Lavender: Health Benefits and Uses {Updated}

Lavender is an herb native to northern Africa and the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean.

The herb is highly regarded for skin and beauty and is commonly used in fragrances and shampoos to help purify the skin. It can be purchased over-the-counter (OTC) from drugstores, and some versions are used to add flavor to baked goods and foods.

There are also many medicinal properties associated with lavender.

Lavender is also grown for the production of its essential oil, which comes from the distillation of the flower spikes of certain lavender species. Lavender essential oil, in contrast to the plant form, is toxic when swallowed.

Uses of lavender

Lavender oil is believed to have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to heal minor burns and bug bites.

Research has revealed that lavender oil may be useful for treating anxiety, insomnia, depression, and restlessness.

Some studies suggest that consuming lavender as a tea can help digestive issues such as vomiting, nausea, intestinal gas, upset stomach, and abdominal swelling.

In addition to helping with digestive problems, lavender is used to help relieve pain from headaches, sprains, toothaches, and sores. It can also be used to prevent hair loss.

Fungal infections

A study published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology found that lavender oil could be effective in combating antifungal-resistant infections.

The researchers found that the oil was lethal to a range of strains that can cause disease in the skin.

In the study, the essential oils distilled from the Lavandula genus of the lavender plant seemed to work by destroying the membranes of fungal cells.

The study showed that Lavandula oil is potent and demonstrates antifungal activity on a wide spectrum.

Wound healing

A study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine compared the effects of several treatments for wound healing.

The researchers compared the effects of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), saline solution, povidone-iodine, and lavender oil. These were applied to laboratory rats.

The study authors noted that wounds closed faster in the TENS and lavender oil groups than the control groups. These findings suggest that lavender has an accelerator effect on wound healing.

Hair loss

Lavender is possibly effective for treating alopecia areata. This is a condition in which hair is lost from some or all areas of the body.

Research shows that lavender can promote hair growth by up to 44 percent after 7 months of treatment.

Anxiety disorder and related conditions

Lavender dental anxiety
Lavender scents have been shown to reduce anxiety before a dental appointment.

review article in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice evaluates how effective Silexan might be for patients with different anxiety disorders. Silexan is a lavender-oil preparation available in 80-milligram (mg) gelatine capsules.

The team found that Silexan had an anxiolytic, or anxiety-reducing, the effect on patients with generalized or subsyndromal anxiety within 2 weeks.

Researchers have also found that lavender scent may help anxious dental patients.

The investigators measured the dental anxiety levels of 340 adult patients during their wait at the dentist’s waiting room for their appointment.

Half the patients were exposed to lavender scent, while the other half were not.

The team found that those exposed to lavender scent reported lower levels of anxiety compared to the other patients. The calming effect of lavender was present regardless of the type of scheduled dental appointment.

Kritsidima, who conducted the study, concluded:

Our findings suggest that lavender could certainly be used as an effective ‘on-the-spot’ anxiety reduction in dentists’ waiting rooms.”

Dr. M. Kritsidima, study author

Lavender does not seem to impact anxiety about future dental visits. However, it has been shown to provide a sense of calm while attending a treatment.

Post-tonsillectomy pain in children

Lavender oil has been shown to reduce the amount of pain-killing medicine required after a tonsillectomy.

A team of researchers at the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Iran, carried out a study to determine whether aromatherapy with Lavandula angustifolia essential oil might reduce symptoms of pain in children after the removal of the tonsils.

The study included 48 children aged 6 to 12 years. They were randomly separated into two groups of 24 participants. One group took painkillers alongside lavender and the other took only painkillers.

The frequency of each child’s acetaminophen use and nocturnal awakening due to pain was monitored for 3 days after surgery. Pain intensity was also measured. Acetaminophen is also known as Tylenol or paracetamol, and the group using lavender oil was shown to use acetaminophens less frequently.

However, there was no significant difference in how often they woke up at night or their perceptions of pain intensity.

Due to the small sample size, more research is required to fully confirm lavender oil as an effective painkiller.

Premenstrual emotional symptoms

Researchers have also studied whether lavender might help to alleviate premenstrual emotional symptoms.

Many women of reproductive age experience a range of symptoms in the premenstrual phase, commonly known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Even though PMS is common, no single treatment is universally recognized as effective. As a result, many women turn to alternative therapies, such as aromatherapy.

This crossover study involved 17 women, aged on average 20.6 years, with mild-to-moderate premenstrual symptoms. The participants spent one menstrual cycle with no lavender aromatherapy treatment, and another undergoing lavender aromatherapy.

The study concluded that lavender aromatherapy could alleviate premenstrual emotional symptoms.

What does lavender not treat?

There is insufficient evidence to rate lavender’s effectiveness for treating:

  • depression
  • colic in infants
  • constipation
  • nausea and vomiting
  • migraines
  • otitis, or ear infection
  • high blood pressure
  • menstrual pain
  • eczema
  • cancer-related pain
  • dementia
  • lice

One study found that lavender fragrance could have a beneficial effect on insomnia and depression in female college students. However, the authors highlighted that “repeated studies are needed to confirm effective proportions of lavender oil and carrier oil for insomnia and depression.”

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved lavender for medicinal use. It is sold as a supplement only and should not replace any prescribed course of treatment.

If you choose to use this essential oil, the FDA does not monitor these products. There may be concerns about purity, safety, or quality. Be sure to research safe and reputable products and companies. 

Interactions

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) warn people to be cautious when combining lavender with the following:

  • drugs that induce sleepiness, such as benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and Ambien
  • drugs to reduce blood pressure, such as captopril, enalapril, and losartan

If you are already taking the above, seek medical advice before adding lavender to your drug regimen.

Risks and precautions

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) revealed that repeated use of lavender oil on the skin might trigger prepubertal gynecomastia, a condition that causes enlarged breast tissue in boys before puberty.

