Welcome to The Naturopathic Kitchen where we explore food as medicine. You can be empowered to take control of your health when armed with knowledge of what is healthy. It may be intimidating to try new things especially when you don’t know what it is good for or how to prepare/cook it. Let’s learn together! Today, our focus is on the beautiful herb lavender.
Many of us know lavender from its use in cleaning products and air fresheners. But, did you know the scent of lavender essential oil comes packed with health benefits? Lavender oil comes from the purple flowering plant Lavandula angustifolia which is native to northern Africa and the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean and has been used for over 2,500 years! Today it is grown all over the world.
Where does lavender come from? Where can I find it?
Lavender has a long therapeutic history dating back to ancient Greece, Rome, and Persia. Its historical uses ranged from adding flowers to bathwater to help wash the skin, to sprinkling flowers throughout castle floors to help as a natural disinfectant and deodorant. Lavender actually gets its name from the Latin word lavare which means “to wash.”
Though not as readily available as other edible herbs, lavender is easily found growing in plant nurseries or even the garden section of your local home improvement store. It can also be found in health food stores sold as culinary lavender buds.
How does lavender help my health?
Lavender’s best action is its calming effect which, amazingly, is best appreciated by smelling it! There is lots of research backing up the anxiety-reducing effects of lavender which are thought to be serotonergic in nature rather than GABA-ergic (which is how most calming agents work).1 This discovery may explain why some research points to it being supportive in depression as well.2 Other traditional uses of lavender are as an antibacterial, antifungal, smooth muscle relaxant, and it has been shown to be effective for burns and insect bites though the evidence for these traditional uses are not as strong.3
What medical conditions/symptoms are lavender good for?
• Sleep and fatigue during pregnancy and postpartum
• Symptoms of menopause
• Burns, bug bites, and other swelling injuries
• Certain cancer cell lines
• Fatigue in hemodialysis patients
• Anxiety and depression
Can lavender be used as an essential oil?
Many of the studies on lavender use its essential oil due to increased potency. Lavender has many great uses when mixed with a carrier oil such as olive oil for uses in burns, bites and arthritis. Since many of lavender’s positive effects come from smelling it, some great uses of the oil include putting a few drops on the corners of pillows to help with sleep or putting it into a diffuser for the same effect. However, since ingesting pure lavender oil is toxic, care must be taken when using lavender essential oil and it should be used under the guidance of a naturopathic physician. Click here to find an ND near you in the US and Canada.
When should lavender be avoided?
Lavender skin care products and supplements should be avoided by children, especially young boys. Lavender oil may lead to hormone imbalance and abnormal breast growth in pre-pubescent males.4 Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should also avoid lavender, as there is insufficient research demonstrating safety. Additionally it is recommended to discontinue lavender two weeks prior to surgery as its relaxing effects may be enhanced by anesthesia and surgically related medications, resulting in central nervous system suppression.4
Let’s try it out with a delicious and nutritious recipe!
Lavender Lemonade with Honey
1 c raw, local honey
5 c purified water
1 T dried, organic culinary lavender (or 1/4 c fresh lavender blossoms, crushed)
1 c fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2-3 sprigs lavender (for garnish)
Bring 2 1/2 cups purified water to boil in a medium pan. Remove from heat and add honey, stir to dissolve. Add the lavender to the honey water, cover, and let steep at least 20 minutes or up to several hours, to taste. You can put the lavender into a tea infuser or reusable tea bag for easier clean up. Strain mixture and compost/discard lavender. Pour infusion into a glass pitcher. Add lemon juice and approximately another 2 1/2 cups of cold water, to taste. Stir well. Refrigerate until ready to use, or pour into tall glasses half-filled with ice, then garnish with lavender sprigs.
NOTE: Do not use lavender essential oil in this recipe. Essential oil must be used with care as toxicity is very possible. Always use essential oils under the care of a licensed doctor.
Special thank you to Small Footprint Family for this great recipe.
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