Health for Humans and Animals
English Lavender (Lavandula
angustifolia) has many useful purposes and appeals to home gardeners, natural health practitioners and anyone who is seeking a healing alternative.
The part of the lavender plant that is used for medicinal purposes are the flowers. Within the flower heads, "the essential oil is contained principally in microscopic glands in the calyx and to some degree in the lip of the corolla." (McLeod, p. 83)
Uses in Holistic Therapies
In natural healing, English Lavender has applications in homeopathy, flower essences and aromatherapy. In homeopathy, it is utilized as the remedy Lavand-o and sourced from fresh blossoms.
To ensure the highest quality of essential oil, The British Pharmacopoeia instructs that any Lavender oil used for medical purposes must be distilled from flowers that have been separated from their stalks. (Grieve, 1973)
Listed as a remedy in the Californian Flower Essences – also known as the FES Quintessentials – English Lavender is regarded as a flower essence “for sensitive and mentally active people, drawn to development of their spiritual lives and to practices such as meditation . . . . It acts to calm the mind, to relax the body and to balance sensitivity with groundedness, thereby enabling the stillness required for meditation and inner calm.” (McIntyre, p. 255)
One other area of natural health in which English Lavender is important and well-known for is in the field of aromatherapy. This herb contains volatile oils that have a peaceful and calming effect on the body and the mind.
English Lavender essential oil helps to balance the emotions, and a few drops of the essential oil can be added to a bath or externally applied with a massage oil, such as sweet almond oil, to positively elevate mood. It can also be used undiluted on the skin to prevent scarring, relieve bites and stings, as well as repel annoying insects, such as mosquitoes.
Uses in Human Medicine
In terms of using English Lavender in present medical practices, its essential oil is used to lesser extent in medicine and only seemingly in circumstances needing external application, “occurring ocasionally in pharmacy to cover disagreeable odours in ointments and other compounds.” (Grieve, p. 471)
In the Western World, the use of English Lavender is more often seen in holistic medicine, rather than in conventional hospital settings. However, this is not true in every country. “The medical profession in France have incorporated essential oil therapy into normal practice.” (McLeod, p. 86) In addition, “lavender oil has been shown to have antibiotic activity and will kill pneurnonococcus, streptococcus, Koch’s bacillus, diphtheria and typhoid bacilli.” (McLeod, p. 122)
Uses in Animal Medicine
As a medicinal herb, English Lavender is used in certain veterinary situations. “Lavender oil is also used in veterinary practice, being very efficacious in killing lice and other parasites on animals. Its germicidal properties are very pronounced. In the south-east of France it is considered a useful vermifuge.” (Grieve, p. 472)
Other lavender species and varieties – those of Spike Lavender (Lavandula latifolia) and some Lavadin forms – are also known in veterinary practice, mainly in Europe, and have a role in controlling external parasites and as a vermifuge. (McLeod, 2000)
From the perspective of veterinary herbalist, Juliette de Bairacli Levy, English Lavender is worthy of use in cases where dogs are experiencing chorea (a neurological disorder). As per her instructions “for external treatment, make an infusion of lavender, marjoram or thyme, or an infusion of all three; apply hot to the twitching areas.” (Levy, p. 121)
She also discusses its use with bitches suffering from Metritis and points out that “douching with an infusion of lavender flowers and leaves is also helpful.” (Levy, p. 156) Use of English Lavender is also applicable in tooth decay, whereby “teeth can also be rubbed with sage leaves and lavender spikes and with slices of fresh lemon.” (Levy, p. 183)
In Provence, where Lavandula angustifolia has grown in its wild state for hundreds, if not thousands of years, the herb has an important history in the healing of animals – in particular, the local hunting dogs.
The essential oil is used as an anti-venom treatment and is applied quickly to puncture wounds caused by vipers to neutralize the poison. “It (English Lavender) continues to be used extensively including the treatment of hunting dogs bitten by snakes, for healing wounds, and to expel intestinal worms.” (McLeod, p. 67)
Other Healing Uses
Beneficial uses for English Lavender include the making of soaps, perfume, toilet waters, bath oils, cosmetics, ointments and mouthwashes. A simple recipe for a lavender antiseptic wash can even be made to ease complaints such as cuts, acne or minor burns, as well as sore gums.
In Lavender, Sweet Lavender (2000), McLeod suggests obtaining a large-sized handful of English Lavender flowers and boiling them in half a litre of water for ten minutes. The plant material can then be filtered out and the liquid allowed to cool before using.
Another easy-to-follow recipe is to make “a weak infusion (five grams of dried flowers in a litre of boiling water) sweetened with honey. It is a traditional treatment for problems of nervous origin such as insomnia, irritability and nervous headaches.”
(McLeod, p. 122)
Whatever the ailment, lavender has the power to help.