The safety of taking lavender during pregnancy or while breastfeeding has also not been confirmed. Discuss any use of essential oils, herbs, or supplements with your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

As lavender is thought to slow down the central nervous system, doctors advise patients to stop using lavender at least 2 weeks before surgery.

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Your Medicinal Herb Garden

One of the questions I get asked frequently is what herbs would I recommend for a small medicinal herb garden or for someone just starting out so they don’t get overwhelmed. So that’s what I’m going to cover today. Of course, I don’t know everyone’s specifics. I will have to make a few assumptions – there will be plenty of sun, access to water, and the soil is healthy. One other important point is that these are herbs I believe allow for a beginner herbalist to begin treating their family with, they are also good for more advanced herbalists (for instance, I use chamomile in many preparations because it’s good for so many things). I’m hoping this will enable more and more individuals to grow their own “farmacy”!

chamomile plantMatricaria recutita – Chamomile

Like I mentioned before, I believe Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)  to be one of the most important herbs in our home. I use it for upset stomach, trouble sleeping, calming skin irritations, colic, teething issues, anxiety, and more. It is one of those herbs that I could not do without. Once it is growing (seed germination can be difficult) it can thrive in almost any type soil as long as it is well-draining, high clay content or shallow hard pan soil would not work here. It does require full sun, so don’t try to hide this in a corner! It’s PH requirement is also quite flexible growing well in the soil as low as 5.6 up to 7.5. Sadly this is not a perennial plant which requires replanting each year. I left much of my flowers and allowed them to go to seed last fall hoping to see some new sprouts this year.

Uses: upset stomach, gripping pain, IBS, calming skin irritations and reducing infection, colic, teething, hair rinse, anxiety, sleep aid

Soil:  Well-drained

Sun: Full sun but will tolerate a little shade

Annual

Echinacea02Echinacea purpurea– Echinacea (Purple Coneflower)

I’ve always been fond of “Daisy” like flowers and Echinacea is no exception. Echinacea is not only beautiful to us but attractive to pollinators. So if you’re looking to attract more pollinators to your garden, this is an herb you want to consider. Being a perennial, as long as you are giving it space to grow it will grace your garden year after year. It does not do well with “wet feet” but, once established it will tolerate drought and heat due to its deep tap root. The best way to propagate is by root cuttings in Autumn.

For medicinal purposes, Echinacea flower can be used but will not be as strong as a preparation made from the root. If you are harvesting the flowers do it when the flowers are just starting to bloom, for the root harvest in the fall when all the energy has moved down (preferably after a frost or two). Don’t dig up the entire root, make sure to leave some to grow back in the spring. I left mine alone last year (besides clipping a few flowers) to allow it to propagate naturally.

In order for Echinacea to be helpful take it at the first sign of a cold, this is not a recommended herb to be used as a tonic. For internal use, I recommend three preparations: infusion or tincture (flowers) or decoction (root). Make sure to follow directions for preserving herbs if you want to use it over the winter./p>

Uses: Boost immunity

Soil:  Well-drained

Sun: Full sun but will tolerate a little shade

Water: water well until established, after that it will tolerate very dry

lemon balm flowersMelissa officinalis – Lemon Balm

First, a word of warning…lemon balm likes to grow and will expand in your garden if you do not keep it under control. This should not stop you from growing it, just understand you’ll need to cut it back and ‘tame’ it!

Lemon balm is my go to for two specific issues: anxiety and cold sores because of its anti-viral properties, but it is good for many other things as well: eczema, headache, insect bites, and wounds to name a few.  As a culinary herb, it adds a wonderfully fresh, lemony-mint taste to any dish, (it’s especially good in a fruit salad) and brews into a refreshing iced tea!

In my garden, it is one of the fastest growing plants I have. If I see it getting a little sad looking, I simply cut it down and it magically rejuvenates it – basically, It is another easy plant to grow and will grow prolifically if left alone! One way to control it is to clip it back several times in the summer and early fall to keep seeds from forming. Unlike mint, it does not grow underground “runners” so it makes it easy to pull any unwanted plants that might get away from you. On a side note, this makes amazing fodder for your chickens and goats. When our chickens got into my herb garden they decimated my lemon balm, of course, it grew back in a few weeks, but I was amazed at how much the chickens liked it. When I thin I just throw it over my fence and the chickens and goats fight for it!

Uses: Cold sores, anxiety, sleep aid, eczema, headaches, insect bites, wounds, colic, can help with ADHD

Soil:  moist, rich and Well drained

Sun: Full sun

Water: does not tolerate drought very well

These are three great starter herbs if you are wanting to step into growing your own medicinal herb garden.

I need to mention here that my assumption, again, is that you’ve done your research and have prepared your soil for planting. So many problems with plants can be avoided by feeding your soil and ensuring drainage is adequate and biological soil life is thriving!

Truthfully I have a really tough time narrowing it down to just 9 because so many plants are useful to have in your medicinal arsenal. However, one of the criteria I am looking for is ease of growing, which does slim down the list, and the ones I believe are most helpful for family medical care.

Last time I covered Lemon Balm, Chamomile, and Echinacea. This time I will cover calendula, Garlic, and Arnica. Three very different plants but all great for a home medical kit.

calendula-officinalisCalendula officinalis (Pot Marigold)

This sunny, happy, orange or yellow flowered plant is part of the Asteraceae family. Not to be mistaken for the marigold in the

Tagetes family. Sadly, it is an annual (I always prefer perennials), but with all its many benefits I still think it earns a place in every medicinal garden.

Propagate

Calendula does best when directly sown into the soil once the last chance of frost has passed. You can start them inside and transplant but there is more chance of harming the taproot. Make sure your soil allows for adequate drainage and oxygen, especially during the beginning stages, to avoid “damping off.”Calendula will tolerate a wide range of soils but prefers full sun.

A little tip

If you pick the mature flowers regularly in the spring and summer it may continue producing more flowers, even into the fall. Picking flowers also reduce the chance of pests (blister beetles, cucumber beetles, and aphids). Never let the flowers go to seed or you will greatly decrease your harvest.

