The Healing Powers of Lavender The Healing Powers of Lavender

For centuries, lavender has been one of the most loved of plants -- loved for its beauty and for its unique fragrance. But lavender is so much more than a fragrance.

Lavender was known to the ancient Romans, who named it from the Latin lavens, "to wash." The Romans and Greeks discovered that lavender oil was perfect for many uses around the home, adding its fresh fragrance to soaps, bathwater and making tea to cure a number of ailments.

The Romans and Greeks discovered that lavender does not just add a delightful fragrance. The antiseptic properties of lavender oil mean that it is good for your skin, as well. Bathing in lavender will help clear up skin problems and make your skin feel rejuvenated, while lavender tea has a number of uses, both inside and outside.

Lavender tea is made by soaking two tablespoons of dried lavender in a jug of hot water. This can be used as a compress by soaking strips of bandage or sterile linen in the hot liquid until it can be wrung out and laid on the bruise or wound. The heat and the antiseptic qualities of the lavender combine to treat the wound.

A lavender compress placed on the chest can help congestion, while breathing in the steam of lavender (place the hot lavender tea in a bowl and cover your head with a towel) helps breathing.

Drunk as a tea, lavender is a natural treatment for anxiety and headaches. It also soothes tummy upsets and flatulence, and cold lavender tea can be used as an effective mouthwash.

Lavender's calming properties are also well known. When you are stressed, there is nothing as soothing as soaking in a lavender scented bath. While you are cleansing and stimulating your skin, you will find your cares of the day just drift away.

To help you sleep, make a small pillow and fill it with dried lavender leaves and buds. Slip this inside your regular pillow and you will find the soothing fragrance helps calms you at the end of the day and promotes a restful night's sleep.

But the one place you may never have thought to use lavender is in the kitchen -- both as a cleanser and as a cooking ingredient! Add lavender oil to your favorite cleaner to give it more cleaning power, and to fill your kitchen with a fresh fragrance. When you mop the floor, sprinkle lavender oil in the water and you will have a sweet smelling antiseptic mop.

When it comes to cooking, you can use lavender oil, tea, or the leaves and flowers. But the easiest way to begin is to make lavender sugar. Just place two teaspoons of dried lavender, or three short lavender sprigs, in the bottom of a clean glass jar. Pour over enough caster sugar to fill the jar and cap tightly. Leave for a few days and the sugar will have taken up the fragrance of the lavender. Use like vanilla sugar in cake and cookie recipes, and you will have a tantalizing new flavor to add to your repertoire.

TIP: Karen Thurber, our gardening expert, has some key points concerning the consumption of lavender:

  • Never take lavender oil orally. Taken orally is toxic.
  • Pregnant or breast feeding women should not use lavender.
  • Lavender can sometimes cause allergic reactions.

More experienced cooks can experiment with lavender conserve, lavender jelly and lavender liqueur. Just add lavender to your daily life and you will feel as luxurious as a noble Roman!

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