Lavender Oil Guide – Characteristics, Composition, Properties and Benefits of Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender oil is one of the most popular and widely used essential oils among the aromatherapists because of its calming aroma and numerous benefits. Because of its popularity, it is also one of the most adulterated essential oil in the market. There are not only unrelated oils which are sold as lavender oil but also there are many varieties of lavender oil available in the market. Read on to know further.
Lavender is group of more than 30 known species of small aromatic flowering plants in Lavandula genus, commonly known as Lavender. It belongs to Lamiaceae family, or mint family. Some of the main species in the Lavandula genus are:
- Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender)
- Lavandula dentata (French Lavender)
- Lavandula latifolia (Spike Lavender)
- Lavandula stoechas (Spanish Lavender)
- Lavandula x intermedia (Lavandin)
Lavender is native to Mediterranean region and is now grown across Europe, northern and eastern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and North and South America, southwest Asia and northern India, especially state of Kashmir.
Bulgaria is one of the largest producer of lavender in the world. Some of the locations that produces best quality lavender oils are Bulgaria, France, Italy and Kashmir.
Although lavender is not widely cultivated in Kashmir, the quality of the Kashmir lavender oil is considered to be one of the best, possibly because distilling lavender at a high altitude allows for lower temperatures and lower pressure for distillation of the oil, which allows the volatile phytochemical to come through and be present in the final product.
- One of the distinct feature of French lavender is that it has linear or lance-shaped leaves with toothed edges. It grows to around 60 cm tall.
- Spike lavender grows wild over a large part of the Mediterranean area, preferring warmer and lower regions than lavender and lavandin.
- Lavandin is a hybrid species derived from True lavender (lavendula augustifolia) and spike lavender (Lavendula latifolia).
Please note that some species are known in reference to country names like English lavender, French Lavender, Spanish Lavender and Portuguese lavender but it is not that they are grown in these countries only. Most of these species are grown widely in other countries also.
- Lavender is commonly known as English lavender, garden lavender, common lavender, small-leaf lavender or Lavandual officinalis.
- French lavender (Lavandula dentata) is known as fringed lavender.
- Spike lavender (Lavandula latifolia) is also known as broad-leaved lavender or Portuguese lavender.
- Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) is also known as topped lavender or French lavender (mostly in UK). This may create some confusion with Lavandula dentata.
History of Use of Lavender
Lavender has rich and long history of use since centuries, specially in Mediterranean region. It was cultivated by Egyptians, Greeks and Romans for its fine floral, refreshing fragrance, versatile therapeutic actions and multi-purpose usefulness. The Romans used it in baths, beds, clothes, and hair.
Lavender oil was distilled and used in medieval times in Persia and France. At that time, Spike lavender was much more widely used essential oil. Lavender was used in first commercial level production of scent in the United Kingdom, in Mitcham, Surrey, in the seventeenth century.
Extraction of Lavender Oil
Lavender oil is extracted from flowers and leaves of the plants using steam distillation. Around 100-150 KG of the herb produces 1 kg oil yield.
Characteristics of Lavender Oil
Lavender oil is a mobile clear to pale yellow fluid. It has a light sweet-herbaceous floral odour, with faint fresh overtones and mild woody undertones.
|Botanical Name||Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender) | Lavandula dentata (French Lavender) | Lavandula latifolia (Spike Lavender) |Lavandula stoechas (Spanish Lavender)|
The scent of Spike lavender is stronger and more pungent than English lavender scent due to higher presence of camphor.
Composition of Lavender Oil
Hundreds of compounds have been identified in lavender oil. Some of the compounds found in lavender oil are:
- Esters 40–55% (incl. linalyl acetate 30–60%, lavandulyleacetate <6%, geranyl acetate)
- monoterpenols 27–52% (incl. linalool and its acetic esters 26–50%, geraniol, terpineol, borneol, lavandulol)
- sesquiterpenes 2–8% (incl. beta-caryophyllene 2–8%, farnesene)
- monoterpenes 4–5% (incl. beta-ocimenes, limonene, pinene, camphene)
- oxides 2% (incl. 1,8-cineole 0.5–2.5%, linalool oxide)
- ketones 4% (incl. camphor <1%, octanone < 3%)
- lipic aldehydes 2% (incl. myrtenal, cuminal, benzaldehyde)
- lactones, coumarins 0.3%
Please bear in mind that the composition of lavender oil varies from species to species; however, the majority is dominated by linalol and linalyl acetate.
Quality of Lavender Oil
Lavender essential oil is one of the most sought after essential oil in world. There is very high chances of adulteration with lavender oil.
- It is often adulterated with cheaper Lavandin oil or simply cheaper, more large-scale industrial versions of the same species, including from the clonal varieties.
- Lavender oil may be adulterated with synthetically created compounds like linalool, linalyle acetate, terpenyl propionate, isobornyl acetate, terpineol and fractions of Ho leaf and Rosewood oils.
- Sometimes other unrelated species such as Lavender sage (Salvia lavandulifolia), Lavender oregano (Origanum dubium ct. linalool) and Lavender tea tree (Melaleuca ericifolia) are being sold as ‘lavender’ oil.
