Lavender Oil – History, Medicinal Properties and Biblical References
The touch of mystery in the famous Herbes de Provence – lavender is one of the precious ingredients in our Origin Oil Pack
Lavender, is a sweet-scented herb in the mint family that produces spikes of pale purple flowers.
It is a shrubby plant indigenous to mountainous regions of Europe. The fundamental motivation for cultivating this plant is for the distillation of oil. England, France, Yugoslavia, Tasmania, and Bulgaria produce most of the world’s lavender oil. The French variety is the oldest and most highly prized.
History of Lavender
For centuries, lavender oil alleviates tension headaches and, according to seventeenth-century English herbalist Nicolas Culpepper – falling sickness or giddiness of the brain.
Lavender was the favorite bath oil of the Romans, from whom the herb gets its name: The Latin word lavare means “to wash.”
It is the touch of mystery in the famous Herbes de Provence. Dried lavender is, also used to keep linen fresh and to keep away moths.
There is some confusion about spikenard being mistaken for what we call lavender now.
Spikenard (nardostachys jatamansi) is a flowering plant of the Valerian family that grows in the Himalayas of Nepal, China and India. It is the more valuable of the two because lavender (lavandula stoechas which we now call French or Spanish lavender) was grown locally as well as regionally. Spikenard had to be imported from a great distance, hence its value. The confusion probably comes from the Greek’s calling lavender “nardus.” Source
This word may ultimately derive either from Sanskrit naladam (Indian spikenard), or from Naarda, an ancient Assyrian city (possibly the modern town of Dohuk, Iraq). The “spike” in the name refers to the inflorescence or flowering stem of the plant.
Mentions of spikenard in the Bible include:
“Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.” (Gospel of John, 12:3)
“While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head.” (Gospel of Mark, 14:3)
Lavender (spikenard) is also mentioned twice in the biblical love poem, the Song of Solomon:
“While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof” (1.12)
“Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard,
Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices” (4.13)
In 1938, Gattefosse published an article in a French book on the subject: Aromathérapie: Les Huiles Essentielles, Hormones Végétale where he related discoveries of the significant power of lavender essence to heal gangrene, facial ulcers, and black widow spider bites, among other things. Gattefossé discovered the healing properties of lavender oil after severely burning his hands in a laboratory explosion during an experiment and plunged his hand into the nearest tub of liquid which just happened to be lavender essential oil.
It has been demonstrated that this essence kills several bacilli, including the tuberculosis bacillus. It neutralizes adder stings and functions as an insecticide. Lavender oil has a tonic action on the heart and lowers high blood pressure. It negates cerebrospinal excitability and is invaluable against nervous conditions such as depression, hysteria, migraines, insomnia, and temporary paralysis. Those suffering from violent mood swings and any strong mental symptoms are likely co benefit from the stabilizing effects of lavender. The antihalitosis, powerfully antiseptic, antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, cholagogue, diuretic, nervine, sedative, stimulant, stomachic and tonic properties of lavender make it effectual against a variety of digestive or respiratory problems, especially when the ailments are related to stress or emotional problems. Its powerful antiseptic properties are able to kill many of the common bacteria such as typhoid, diphtheria, streptococcus and Pneumococcus, as well as being a powerful antidote to some snake venoms.
Aside from being a favorite perfume, lavender oil has several other cosmetic applications. Applied externally in a diluted solution, the oil rejuvenates oily skin and reduces scars. It is very useful in the treatment of burns, sunburn, scalds, bites, vaginal discharge, anal fissure etc, where it also soothes the affected part of the body.
Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin 1984 ISBN 0-14-046-440-9
Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants. MacDonald 1984 ISBN 0-356-10541-5
Launert. E. Edible and Medicinal Plants. Hamlyn 1981 ISBN 0-600-37216-2
Lust. J. The Herb Book. Bantam books 1983 ISBN 0-553-23827-2
Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. 1995 ISBN 0-7513-020-31
Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen 1897