Over the course of several days, I prepared lavender in a variety of ways and noted the smell, appearance, taste and effects I experienced after consuming each preparation:
- Hot infusion for 10-20 minutes (traditional way of preparing leaf/flower herbs)
- Cold infusion over night
- Decoction for 20 minutes
- Hot infusion over night
To make the hot infusion preparation, I steeped 1/3 cup of lavender in 2 cups of hot water (200 F) for 15 minutes and then strained to drink.
To make the hot infusion over night, I steeped 1/3 cup of lavender in 2 cups of hot water (200 F), covered the tea strainer with saran wrap and a rubber band and allowed to infuse over night.
To make the decoction for 20 minutes, I first brought 2 cups of water to a boil in a stovetop pot. I then added ½ cup of lavender to the pot and kept it over a low heat and boil for 20 minutes. I then strained this into a teacup to drink.
To make the cold infusion over night, I filled a glass with 1/3 cup of lavender and added 2 cups of cold water from my refrigerator water filter. I covered the class with saran wrap and a rubber band and allowed to infuse over night.
The cold infusion overnight is in the glass on the left and the hot infusion overnight is in the glass on the right, the next day:
To begin with, lavender is generally not considered a tasty plant to make a tea or other beverage with. Lavender is more commonly used as an essential oil in aromatherapy and topical applications. However, the therapeutic effects of lavender can be experienced from ingesting teas and other preparations. In fact, I noted feeling more relaxed throughout the day after drinking a lavender preparation.
The lavender preparations each exhibited a characteristic bitter/chemical-like taste. The decoction tasted most like this and the hot infusion for 15 minutes tasted least like this. The hot infusion for 15 minutes was therefore the easiest preparation with which to mask this taste. I first did this with USDA certified organic honey, however a lot of honey was needed to make the infusion palatable. Regardless, I would recommend the hot infusion for 15 minutes as the best tasting, smelling, palatable and efficacious preparation of the four I made.
The lavender beverages were at times hard to get down and as a result temporarily did not make me feel good. Though throughout the next few hours after consumption, I could notice the calming and anxiolytic effects of lavender on my mind and body. This put me in a positive mood, yet I was slightly less focused and energized.
The best ways to drink lavender infusions or decoctions may be to mix them with juice to help mask the strong, unpleasant taste. I mixed both my overnight hot infusion and cold infusion with pulpy orange juice the morning after making them the night before. Honey and lemon also helped to make the lavender preparations more palatable. I would continue to drink this tea in small doses, but I still prefer lavender aromatherapy and topical preparations.
(8:43 – 10:30)
A use for lavender I came across this weekend while watching the Travel Channel.
Biscuits with honey and lavender.
The use of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) both cosmetically and medicinally has been documented for over 2,500 years (1, 2). Lavender is native to the Arabian Peninsula, Africa, Russia and the Mediterranean (2). Lavender was used in ancient times by the Egyptians, Phoenicians and the people of Arabia for mummification and perfume. Lavender oils were used by the Romans for bathing, cooking and aromatizing the air. The Romans likely gave the herb the Latin root from which we derive its name (lavare- to wash, or livendula-livid or bluish). The Arabians may have first domesticated lavender, which then spread across Europe from Greece. English lavender varieties were not developed in England, rather they were introduced in the 1600s, approximately the same time the first lavender plants were introduced to the Americas (1).
The medicinal parts of lavender include the flowers, leaves and oil (3). The oil is a sedative and depending on the amount used, can produce mild drowsiness to coma and convulsions (4). The potential active constituents of lavender include cineole from the essential oil and borneol and camphor from the leaves. Lavender has over 100 constituents, including linalool, perillyl alcohol, linalyl acetate, carophyllene epoxide, limonene, tannins, triterpenes, coumarins and flavonoids (2,5). Lavender decreases EEG potentials and alertness in humans, inducing relaxation and sedation. There is also evidence that lavender may have spasmolytic effects on smooth muscle, analgesic effects and anticonvulsant effects that may potentiate pentobarbital and chloral hydrate effects (5).
In a study published by Burnett K.M. and et al in 2004, the scent of lavender resulted in higher vigor-activity scores and lower tension-anxiety and confusion-bewilderment scores in men and women following an anxiety-provoking task. In another study published by Dimpfel, W. and et al in 2004, lavender oil aroma at bedtime increased deep or slow wave sleep in men and women and decreased rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Also, sucking a lozenge containing lavender oil, hops, lemon balm and oat produced changes in brain activity that indicated a more relaxed and attentive state (2).