Harvesting

The best time to pick is in the heat of the day when the water content is the lowest. Dry the flowers as soon as possible. The petals dry quickly but the receptacle does not so you can expect a total drying time of 10 days or more at 90 degrees or so. Let them cool and sort them carefully when they finish drying, as they reabsorb moisture readily.

Uses

Calendula is a wonderful anti-inflammatory for the skin and is used in many lotions, creams, and salves. Apply topically for skin irritation: dry skin cracked nipples, eczema, wounds.

Taken internally it will help the digestive system: colitis, peptic ulcers, gastritis (infusion) and is cleansing for the liver and gall bladder (tincture). It also helps reduce menstrual pain and regulate bleeding (infusion).

Preparations: tincture, infusion, salve, cream, compress

TYPE: Annual

SOIL: Well-drained, aerated soil

SUN: Prefers full sun, will tolerate partial shade

WATER: Water well 1-2 times a week

alluimAllium (garlic)

You can’t go wrong with garlic. It adds a wonderful, flavorful explosion to any fare and, if used correctly, can add nutritional benefits. Garlic is also a wonderful addition to your garden as a pest repellant.

Propagate

Garlic can be planted in the spring but you will likely deal with smaller bulbs when harvesting. I recommend planting in the fall, so put this on your list as something to do as you move into fall. You’ll want to plant garlic about a month before frost hits. Simply break apart the bulb a few days before planting but keep the husk on the individual cloves. Plant them with the pointy end up about 2” deep and 4” apart. Heavily cover with mulch. In the spring green shoots will begin emerging. As the threat of frost is gone, feel free to remove the mulch.

A little tip

Do NOT use garlic bought at the store, use garlic from a previous harvest or buy them from a local garden shop. Be aware that you need to pick a variety that is good for your zone. Garlic flowers are lovely but if you are looking for larger bulbs, clip back any flower shoots. Because garlic likes extra nitrogen fertilizing with rabbit manure or manure tea would give it that added boost. Water well about every 3-5 days during the drier season.

Harvesting

Harvest when you see the tops begin to yellow and get droopy (usually late summer in my area). Pull them from the soil gently, using a spade, brush off the dirt and hang in a shady spot with plenty of air flow. You can bunch them together but make sure every side gets air. It is ready to use when the wrappers are dry and papery. You can either “braid” them (yes, even hard neck garlic which is what grows best here) or clip off the tops and store in a dry, cool area.

Uses

Garlic is one of those things that mainstream medicine has recognized. There’s really no way you can go wrong adding garlic to your life on a daily basis.

• Reduce risk of certain cancers
• Positive effects on the cardiovascular system
• Lower cholesterol
• Antibacterial
• Antimicrobial
• Antiviral
• Antifungal

The key to achieving the highest health benefits from this powerhouse is to make sure you don’t cook it, yes, add it to dishes, but try to add it near the end of cooking, it will provide the most intense flavor and won’t destroy all the enzymes (allicin). Press the garlic through a garlic press and let it stand for 5-10 minutes, this activates the allicin. At this point, you can add it to your dish, blend it with some honey and spread it on toast, add it to a batch of elderberry syrup (already prepared) for an extra immune boost, or, get crazy and just eat it straight up. Warning – you will have garlic breath J

Preparations: capsules, food, infused oil, powder

TYPE: Annual

SOIL: Well-drained, aerated soil

SUN: Prefers full sun

WATER: Water well every 3-5 days during the hot, dry months

Warning

Because garlic is such a warming food, it can be aggravating to people with a warm constitution. In high doses, it may irritate the digestive system, causing gas, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and burning of the mouth. In normal and moderate doses garlic acts as a pre-biotic, food for the good microflora in the gut. People with a known allergy to Allium plants should avoid garlic.

arnica1Arnica

 

A daisy-like flower with a happy, sunny disposition also part of the Asteraceae family. This is a beautiful and helpful addition to any medicinal herb garden.

Propagate

If you are fortunate enough to know someone that has arnica in their garden, ask if you can have a cutting or if they are ready to divide their plant. If not, starting with seeds isn’t that difficult but germination can be tricky taking one month up to two years so patience will come into play here! Sprinkle the seeds and lightly cover with soil. Keep moist. The other option is to start them indoors with plenty of light (preferably a grow light) you can transplant these in the spring after the threat of frost is gone.

Uses

• anti-inflammatory
• analgesic (reduces pain)
• vulnerary (wound-healing: fractures, sprains, contusions, muscular pain, varicose veins)
• rubefacient (increases blood flow to an area helping speed healing)

Arnica should only be used topically on the unbroken skin. It is quite effective when used as a poultice, in a carrier oil or salve.

Harvesting

Harvest blooming flower heads in summer, June through August.

Preparations: poultice, salve, infused oil, wash ( Steep 2 teaspoons arnica in 1 cup boiling water, let cool and use)

TYPE: Perennial

SOIL: Prefers sandy, slightly alkaline

SUN: Prefers full sun, will tolerate shade in very hot areas

WATER: Not drought tolerant until established, keep the soil moist but not soaked – a good weekly watering should suffice except during very dry, hot months.

nettleI love nettles, the leaves are filled with a plethora of vitamins (high levels of Vitamin A, C, E & K), protein, chlorophyll, and minerals (calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium) making it quite useful as a vitamin drink. Juicing fresh nettle, preparing a nourishing herbal infusion, creating a “pesto”, or even using it as the spinach in a vegetable lasagna are all great ways to enjoy this herb while benefitting from its nutritive power.

I am fully aware that nettle is available to anyone who wildcrafts, so why do I recommend growing it in your herb garden? Because you know how it’s been grown and where it’s been grown. You have worked to create healthy soil and you aren’t spraying it with harmful chemicals. Furthermore, it’s growing right outside your door making it quick and easy to harvest, whether you are harvesting enough to make herbal preparations or even if you just want a little for your dinner preparations. To me, keeping things simple is key.