Following are few characteristics compositions of lavender oil of fine quality.
- The amount of linalool and linalyl acetate should never more than 80%.
- The amount of cis and trans ocimenes (common monoterpene hydrocarbons) should at least be 9%.
- Lavadulyl acetate should be at least 4.5%.
- The concentration of camphor should be below 0.5%.
Blending with Lavender Oil
Properties of Lavender Oil
Lavender oil has analgesic, anxiolytic, antibacterial, antidepressant, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antispasmodic, calmative, sedative and skin healing properties.
Benefits of Lavender Oil
One of the most well known benefits of lavender oil is as relaxant and anxiolytic because of its unique mix of calming, balancing and somewhat uplifting effective qualities.
Lavender oil is effective in dealing with tension, anxiety, fear and depression associated with anxiety or agitation. It also helps in reconcile emotional conflict and balancing mood swings.
It is also useful as first-aid treatment in case of motion sickness due to its calmative action. Blend with peppermint or ginger oil to enhance this effect.
Lavender oil is suggested as natural remedy to treat insomnia and improve the sleep quality. Lavender oil improves the quality and duration of sleep and general mental and physical health without causing any unwanted sedative or other drug specific effects.
According to study, diffused lavender oil might be used as a temporary relief from continued medication for insomnia and reduces the side-effects of these drugs. In another study, administration of lavender odour showed a trend towards an improved quality of daytime wakefulness and more sustained sleep at night on hospitalised patients.
For a restorative sleep add four drops of Bulgarian lavender with two drops of Roman chamomile in a diffuser.
According to studies, lavender oil is helpful in dealing with mood changes and instability during menopause.
Its calming action makes lavender useful for relieving premenstrual tension, alleviating insomnia and promoting restful sleep. Aromatherapy massage with lavender accompanied with rose geranium, rose, and jasmine in almond and primrose oils once a week for 8 weeks is reported as an effective treatment of menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, depression, and pain in climacteric women.
Lavender oil is a natural skin care agent. It promotes healing and regeneration of skin. For any skin-care challenge, lavender is your number one go-to oil.
Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties is beneficial in a number of skin conditions like allergic reactions, acne and aging effects.
Blend four drops of Bulgarian lavender and four drops of helichrysum in 15 ml (three teaspoons) of aloe vera gel and use to nourish the skin.
Lavender oil stimulates new cell growth, kills bacteria, prevents scarring, and reduces pain. Its regenerative and healing properties stimulate tissue repair and aid in wound healing, especially in case of cuts, burns, insect stings. It is also helpful in soothing skin irritations, razor bumps, and sunburn.
Apply a few drops of lavender oil on the affected area.
Lavender oil is possibly effective in treatment of hair loss, particularly associated with alopecia areata. Alopecia areata is a condition in which hair is lost from some or all areas of the body. Research shows that lavender can promote hair growth by up to 44 percent after 7 months of treatment.
Headaches and Pain Reliever
Lavender oil is an effective natural treatment for acute as well as chronic or intractable pain. Use of lavender oil is shown to be effective in lowering blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, wakefulness, and pain in patients.
Inhalation of lavender essential oil is suggested to be an effective and safe treatment modality in acute management of migraine headaches.
Cosmetic and Perfumery Products
Lavender oil has been a popular choice in manufacturing of cosmetics and perfumery products like bath room sprays, toilet waters, perfumes, colognes, massage oils, sachets, salves and skin lotions due to its excellent and soothing aroma.
- Anti-inflammatory: Lavender oil is beneficial in treating inflammatory and allergic conditions including neuritis, otitis, bronchitis, vaginitis, cystitis, gastroenteritis, phlebitis and coronaritis.
- Urinary Tract Infection: Lavender oil is beneficial in treating urinary tract and bladder infections. Its antiseptic properties make it an effective treatment for vaginal yeast infection when used as a douche. Blending it with tea tree or juniper berry oil can enhance this effect.
- Relieve Respiratory Disorders. Lavender oil can help alleviate respiratory problems like colds and flu, throat infections, cough, asthma, whooping cough, sinus congestion, bronchitis, tonsillitis and laryngitis. It can be applied on your neck, chest, or back, or inhaled via steam inhalation or through a vaporizer.
- Cooking: High grade therapeutic lavender oil may be occasionally sparsely used in cooking to flavour foods like cookies.
Safety With Lavender Oil
Lavender oil is non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitizing oil. Conduct a patch test before using topically. Dilute with a carrier oil before each use, especially if you sensitive skin.
Consult your healthcare provider if you’re pregnant, nursing, taking medications, or being treated for other health challenges. Keep out of reach of children.
Care must be taken in storing lavender oil. Must be stored in a cold and dark place. The shelf life of lavender oil is around 4-5 years.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This information is for educational purposes only, it is not intended to treat, cure, prevent or, diagnose any disease or condition. Nor is it intended to prescribe in any way. This information is for educational purposes only and may not be complete, nor may its data be accurate.