Lavender is called the “universal oil” since it’s used for such a variety of ailments. Best of all, due to the many lavender essential oil uses, a bottle that costs less than $10 can replace countless, more expensive products.
Lavender is indigenous to France and the mountainous regions of the western Mediterranean, and has a history that’s as rich as its scent. In ancient Egypt, it was used as a perfume, and ancient Romans used it for bathing and as an air freshener. It’s been used for healing since at least the Middle Ages.
Be sure to use a pure essential oil, not simply a lavender-scented oil for any of these uses (the scented oils are sometimes sold at craft shops). Look for Lavandula angustifolia, Lavendula spica, Lavendula stoechas, or “100% pure essential oil” on the bottle label. (Lavender oil from Aura Cacia and Edens Garden, both brands that I use, are Lavandula angustifolia.)
Here are 10 ways to include this ancient treatment into your health and beauty routines.
Lavender was used in both World Wars as a pain reliever. To make a muscle-soothing massage oil, combine six drops of lavender oil with 1 tablespoon of olive oil (or jojoba, grapeseed, or sweet almond oil). Massage into skin to help with arthritis, sore muscles, back pain, and sports injuries. After the massage, lavender’s scent may help those experiencing pain fall asleep faster.
2. Scar Treatment
Lavender can be applied directly to the skin to help heal scars. Although it works best on new scars, it can have positive effects on older ones as well. Apply several drops of lavender oil per day to a scar, or mix a few drops of oil with aloe vera gel or lotion. I’ve had better luck with lavender essential oil for scar reduction than any expensive cream.
3. Bug Bites
Apply lavender oil directly to mosquito and spider bites to help relieve itching and pain. The sooner it’s applied after the bite, the better it will work. It doesn’t work as well as anti-itch cream, but it’s much better than nothing in a pinch. I’ll often put a drop of lavender oil on a bite, and then apply a cream on top. (Never put lavender on open wounds, however.)
Since lavender essential oil can be applied directly to the skin, it can be used alone as a perfume. I actually get more compliments when wearing just lavender than I do when I wear any kind of perfume. Plus, it may have the added benefit of keeping mosquitoes away! You can also put a few drops on a cotton ball or handkerchief, and place it in a drawer or closet to freshen clothing.
5. Anxiety Relief
Research studies show that subjects treated with lavender aromatherapy report less stress and better moods. So when you need to relax, try dabbing a few drops of lavender oil on your pulse points, putting a few drops on a cotton ball and inhaling as needed, or using a diffuser with lavender oil (I use this Aura Cacia diffuser). A bath can work double-time in reducing anxiety when 10 drops of lavender oil are added to the water.
Steam inhalation therapy is another way to get the benefits of lavender. First, boil a kettle of water. Meanwhile, place a drop or two of lavender oil in a large bowl (not too many or the smell will overwhelm you). Add the boiling water, place your face about a foot away from the water, and place a towel over your head to keep in the steam. Breathe deeply for several minutes, but be careful not to get so close to the steam that you get burned.
A study by researchers at Charles Sturt University in Australia demonstrated that lavender aromatherapy can increase drowsiness. To help with insomnia, place a few drops of lavender oil on your neck or cheeks, or place a cotton ball with a few drops of lavender in your pillowcase. A massage with lavender oil before bed also may help you relax and fall asleep (more so than just a massage alone). Or try a steam inhalation just before bed.
You can make your own scented spray to mist your sheets and pillowcases, so they’ll smell great and help you rest: Add six drops of lavender oil to a spray bottle, and fill with distilled water. Shake gently before each use.
Lavender was used by the Pilgrims to treat headaches when they came to America in the 1600s. To use this treatment, rub either straight lavender oil or lavender massage oil (see No. 1, above) into your temples.
A cotton ball or handkerchief can be scented and refreshed with lavender drops throughout the day to help with headaches. At home, try a bath with lavender oil or a steam inhalation. To make a compress for headache relief, dip a washcloth in hot water, wring it out, and add two drops of lavender oil to the cloth.
Lavender has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and anti-fungal properties. A drop can be applied directly to a blemish, or lavender oil can be mixed with moisturizer or night cream. It’s also been used for the treatment of psoriasis and eczema. Lavender is absorbed into the skin quickly, so put it on before applying lotions or makeup.
9. Cough and Respiratory Relief
Lavender essential oil is used to treat a variety of respiratory disorders, such as asthma, sinus trouble, bronchitis, cough and cold, flu, and laryngitis. For respiratory relief, use the steam inhalation method (and try adding eucalyptus, peppermint, or bergamot essential oil). Lavender massage oil can be used as a chest rub. Or if you’re away from home, carry a tissue, cotton ball, or handkerchief to use for aromatherapy.
If you have a slight burn (that doesn’t require medical attention), first apply ice to the burn for about ten minutes. Lavender oil can then be applied directly to the burn, or mixed with aloe vera gel.
*Note: Some people may be allergic to lavender, so test a small spot before putting too much on your skin, and discontinue use if you experience sickness, irritation or rashes. Do some research if you’re planning to use it on your sons, as some studies indicate it may cause breast development in boys. I’ve also read that pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid using lavender.