comes this delicious, light, and flavor-forward tea that adds dried lavender and dried lemongrass to mint and green tea. This recipe is perfect for a sunny afternoon or as a pick-me-up after a workout.

Grilled Leg of Lamb with Lavender-Rosemary Rub

Grilled lamb? Yes, please! This recipe from Joanne Weir partners fresh lavender flowers with more traditional mint to create a delectable crust on grilled lamb. The secret is to rub the lamb leg with the lavender mixture the night before for best results.

Lavender Roasted Potatoes

If you aren’t ready to try the recipe for lavender grilled leg of lamb, start with this scrumptious roasted potato recipe from Boulder Locavore. The floral note of the lavender in these potatoes will quickly transport you to Provence. Serve these potatoes with your favorite grilled fish or chicken and relish in the tantalizing aromas coming from your oven.

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