But what about the sting? Well, it’s a small price to pay, and honestly, if you harvest them correctly (wear gloves here) and either dry or saute/steam them, the sting is no longer a threat. Interestingly, nettle actually contains juices in its leaves that can stop the pain of a nettle “sting”. I was out yesterday looking at some nettle, I wasn’t wearing gloves and just decided to grab a leaf, roll it up, and eat it. I didn’t get stung, I decided to do an experiment and just brushed my hand against the nettles, sure enough, I was stung. I immediately grabbed another leaf, worked it between my fingers until the juices were released and rubbed it on the sting. The intensity of the pain greatly decreased, I wasn’t that bothered by it so I didn’t keep the leaf on for long. A few minutes later, the sting seemed to begin intensifying again so I grabbed a plantain leaf, crushed it and applied it with total relief in a short time. The moral of the story here is grab it like you own it – nettles sense fear J

Nettle prefers rich, moist soil and full sun but will grow in shadier areas, the difference being that the plant in shade will produce less seed which can be harvested and used as well. Seeds are great for overwrought adrenals. The seed can be a little stimulating, if you dry it first this will decrease the effect.

As a nourishing herbal infusion, it can help with fatigue, building and purify the blood, and detoxify (it has a diuretic property). This is also a wonderful herb to include in your diet and herb regimen if you are prone to allergies.

Preparations: Infusion, Nourishing Herbal Infusion, Poultice, Tincture, Juiced, Food

Growing

TYPE: Perennial
SOIL: Moist, rich
SUN: Prefers full sun will grow in shade
WATER: water well until established
Propagation: Cuttings, Root transplant, seed

lavender farmers marketLavender (Lavendula)

Lavender is a beautiful, highly aromatic plant that is not too difficult to grow in the right conditions. It is one of those herbs that almost everyone recognizes by sight and smell. Who hasn’t enjoyed the scent of lavender in soap, lotion, or even in a room or body spray? Lavender is an antimicrobial which makes it a great choice for a room deodorizer with germ-killing capabilities. It is a calming herb that can easily be added to infusions and baths to help reduce stress and irritability and induce sleep. It also has wonderful anti-inflammatory properties making it a perfect herb when treating burns and bug bites. The essential oil has been used for many years to treat burns, eczema, reduce scar tissue and aid in healing infections (including fungal).

I don’t think you can have enough lavender growing so I choose a sunny spot that has soil that is well-drained. It doesn’t like to have “wet feet” so it really doesn’t require that much input. Watering once a week is generally sufficient during the driest months. Don’t put it in with something that prefers moist soil, it will not thrive and may not even survive.

Harvest the flowers when they are dry and make sure to dry them immediately to reduce the loss of the essential oils. The leaves can also be used but are not nearly as high in medicinal properties as the flowers.

Preparations: Get creative when deciding how to use this herb: floral bath, steam inhalation, infusion, oil, pillow, sachet for drawers, tincture, poultice, salves, lotions, & hydrosol (maybe you have a friend or know someone who makes essential oils like I do which gives me a great supply for hydrosols)!

Growing

Type: Perennial
Soil: Rich, drier
Sun: Full Sun
Water: Water well once a week or so, let soil dry between waterings
Propagation: Seed, Cuttings, Layering

comfrey-true-deep-purple-flowers 002-400Comfrey (Symphytum spp.)

Many people cringe when I recommend growing comfrey. They see it as an invasive plant that will eventually choke out the rest of the herbs in their garden. Though this can be true, with a little management you can keep this from happening while benefiting from the diverse offerings of this plant!

First, I want to mention the few obvious things that are not medicine related: comfrey leaves are wonderful mulch makers and, because of their large leaf growth, will shade out competitors like any unwanted weeds that may pop up in your garden. Because they are deep-rooted they pull up the minerals found in the soil and bring it up to the leaf. Chopping and dropping these mineral-rich leaves puts those minerals back into the soil and adds organic matter (thus aeration) to your soil profile. Additionally, bees and other pollinators love the flower and if you grow a blocking variety you won’t deal with it reseeding itself.

As far as medicinal use, there is virtually no competing herb that can heal skin the way comfrey can. As a matter of fact, it can heal so well and quickly that you need to make sure the wound is fully cleansed and there is no sign of infection, it could get closed up inside. Comfrey is also well-known for its ability to treat sprains, swelling, bruises and historically even mend broken bones! It can also help alleviate osteoarthritis and other arthritic type pain.  Comfrey contains allantoin which stimulates tissue repair and cell proliferation. Which means it is also great in salves to use on areas that are troubled by irritation or rash.

Comfrey is a pretty flexible plant and can grow almost anywhere. However, it does prefer moist, rich, loamy soil and dappled sunlight. We have found that once it is established it grows really well, even in imperfect conditions. If you are wanting to control the spread I would suggest two things: do not disturb the roots. Every small root piece will grow into another plant. Make sure you are going to keep it where you plant it and don’t till the soil. Second, reduce its growth by chopping the leaves at least twice in a growing season, and dead head any flowers that appear. If it is growing in an area that you don’t want it, the best way to get rid of it is to keep its leaves so low that it loses all ability to continue growing. Do not go pulling the roots because you will likely not be able to get the entire root system out.

Preparations: Poultice, salve, infused oil, infusion

Growing

Type: Perennial
Soil: Moist, Rich, loamy
Sun: dappled sunlight
Water: occasionally, once it’s established it can tolerate drought much better because if its deep roots.

Growing An Aromatic Herb Garden

The first or original aromatic herb gardens were developed by the Persians sometimes over 2,000 years back in the courtyards of their residences. Generally, these herb gardens were of square or rectangular shape and usually they were separated into four by streams that originated from a centrally located fountain. These enclosed scented herb gardens were called pairidaeza, which was derived from the word ‘paradise’. The Persians are known to be outstanding gardeners and their ‘paradise’ essentially included three major features – running water, aroma, and shade.

