One of my goals this year has been to learn more about herbal medicine. I’ve been using essential oils in personal care products and culinary herbs as medicine for years, but I wanted to learn more about them. First on my list was to learn more about lavender benefits and uses.
I use lavender essential oils often in my home as it’s one of the safest essential oils for the whole family. But I have to admit, I prefer using whole herbs over essential oils whenever possible.
I started growing lavender just because I love the smell so much. But having a lavender plant in my backyard turns out to be an amazing way to have herbal medicine at my fingertips.
Lavender is one of my all-time favorite herbs. It’s beautifully fragrant and I get an overwhelming sense of calm when I smell it. It’s also very tasty! Here are some lavender benefits that will make you want to grow some immediately.
Lavender for Sleep and Relaxation
Lavender’s most famous use is in helping induce relaxation. This 2006 study found that college students who inhaled lavender slept better and felt more rested upon waking. The group inhaling the placebo had much less favorable results.
Lavender can help with cognitive and physiological function too. One study found that lavender helped study participants with working memory and physiological function.
Personally, lavender makes me feel more relaxed and able to “deal”. I sometimes just go outside to run my hands through it when I’m stressed!
Wound Healing and Skin Health
Lavender is antimicrobial, soothing, and can help heal wounds. One 2011 study showed that lavender essential oil was more beneficial than iodine for healing episiotomies.
Lavender oil has also been shown to help with the formation of collagen during wound healing. I add lavender to my healing ointment for this reason.
How to Use Lavender
Lavender is excellent in herbal remedies for its soothing and calming properties but it can also be eaten! Here are some of my favorite ways to use lavender.
- Infuse lavender buds and leaves in a carrier oil (coconut oil, avocado oil, etc.). A lavender-infused oil is a convenient way to apply it topically and reap the lavender benefits.
- I like to add lavender essential oil or infused oil to my skincare products (like deodorant or face wash). You can also add lavender oil to homemade shampoo or conditioner for a relaxing way to wash away the day’s hard work.
- To create a wonderful, all-purpose healing salve, heat lavender oil and beeswax together. Cool until hard and dab on wounds and other skin issues that need to heal.
- Grind dried lavender leaves in an herb grinder or with a mortar and pestle (my personal favorite way to grind herbs) and sprinkle on your food. The leaves can be used in place of rosemary in recipes.
- Make lavender tea with a handful of fresh lavender buds in hot water.
- Infuse in vinegar for an easy but flavorful salad dressing.
- If you’re using lavender essential oil, you can add it to just about any personal care product or diffuse it in the house. I also use lavender EO for homemade cleaning products.
Because lavender is so gentle it’s great anytime you need to freshen the air or mask an odor!
How to Grow Lavender
Growing lavender is the easiest way to have your own stash of fresh or dried lavender throughout the year. It’s also fairly easy to grow and beautiful to look at so I highly recommend trying to grow your own.
How to Plant Lavender
Lavender is very difficult to grow from seed so I always buy plants instead. If you want to give it a try anyway here’s a video I found that explains how you can germinate lavender seeds at home. As you’ll see it’s quite a process so if you’re a newbie, I recommend getting a plant. Here are some tips for planting:
- Plant lavender 2-3 feet apart (they grow to be about 1 to 3 feet tall).
- Lavender should be planted in the spring though It can be planted in the fall if you’re careful to mulch it well.
- Lavender does well in soil that is poor or moderately fertile. But lavender likes loose soil. If you have clay or compacted soil add some organic material.
- Lavender loves drainage. It won’t grow well in swampy areas of your yard.
- Lavender is hardy in zones 5-9 so they can be planted and kept year after year. In the upper part of zone 5, lavender should be heavily mulched to protect it through the winter. Outside of those zones, lavender can be planted as an annual.
Lavender Plant Care
Lavender in the Mediterranean perennial and is easy to care for. Here are some tips for caring for lavender plants.
- Water twice a week until the plant is established. After it’s established it can go a few weeks without water. After buds form, it’s best to continue to water weekly. However, my lavender has done ok with very little water throughout the season.
- Add mulch to your lavender plant to keep in moisture and warmth (and avoid weeds!). I have used hay in the past but any organic mulch (untreated) is fine.
- For English lavender (the most common variety), Trim the stems back after flowering and harvesting (twice a season). Trim the stems back about ⅔ or to just above the woody part of the plant. Other varieties should be pruned less intensely (take off about ⅓ of the plant).
How to Harvest Lavender
When the flowers are in mid-bloom, cut the thin stems just above the leaves. You’ll follow the curvature of the plant and cut the lavender blooms in handfuls. You can also save the leaves and stems for lavender sachets or pillows so if you cut too far that’s ok!
You can then air dry the lavender by hanging it for 2 to 4 weeks.
Lavender Benefits and How to Grow It: Final Thoughts
As I said, lavender is one of my all-time favorite herbs. For someone new to herbal medicine or essential oils, lavender is a really good herb to start with because it’s so gentle. It’s also a great plant for a new gardener to try because it’s fairly simple to keep alive (I promise!).
Now it’s your turn!
What do you use lavender for? What are your favorite lavender benefits?