Before I become all business-like, let me digress a bit. When I was a kid, I used to live in Shimla and our neighbour’s daughter was called “Lavender.” No, she was not a foreigner and no, she was not Christian either. Her surname was quintessentially Punjabi (think Chadha, Chopra, Bhalla and so on) and I used to call her ‘Lavender Didi’. 😛 Her mad mother told us that she was named so because she (the mother) loved the colour! :headbang:
I tend to meet people with the strangest of names. The first one who I met was myself, but that does not count. I am cool enough (smugness alert :smug: ) to rock my gender ambiguous name which seems to belong more to a boorish looking man who goes about assailing people with hockey sticks than to a gentle-spirited soul like me who loves bunnies, spends half her time on IMBB and licks the ice-cream cone until she gets told off by her mother for not minding her manners. (Random fact – I also have a namesake who is a high-profile rapist, true story). To continue with the ridiculous names, I have a girl in my class called “Salty.” Maybe her parents thought that “Sweety” was too common and wanted something unique. I also know a “Shatabdi” who was named so because her parents met in that famous train and of course, there is even a “Greeny” in college and her younger sister is called “Dolphin.” I swear I am not making this up. I actually KNOW these people and have to keep a straight face around them. I often wonder if Dolphin’s parents reward her with fish, if Salty’s brother is ever brave enough to ask her to pass the salt at the dinner table, if Shatabdi gets a discount whenever she travels via her super fast namesake, and if Greeny is going to be head-hunted by Greenpeace someday to be a mascot and of course, now that I think about it, I wonder if Lavender Didi’s mum only sniffed at her daughter to cure herself of insomnia.
Yes, that is one of the uses of the plant’s essential oil. No, wait, I am running ahead of myself. We will begin at the beginning.
So, who and what is Lavender?
Lavender is the name of a species of 39 kinds of flowers which are found extensively in temperate climates. They have inspired all kinds of things right from the names of colours to those of people (like my Lavender Didi and that silly Lavender Brown from Hogwarts). It is generally used as an ornamental plant and is also extensively cultivated for its oil.
Oil? O-O-O-OIL?! Oh no!
Before you pucker up and turn your face the other way, let me offer you a temptation – this oil smells divine! There, now that we have managed to ensnare you with its enticing aroma, let’s begin singing paens in its honour.
Lavender oil is actually the essential oil derived from the plant and is about 70 times more potent that the actual flowers. Lavender oil is also one of the safest of all distilled essential oils and because of its multiple uses, it is also one of the most popular. Since ancient times it has been symbolic of cleanliness and purity, and its latin derivative ‘Lavare’ actually means “to wash.”
How Can I Exploit it to Maximum Benefit?
This may sound very far fetched, but lavender essential oil is a remedy for insomnia, aching muscles, acne, burns, cuts and wounds, misbehaving skin, headache, insomnia, menstrual cramps, sinusitis, stress, sunburn, dragons, chudails, Orcs, and Lord Voldemort. Okay, well, I lied about the last four but as for the other claims, it is all true.
The immediate aromatic effect of lavender essential oil on the mind is a calming and relaxing one. It instantly de-stresses and releases tension.
Now, let me enumerate its benefits individually:
1.) As a sleeping aid:
Insomniac? Worried? Anxious about your lucky rocketship underpants? Afraid of monsters under the bed? No fear, lavender is here. There was a time in the not so distant past when I would sleep for barely 4 hours per night. It wasn’t as if I was out partying or studying too much or talking on the phone or reading. I simply had trouble falling asleep even after the lights went out. I would lie awake counting imaginary sheep and making crazy and rather rude versions of ‘Ba Ba Black Sheep’ in my head until 3 or 4 in the morning. It wasn’t good for my mood, mind and health, and it definitely wasn’t good for my skin. Then, one day, I decided to dabble in the unknown and bought a bottle of lavender oil at a friend’s insistence and started sprinkling a few drops of that oil every night on my bedsheet. I found it much easier to fall asleep inhaling that relaxing smell but often wondered if that result was only a placebo effect. Apparently, it isn’t. Lavender oil (along with geranium oil) is a mild sedative which contains compounds that slow down brain waves and relieve anxiety. This helps us to drift off to sleep without troubling imaginary barn animals.
2.) As an anti-viral, anti-fungal, antiseptic Ninja:
Lavender essential oil is replete with compounds that are germicidal. Hence, it acts as a super Ninja against all sorts of viruses, fungi and bacteria. If you have a cold bug going through your workplace, home or secret laboratory where you hide from your pesky elder sister, just use lavender oil in a diffuser to cleanse the air. Much healthier than those weirdly named and horrible smelling chemical disinfectants any day. If you’re particularly prone to colds and illnesses, you can also add drops of lavender essential oil to a spray bottle of water and spritz it on areas of transmission like phone, doorknobs, etc.