In fact, the Byzantine church was mainly instrumental in making the concept of such scented herb garden popular in the western regions of Europe, earlier in the structure of cloister gardens, which were soon found in all monasteries in the region. The concept of a walled, scented garden was readily accepted by the traditional Christianity during the medieval times. In effect, it was something familiar to observing the entire creation in a representational term. By now, the references in the Bible, since the Garden of Eden to the Song of Songs, had corroborated gardens like these in the form of illustrations of the Paradise itself.

Way back in 1260, a Dominican monk Albertus Magnus spelled out the prerequisites for developing ideal pleasure gardens. He specified that the scented herb gardens ought to have a fountain plus a lawn, comprising all perfumed herbs, for instance, sage, rue and basil and similarly, include every type of flowers, counting lily, violet, rose, columbine, iris and those similar to these blooms. In addition, Albertus also recommended that there ought to be a vast assortment of aromatic and therapeutic herbs at the back of the lawn. At the same time, he emphasized that the flowers should not be there just to please the sense of smell by their fragrance, but also to enliven the sense of sight by their color and beauty.

The crusaders had already introduced the rose into the western regions of Europe. Actually, the original connotation of the term rosary is said to be an encircling rose garden that is devoted to the Virgin Mary. While the initial rosaries were developed on the sacred or hallowed ground, paintings from the 16th century depict that the pattern was espoused in gardens owned privately, wherein the rose gardens, as well as arbors (retreats), were developed by the rich and royals.

Lilium candidum (Madonna lily), attractive and extremely perfumed, was among the other blessed flowers that were grown by the Christian church in the earliest times. On the other hand, in the gardens of the monastery, lilies and roses were grown in concert along with particularly fragrant herbs like rosemary and lavender. Historians who specialized on gardens are of the view that the medieval romance garden, as well as the Renaissance love garden, were mainly rose plus herb gardens, which were held in high esteem both for their visual features as well as their efficacy.

The era of Queen Elizabeth I’s sovereignty is considered to be the prime of such scented herb gardens. During this period, people took delight in pleasantly aromatic food, clothes, and rooms. It is documented that the mistress of one manor house during the Elizabethan reign cultivated aromatic flowers as well as fragrant plants in a private formal garden generally fenced by rose briers plus fruit trees for enjoying a walk as well as sitting in the garden. In addition, the aromatic herb garden was also utilized to supply the ingredients for the mistress’ still room. In her still room, the mistress made ‘sweet waters’ using rose petals and flowers of rosemary as well as curative lotions using the stems of the spikes of lavender and the Madonna lily. Scented herbs, such as rue and hyssop, were cultivated to cover the floors of rooms with a view to disinfect the air, while they’re dried up flowers were packed into pillows and cushions to support sound sleep.

A contemporary herb garden also comprises herbal plants, which are esteemed for their fragrant attributes. In fact, a scented herb garden is a place which you may possibly want to visit to relax yourself following a hectic day. Such a garden may perhaps be made up of a small number of pleasingly aromatic herbs grown in containers and placed in one corner of the porch, a vast garden having sitting area, or simply comprise numerous aromatic herbs grown along a preferred pathway in your courtyard.

It may be noted that the majority of the aromatic herbs usually emit their fragrance more when someone brushes against them or touches them. In addition, a pleasant waft will also transport the fragrant scent of the herb throughout the yard and to you. Remember this aspect when you are deciding on the place where you desire to have your scented herb garden. It would surely be an excellent idea to have it close to your home.

When we are talking about aromatic herbs, you may choose from a wide variety of them. Take into account that simply for the reason that a herb is aromatic, it does not imply that you will alone take delight in its fragrance. Prior to selecting as well as planting your desired scented herb garden, you need to take the aroma of every plant with a view to ensure that its scent gives you pleasure.

Fragrant Herbs for the Garden

As mentioned above, there are assortments of aromatic herbs from which you may choose for your scented herb garden. Below is a list of such scented herbs which most people believe have a delightful fragrance. However, this list should never be considered to be a complete or final catalog of scented herbs, as there are a great many amazingly aromatic herbs which may be compiled in a list in this article. It is advisable that before you purchase any herb, you should personally examine every herb by rubbing a leaf of the plant and inhaling its aroma to ensure that it releases an aroma that you may find to be delightful. The fact remains that the same aroma is not preferred by everyone and this is something which makes the world revolve.

Generally, people consider basil to be a herb that is mostly used for cooking. However, the irrefutable fragrance of this herb is pleasing as well as comforting. Catnip is another herb which emits a pleasant aroma, you ought to be conscious that the kitties in your neighborhood would also get pleasure from this plant and may perhaps result in some kind of a untidiness in your desired scented herb garden.

Cultivating catmint has a special reward and that is the loaded scent of cinnamon. This herb is really an attractive addition to any scented garden. While Nepeta Grandiflora comes to flower first and is generally incorporated in early collections, Nepeta siberica flowers during the later part of summer and is generally incorporated in the later classifications. Following the blooming of both these herbs, cut them to a height of a couple of inches, as this will encourage fresh growth as well as flowering for a second time. Several beneficial butterflies and insects visit these plants, which are frequently used in the form of an under planting for white as well as pink roses.

While most people usually think that the herb chamomile is used for preparing tea, it may be noted that this herb is also attractive and the flowers, as well as foliage, have a marvelous scent enlivening your garden.

Special mention needs to be made regarding Roman chamomile, which is among the small plants that are loaded with the aroma. Having the aroma that has a resemblance to a Jolly Rancher bitter apple candy, Roman chamomile makes a fragrant vivid green cover for the ground in places having cool summer climatic conditions. In England, this herb is frequently used to jam the fissures between the blocks of the pavement. In addition, Roman chamomile, which is also known as the English chamomile, is also used in the form of a path cover or maybe in the form of a soft cover for a bench.

In addition, you may also use Roman Chamomile to prepare an aromatic alleyway or a pleasant scented amaze grown among other plants in the garden. In case the herb is able to push its way against other plants in its vicinity, Roman Chamomile may even grow up to a height of a foot when it is in bloom.

