Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Last year my lavender died. There's this one spot in my herb garden where nothing will grow, and I figured lavender is pretty hardy so I moved the lavender there. It promptly died.

Credit: Forest and Kim Starr - Plants of Hawaii

This winter I've been trying to start more lavender, but it never gets secondary leaves--it just dies.

So a few days ago I got four lavender plants from a neighbor who was going to throw them away. They are HUGE, and apparently haven't been thinned since they were planted. I gave them each a severe haircut and plunked them in the ground. :)

So this year I'll have lavender. Lots and lots of lavender.

Lavendula Officinalis or Lavendula augustifolia
Family: Lamiaceae (mint family)

Do not use lavender if you are allergic to anything else in the mint family. Hint: One way to tell if something is in the mint family is the square stems.

Do not use lavender (either internally or topically) if you are taking anti-depressant medications, narcotic pain relievers, or benzodiazipines (such as Atavan, Halcion, or Valium). Lavender can induce sleep, so resist using it with any medication that will cause drowsiness. Remember the usual warnings: herbs and drugs DO interact, so if you take two antidepressants together it doubles the effect and can have serious consequences. Don't do it. If you take a relaxant and a stimulant (such as coffee) together, they'll probably cancel each other out or may interact in other ways.

Lavender is generally used as an essential oil. If the plant is used the flowering tops are considered the most efficacious, but I have found that any part of the plant can be just as helpful. The flowering tops just smell prettier.

Lavender has a number of uses, from treating depression to treating burns. Used topically (meaning on the skin) it is used as a pain killer, anti-inflammatory, an anti-spasmodic and as a treatment for various skin diseases. Lavender essential oil has shown some efficacy in treating burns, much like aloe vera. Taken internally it can cause drowsiness so it is often used as a sleep aid. For some people just the smell is enough.

Taken in the other direction, lavender is used as an herbal antidepressant. It doesn't work in the same way as most pharmaceutical anti-depressants and might more accurately be termed a calmitive. It's good for nervous disorders, calming down before sleep, and so on. It goes along with the anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties--it helps muscles and mind relax.

On top of that it smells really good.

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