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Historical Lavender Essential Oil

by Amy Galper

The story of Lavender Essential Oil is so epic that it is almost impossible to try and share all of its history, folk traditions and therapeutic actions in one brief article. So where to begin?

Let’s give a first look at the History of Modern Aromatherapy, and how integral Lavender essential oil was to reframing our understanding of essential oils and coining the phrase “Aromatherapy.”

The History of Modern Aromatherapy is attributed to a man named René-Maurice Gattefossé. A chemist and perfumer whose family business was in the production of essential oils for perfumery, Gattefossé founded a perfumery journal and became a recognized scholar in the field of natural and synthetic aromatics. In 1910, after an explosion at the family business factory, Gattefossé was badly burned and experimented with using lavender essential oil to heal his wounds. The results surprised and astounded him, and he dedicated much of his future research to uncovering the therapeutic actions of essential oils.

Up until this moment, essential oils had been used solely in perfumery, as aromatics—not as healing agents. In a book he wrote in 1937 about his experience, Gattafossé coined the phrase aromatherapie—and a new healing modality emerged.

For centuries, herbal medicine revealed the healing power of plants, but never before had isolated essential oils been used therapeutically. These precious oils, steam-distilled from a variety of plant materials, demonstrated powers beyond just the olfactory experience.

Lavender essential oil is steam-distilled from the flowering tops of the shrubby sturdy bush Lavandula angustifolia. Generally, the flowers are harvested in the 2nd and 3rd year, and are in bloom for about 10 days. About 120 to 130 lbs of lavender flowers, either dried or fresh, need to be distilled to yield just 1 lb of essential oil.

Lavender essential oil possesses an extraordinary list of therapeutic actions and has the versatility to support a wide array of physical, emotional and psychological healing. Let’s just look at a few:

Skincare Lavender’s powerful antibacterial, antiseptic and antimicrobial properties are enormously effective when it comes to healing wounds and skin infections as well as protecting vulnerable skin against pathogens. It’s also a powerful skin soother because of its strong anti-inflammatory elements, making it a great choice for rashes, inflamed bug bites, dry skin, eczema and other skin imbalances. Its cleansing qualities also make it a great addition to soaps, cleaning supplies, and face and body cleansers.

Digestive Since lavender has so many soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, it is also a great healing agent for any digestive issues due to irritation and inflammation. Added to tea, or massaged on the belly, it can quickly provide relief and ease a nervous stomach.

Respiratory Like its actions on the digestive tract, lavender can also provide great soothing to a troubled respiratory system by relaxing the muscles around the chest and promoting the opening of our bronchial tubes. The antibacterial components help fight colds and flu-like symptoms, and allow us to rest and restore.

Muscles A massage with lavender oil can almost immediately relieve muscle tension due to stress. Its high content of sedative-like chemical constituents ease sore muscles and spasms back to a place of rest and relaxation. It encourages circulation and flow, and disperses stagnancy.

Emotional and Psychological Lavender is well known for its quieting effect on the mind and on our emotions. Its crisp, fresh scent encourages us to breath more deeply and effortlessly, and, for most, conjures images and feelings of rest and stillness. Diffusing lavender can often dispel negative feelings and emotional tension.

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