Feverfew is another herb that has gorgeous flowers, but the majority of the plant’s aroma is released by means of its foliage and making it a pleasant inclusion in any scented herb garden. On the other hand, lavender has always been a preferred herb for gardeners growing scented herbs. The leaves, as well as the flowers of lavender, give off a potent, but comforting aroma.

The herb lemon balm derives its name from the plant’s leaves, which possess an aroma similar to that of lemons. Numerous herbal gardeners actually admire the fresh fragrance of this plant. Recognize the value of the fact that lemon balm multiplies very fast and has the aptitude to invade your garden rapidly provided its growth is not kept under control.

Mint is also an aromatic herb which may be somewhat invasive, but still, it is favored for its fresh fragrance. There are various species of mint and you may choose from spearmint, peppermint, orange mint or chocolate peppermint for growing in your scented herbal garden. Provided you restrict the growth of the different species of mint in different areas of your herbal garden, each species will be capable of releasing its distinct aroma.

Scented geraniums do not blossom very frequently nor are they eye-catching like their cousins, which are just known as geraniums. However, they emit an amazing fragrance which makes this species among the most excellent plants to be grown in any scented herbal garden. In fact, there is an assortment of scented geraniums for you to choose from for your garden. The wide variety of scented geraniums comprises cinnamon, apricot, lemon, apple, ginger, orange, nutmeg, rose, strawberry, and peppermint are only among a few of them. One needs to touch the leaves of this plant for them to emit their rich fragrance, therefore ensure that you grow these scented plants close to the boundary of your scented herbal garden. It may be noted that scented geraniums are subtle plants and in most places, they would require moving indoors during the winter months.

Anise hyssop is neither a mint nor a genuine licorice, but this herb certainly enhances the fragrance of licorice candy to your scented herbal garden. In addition, licorice mint (anise hyssop) is a wonderful culinary herb and may be used for cooking or dried up to prepare a tea. You may try to infuse some amount of this herb in milk and freeze it to prepare an ice cream. Usually, shear licorice mint returns to the ground following flowering during mid spring and again appears in the form of a small green hedge for the remaining growing season. Alternately, you may allow the plant to provide for little birds and disperse the seeds of the plant for a crop of seedlings to appear voluntarily during the subsequent spring. Whatever you may do, this plant will keep on enhancing the aroma of the herbal garden till frosting. Generally, the plants wither away and return to the ground when it frosts. Ensure that you mark the place where you are growing this plant so that it is not removed prior to its re-emergence during the next spring.

This list is likely to help you to start work on your scented herbal garden. However, always bear in mind to spend some time to personally inhale the smell of the entire herbs that are obtainable from your neighborhood gardening center prior to deciding on the specific herbs you would like to grow in your personal scented herbal garden. In fact, it will not be a very easy task choosing the herbs you would prefer to grow because there are far too many varieties available.

Lavender 101

Lavender’s sweet, floral and slightly herbaceous aroma is unmistakable. If you don’t already have this beautiful perennial shrub planted in your garden, chances are you still have the herb hidden in one of your products at home. From cosmetics, soap, and candles to herbal teas, essential oils and ice cream, lavender leaves its mark everywhere these days—not that its benefits are new. In fact, historians have recorded its use for over 2,500 years for its purifying, relaxing and protective benefits.* With 450 named varieties and cultivars, Lavandula spp. may well be one of the world’s most beloved and widely used herbs.

Lavender hails from the mint family and is a native of the Mediterranean, where it grows well in full sun and stony, well-drained soils. Those who live in dry climates, as we do here in California, prize lavender for its tolerance to drought—a real blessing for gardeners in our era of climate change. Specific cultivars and species are better suited to certain areas, although the most common medicinal species grown is Lavandula angustifolia. This fragrant and adored species sprouts long, branching stems with clusters of purple flowers, which provide the highest concentration of its essential oils. Our herbalists formulate this blend to ease stress, settle the nervous system and relax the digestive system,* although lavender has a long and diverse history of supporting many different systems of the body.

Lavender’s Latin name stems from lavare, or “to wash”—an undeniable link to its early uses. In ancient Egypt, lavender played a role in the mummification process. Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Arabs believed in its purifying properties; in fact, Arabian doctors used lavender to clean deep wounds and facilitate healing. The Greeks and Romans also used the herb for its relaxing properties to relieve worrying, stress, and occasional sleeplessness. As these empires expanded, the lavender trade spread throughout Europe and Asia, where the herb was used as a perfume, an essential oil and for herbal medicine. During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church used lavender for strewing during holy days to ward off evil spirits, and people would scatter it on the floors to keep stuffy rooms smelling fresh. The herb became even more popular during the plague, where it was used in the famous Four Thieves Vinegar to repel fleas. Lavender’s folklore has even spread to the realm of love, where it has been thought to both attract potential suitors and keep the young chaste throughout history.

Today, countless cleaning and body care companies tap into lavender’s benefits by adding it to products for its aromatherapeutic, relaxation and cleansing properties, while herbalists continue to use it in their apothecaries as they have for generations. With such a range of soothing potential, humankind’s love affair with lavender stands to endure. What is your favorite way to enjoy lavender?

Natural Home Remedies for Sore Throat

Sore throats are one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor and they tend to affect children the most. A sore throat is usually considered a minor complaint until you have one and every swallow induces pain—pain that may seem unbearable. Unfortunately, the only option is to treat the symptoms and rest until you recover. Fortunately, there are many natural remedies that can soothe a sore throat and there’s a good chance you already have many of them in your home.