In humid season, when you are at your wits’ end to protect your precious little feet from stinking up and fungal problems, lavender oil can again come to the rescue. Spray the insides of your running shoes and other closed footwear with lavender oil to deodorise them and prevent growth of any kind of fungus. You can also soak your feet a couple of times a week in hot water containing lavender and tea tree oils.
Lavender oil is also very effective in battling respiratory problems during cough and cold, as well as in clearing blocked sinuses. It is generally used in the form of vapour or is applied on the neck, chest and back.
3.) When the dog bites and the bee stings:
No, you do not remember your favourite things. Instead, you pick up your darling bottle of lavender EO. Firstly, lavender oil acts as a natural insect repellent. Simply put a cotton ball soaked in this oil in areas where you want to banish insects from – like kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, treehouse, dungeons, etc. If heaven forbid, some pesky little insect does manage to put on a gas mask and survive the smell of lavender EO, it will obviously bite you in retaliation. After you are done howling and saying words that would put your moral science teachers in school to shame, pick up the bottle of oil again. Apply 2-3 drops straight on the bite or sting. The compounds in the oil will take away the itch or the sting, and because of its anti-bacterial properties, the oil will also aid in quicker healing. If the sting is still lodged in your skin, remove it first before applying the oil. Oh, and as for the dog bites, that was just written to quote ‘The Sound of Music’. In case of a dog bite, shoot the dog first and then go and get anti-rabies shots. 😛
4.) To heal burns:
Lavender essential oil’s benefits, indeed the whole science of aromatherapy, were an accidental discovery by René-Maurice Gattefossé. He burnt his hand in the lab one day (foolish boy! Maybe his chemistry teachers never taught him the correct art of careful lab work) and plunged it into a nearby vat of lavender EO. He noticed that despite the burns, his arm healed without scars or infection. Scars are a direct result of bacteria and germs, and thanks to its antiseptic properties, lavender EO prevents infection. It also aids in speedy recovery of the skin and healthy tissue formation. However, this is only for superficial burns, and not second and third degree category of serious burns. Lavender oil can be applied in the “neat” form on the burn a few times a day until it heals. On larger areas, you can also spritz a diluted solution.
The same trick can be used for sunburn as well if you have been silly enough to prance around in the hot sun. First of all, take a cold shower to calm the skin. Then, spray a body mist made of lavender EO. To make it, simply add 15-20 drops of lavender oil in 1 cup of water. Use it a couple of times a day until sunburn is healed. A mixture of aloe vera gel and lavender oil is also a very good remedy for sunburn.
5.) To Smooth Away Tensions:
You have had a tough day. You have slain three dragons, fought off 10 goons to save the hero’s sister, verbally sparred with your arrogant co-worker/boss, saved Townsville from Mojo Jojo and destroyed a horcrux. So, OF COURSE, you are a little tired! Instead of plonking down on the bed and pretending to be dead, give yourself a lavender massage. Add 4-5 drops of lavender EO to the carrier oil of your choice and massage your neck, back and shoulders to ease out all the tension. Not only will the massage relax your tensed up muscles, but the smell of lavender oil will relieve your anxiety and de-stress you. Studies show that within 5 minutes of a lavender oil-infused massage, the level of cortisol reduces to quite an extent. Cortisol, by the way, is an evil little hormone which makes you all stressed and irritated. You could also add the oil in your bath waters to relax your tired and aching muscles.
6.) To Fight “Iskin Tiroubles”
“Iskin tirouble? Aa gayi poore ghar pe tirouble!” Okay, sorry, could not help quoting the Himalaya Neem Facewash ad. It’s too funny to ignore. 😛 So, anyway, let me just get to the most important benefit of lavender EO for IMBBians. It loves your skin! It is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. Hence, it reduces skin scarring and promotes healthy tissue growth. It reduces blotchiness of the complexion and as a result, gives an even skin tone. It is also a great promoter of circulation which means that it brings more nutrients to the massaged area along with oxygen. All this helps in healthier cell formation and hence, a smooth, glowing skin. Lavender oil can be added to your toner or moisturiser, or you can also directly apply it on your acne after you wash your face. If you steam your skin, simply throw in a few drops of lavender oil in the hot water and it will be enough too.
By the way, unlike most other essential oils, lavender oil can be used directly on the skin without the need for dilution. It is easily available in the market in dark little glass bottles which look all mysterious and cool. Go ahead and give it a try. Instead of reaching for chemical-ridden medicines the next time you have a headache, monster pimple or muscle ache, follow the Egyptians and try natural things first. After all, if lavender oil could tame tigers for those weird Pharoah guys, imagine what it could do for your road rage or PMS or simply a horrendous Monday morning.
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