Common Sore Throat Causes

There are many potential causes of a sore throat, viruses are the most common. In fact, viruses account for about 95% of sore throats in both adults and children under the age of 5. Other common causes of a sore throat include:

  • Allergies
  • Dry air
  • Pollution
  • Smoking
  • Exposure to people with a sore throat
  • Cold
  • Flu
  • Strep throat (bacterial)
  • Tonsillitis
  • Weak immune system
  • Acid reflux

Common Sore Throat Symptoms

Isn’t a sore throat a symptom itself? Yes, but as you probably already know, not all sore throats are the same and some are more severe than others. You might have one that only makes your voice a little hoarse, or it might be a serious impediment to your ability to breathe comfortably. Some of the most common symptoms of a sore throat are:

  • Pain when swallowing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dry and itchy throat
  • Swollen glands around the neck and throat
  • Hoarse voice

A sore throat is also a first symptom of the common cold and flu, but you might have other symptoms such as fever, runny nose, congestion, headache, abdominal pain, or vomiting. Consult your trusted healthcare provider if your sore throat lasts longer than one week.

Best Home Remedies for Sore Throat

1. Drink Warm Fluids

If you have a cold, make sure you’re taking in plenty of fluids. Nothing feels better than warm tea and thin soup when you’re sick. When your throat is raw and inflamed, drinking warm beverages keeps your throat moist and comfortable. Black tea might be the obvious choice, but give green or oolong tea a chance if Earl Grey just isn’t your, well, cup of tea.

2. Gargle Salt Water

For fast relief from sore throat pain, gargle 8 ounces of warm water with half a teaspoon of salt. You may have heard of this practice before and dismissed it as an old wives’ tale, but it does work and many people swear by it.

3. Use a Humidifier

If there’s anything that can make a sore throat even worse, it’s harsh, dry air. Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air around you. In one study, using a humidifier reduced the severity of sore throat pain. If you’re experiencing other symptoms like upper respiratory congestion, try adding an essential oil like eucalyptus oil to the humidifier to loosen and help expel excess mucus.

4. Honey and Black Seed Oil

Honey may not be suitable for vegans, and it’s dangerous for children under the age of one. However, honey does offer many benefits. Add a teaspoon of honey to your tea, or take a spoonful by mouth to sooth your sore throat. As an added bonus, research indicates that honey significantly improves cough symptoms in children.

You can spike your honey with therapeutic spice by adding 2-3 drops of black cumin seed oil (also called black seed oil) to your honey. Like herbal teas, black cumin seed oil is an anti-inflammatory and can help soothe the pain.

5. Cold Food

Drinking or eating something cold soothes an irritated throat almost immediately. Instead of ice cream or ice pops, opt for whole fruit sorbet or make your own fruit pops to soothe the irritation.

6. Herbal Tea

Many varieties of herbal tea are effective at soothing a sore throat. Chamomile, lavender, echinacea, sage, ginger, peppermint, and licorice root tea all have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Peppermint, in particular, relieves upper respiratory congestion by improving lung function and the ability to breathe through your nose. If you need to add a little sweetener, stir a teaspoon of honey or elderberry into your herbal tea.

7. Essential Oils: Lavender, Eucalyptus, and Myrrh

Myrrh and eucalyptus are effective for soothing a sore throat but don’t take them as a tea. Instead, inhale the vapors by using a diffuser or humidifier. You can also gargle with myrrh like a mouthwash.

Apply one or two drops of lavender oil, specifically and exclusively from the Lavandula angustifolia species, to the back of your tongue or throat, to relieve the pain from a dry, scratchy throat. The taste isn’t overwhelming and the only side effect is fresh floral-smelling breath.

8. Spices: Cayenne, Turmeric, Ginger, and Clove

Cayenne might seem counterintuitive for a sore throat but, after the burn, it provides relief by numbing the pain. To make, add one tablespoon of cayenne pepper to a quarter cup of warm water. Mix in the cayenne completely, take a mouthful, tilt your head back, and gargle. If you can’t handle a lot of spice, this might not be the best solution.

Turmeric and ginger both have long histories as therapeutic plants. Drinking ginger juice alleviates sore throat pain. You can also make a tea with fresh ginger. Turmeric contains curcumin, which is very soothing. You can make a turmeric gargle to soothe a sore throat, just like cayenne, but without the sting.

Make a clove tea, clove calms inflammation and eases the discomfort associated with a sore throat.

9. Propolis

Research indicates that propolis offers multiple health benefits, especially for those suffering from an upper respiratory infection. If you’ve never heard of it, propolis is made of plant material, beeswax, and, well, bee saliva. It is useful against most types of harmful organisms, even the flu virus. Take it by adding 5 drops of propolis to a teaspoon of water.

10. Honey and Elderberry

Honey with elderberry is my favorite combination. Research suggests that elderberry reduces the severity of the common cold and flu symptoms and may shorten the duration of the illness. Add a little elderberry syrup to your honey and stir into your tea or simply take it by mouth. If you use fresh elderberries, make sure to cook them thoroughly; raw elderberries are not safe to eat.

How to Prevent a Sore Throat

The best strategy is to avoid catching a sore throat in the first place. Reduce your chances by washing your hands and limiting your exposure to sick people. Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke, which may irritate your throat. Strengthen your immune system by eating cruciferous vegetables and carotenoid-rich tomatoes. For more tips, check out our How to Stay Healthy During the Winter article.

There are, of course, many types of lozenges, sprays, gargles, and, recently, pain strips but be careful with OTC medicine as it may have very real side effects. Conversely, most of the remedies described in this article do not have unpleasant side effects.

8 Herbs and Supplements to Help Treat Depression

Depression isn’t just feeling sad or “blue.” It is a serious mood disorder with symptoms that range from mild to debilitating, and potentially life-threatening.

Depression is a relatively common disorder in that it affects millions of people each year. People of all ages and ethnicities experience depression, including children and adolescents.

Depression does not only impact how a person feels.

People with depression are significantly more likely to develop other medical conditions, such as a heart attack. Conversely, people with significant medical problems are more likely to experience symptoms of depression.

Symptoms of depression

The symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Being easily frustrated
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or normal activities
  • Sleep issues, whether too much sleep or insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Physical symptoms, including a headache and backache.

Herbs and supplements for depression

St John's wort
St John’s Wort may be prescribed for mild depression.

 

The use of complementary therapies is gaining popularity, as more people are starting to look for more natural treatments to manage their health.

This is especially true of mood disorders like depression and anxiety.

But are herbal remedies safe and effective?

Research is showing promise for some supplements in treating mild to moderate depression. These are some of the supplements that are most commonly used:

1. St. John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort is also known as Hypericum perforatum. It is widely used to treat mild to moderate depression and mood disorders. It has been used for hundreds of years to promote mental health, and it is currently prescribed for depression in Europe.

The effects of St. John’s Wort have been validated in clinical research. People with bipolar disorder should not take St. John’s Wort, as it can trigger mania.

2. Ginseng

Ginseng has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. This supplement is found in the gnarled root of the American or Asian ginseng plant. Siberian or Eleuthero ginseng are different plants and have different active ingredients.

This herb has been linked to helping improve mental clarity and energy and reducing the effects of stress. These properties can make ginseng particularly helpful for dealing with low energy and motivation associated with depression. Like St. John’s Wort, ginseng has been found to trigger mania in people with bipolar disorder.

3. Chamomile

A study in 2012 reviewed data about chamomile, from the Matricaria recutita plant, and its role in helping to manage depression and anxiety.

Results showed that chamomile produced greater relief from depressive symptoms than a placebo. Further studies are needed to confirm the findings.

4. Lavender

Lavender is a popular essential oil, traditionally used for relaxation and to reduce anxiety and mood disturbances.

A review of various studies in 2013 suggested that lavender may have significant potential in reducing anxiety and improving sleep. More studies are needed to confirm the results.

5. Saffron

There is some thought that saffron extract may improve depression, but more research is needed to confirm this.

6. SAM-E

SAM-E is short for S-adenosylmethionine. It is a synthetic form of a chemical that naturally occurs in the body.

More research is needed to determine the exact effect of this substance, but it is used in Europe as a prescription antidepressant. It has not been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the U.S.

7. Omega-3 fatty acids

Early research has shown that taking an omega-3 fatty acid supplement may help reduce symptoms of clinical depression more effectively than a placebo. No serious side effects were reported.

Omega-3 fatty acids can also benefit the heart and the cardiovascular system.

8. 5-HTP

Also known as 5-hydroxytryptophan, this supplement may be effective in regulating and improving levels of serotonin in the brain.

Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that affects mood levels.

5-HTP is available as an over-the-counter supplement in the U.S., but it may require a prescription elsewhere.

Lavender
Studies have shown that lavender may help in reducing anxiety.

More research is needed, especially regarding a safety concern that it may be linked to a serious neurological complication.

It is important to remember that the sale of herbs and supplements is not regulated by the FDA in the same way as drugs and medications.

Supplement manufacturers do not have to prove that their product is consistent. The dose labeled on the bottle may also be inaccurate.

Herbs and supplements must be purchased from a trusted manufacturer.

The bottom line

Herbal and natural supplements may work well for some people, but they are not an adequate substitute for serious depression or in cases where suicide or self-harm is a significant risk.

A person who is taking herbal supplements must inform their physician, as there is potential for side effects and other drug interactions.

Depression is a treatable disease, but it may take some trial and error to work out which medication or supplement regimen is best for an individual.

When to see a doctor

If a person feels depressed or experiences any of these symptoms, they should seek help from their physician.

A range of medications and cognitive treatments, or “talk therapy,” can help people with depression.

A person who is thinking about suicide or self-harm should immediately seek emergency help, either with their physician or local hospital or by calling the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK).

If a loved one or friend may be at risk for committing suicide, someone should stay with that person and call for emergency help immediately.

7 Cool Things We Never Knew Lavender Could Do

ADD THIS WONDER PLANT TO YOUR FARMERS’ MARKET SHOPPING LIST.

 
Maybe you’re thinking of planting lavender because it’s a beautiful addition to any flowerbed and because bees seem to love it. But its usefulness doesn’t stop there. Here are seven ways to put it to work at home outside or in an indoor herb garden.
1. Keep Moths Away
Dried lavender is a popular natural alternative to mothballs, which contain toxic pesticides. The scientific data is a little sparse, but one study did find that lavender essential oil was an effective insecticide against a specific type of moth larvae (orgyia trigotephras, to be exact), so we say it’s worth a shot. Fill small sachets with dried lavender and keep them tucked in your closet and wardrobe. Moth problem or not, these pouches will do double duty by leaving your clothes smelling fresh and clean.
2. Make A Fragrant Wreath
In aromatherapy, lavender is used to relieve anxiety and boost mood, so keeping it around the house may help you to relax after a long day. Incorporate it into your décor by learning How To Make A Lavender Wreath that will freshen the air and add charm to any room.
3. Sanitize Hands
Lavender essential oil has antibacterial properties, making it a popular ingredient in many organic and homemade hand sanitizers. You can find lots of DIY recipes online, many of which include aloe vera gel and witch hazel in addition to lavender oil.
4. Clean Up Contaminated Soil
Several studies have found that planting lavender is an effective way to restore contaminated land, such as former mine sites, because it removes heavy metals and other pollutants from the soil. Even better, these contaminants don’t affect the quality of the lavender plant or its essential oil.
5. Make A Mean Lemonade
Lavender is the secret to ultra-refreshing, lemonade. Simply blend lavender and sugar together before mixing with water and lemon for a floral infused thirst-quencher that’s naturally pinkish-purple in color.
6. Take An Aromatherapy Bath
We’ve already mentioned lavender’s soothing effect, and the best place to take advantage of it is in the bathtub. Whip up an easy batch of rosemary-and-lavender bath salts in your stand mixer with homegrown or farmers’ market herbs for a therapeutic soak. Or add it to a homemade shampoo. Bonus: Treat your body to a rub with healing Tulsi Luminous Lavender and Pink Sea Salt Body Scrub.
7. Help You Sleep
Science confirms what people have known for centuries: The scent of lavender has a soothing, sedative affect that can help you get to sleep. Make a tea with the flowers before bed or stuff a lavender sachet inside your pillow to help you on your way to sweet dreams and kiss the melatonin pills goodbye.