Lavender is used orally and topically in the form of its flowers, essential oil, and in tea, creams, lotions and bath salts (4). In addition to using the sedative effects of lavender to treat anxiety, nervousness, restlessness and insomnia, lavender has also been used orally to treat depression, meteorism (abdominal swelling from gas) and loss of appetite. Lavender is used orally for upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, flatulence, migraine headaches, toothaches, sprains, rheumatism, neuralgia, acne, sores, to promote menstruation and to treat cancers. Lavender is used topically as a mosquito and insect repellant, for alopecia areata (patches of hair loss to total hair loss), pain, improving psychological well-being and in baths for circulation disorders. Lavender is used as aromatherapy by inhalation for insomnia, pain and agitation related to dementia. Lavender is used as a flavor component in foods and beverages and as a fragrance ingredient in cosmetics and soaps (6).
Lavender has Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status for food use in the United States and is considered “Likely Safe” when used orally in quantities commonly found in foods by the standardized evidence-based safety rating system from the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. The same safety rating system rates lavender as “Possibly Unsafe” when applied topically in children due to reports that suggest that topical products containing lavender oil especially in higher concentrations can result in gynecomastia in prepubertal boys in some cases. There is currently not enough dependable information on the safety of use of lavender during pregnancy and lactation and therefore use should be avoided. Lavender has a moderate drug interaction rating with barbiturates, chloral hydrate and CNS depressants as lavender can enhance or potentiate the effects of these drugs. Patients and practitioners should exercise caution when using lavender in these combinations. Lavender may also theoretically cause additional CNS depression when combined with anesthesia and other drugs during and after surgical procedures. It is recommended to discontinue lavender use for at least 2 weeks before surgical procedures. Lavender may also theoretically decrease serum cholesterol level test results and this should be taken into consideration when evaluating these scores (5). The LD-50 values obtained with single oral doses of lavender oil in rats or with dermal topical application in rabbits were 5mL/kg or higher. There have been no other reported results on the toxicology of lavender (7).
The safety and relative non-toxicity of lavender is one of the main reasons why the herb can be used with confidence in the treatment of anxiety as in the case for the Calming Nervines group this semester. The continued effective use of lavender as a sedative aromatherapy, and use in food throughout history from ancient times to the modern day 21st century also warrants the use of the herb in a case of a 21 year-old female medical student who experiences anxiety before exams. The variety of ways lavender can be used therapeutically including its essential oil, flowers and in teas, lozenges, creams, lotions and bath salts makes the herb easy to use and assimilate in a patient’s lifestyle in many ways.
Lavenderfarm.com [www.lavenderfarm.com]. c2000 [cited 2012 Jan 23]. Available from: http://www.lavenderfarm.com/history.htm . copyright 2000.
Natural Standard. Last updated 2012. http://www.naturalstandard.com.ezproxy.mcphs.edu/databases/herbssupplements/lavender.asp . Accessed February 2, 2012.
Complete German Commission E monographs : therapeutic guide to herbal medicines / developed by a special expert committee of the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices ; senior editor, Mark Blumenthal ; associate editors, Werner R. Busse … [et al.] ; primary translator, Sigrid Kelin ; associate translator, Robert S. Rister; with a foreword by Varro E. Tyler. 1998: 159-160.
Micromedex AltMedex. Last updated 2012. http://www.thomsonhc.com.ezproxy.mcphs.edu/micromedex2/librarian/ND_T/evidencexpert/ND_PR/evidencexpert/CS/7BB563/ND_AppProduct/evidencexpert/DUPLICATIONSHIELDSYNC/DA7919/ND_PG/evidencexpert/ND_B/evidencexpert/ND_P/evidencexpert/PFActionId/evidencexpert.IntermediateToDocumentLink?docId=130&contentSetId=137&title=LAVENDER&servicesTitle=LAVENDER . Accessed January 23, 2012.
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Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Stockton, CA. Therapeutic Research Faculty; Last updated February 2, 2012. http://naturaldatabase.therapeuticresearch.com.ezproxy.mcphs.edu/nd/Search.aspx?cs=MCPHS~SCHOOLNOPL&s=ND&pt=100&id=838&ds=&name=LAVENDER&searchid=32671069 .Accessed February 2, 2012.
Schulz H, Blementhal T. Rational Phytotherapy. 2004: 109-115.
The 3 companies I contacted that sell bulk herbs were Jean’s Greens Herbal Tea Works & Herbal Essentials (Schodack, NY), Oregon’s Wild Harvest (Sandy, OR) and Mountain Rose Herbs (Eugene, OR). In class, we collectively generated a list of questions to ask when calling companies to inquire about the quality of products/ingredients.
After contacting the 3 companies, I decided to purchase the lavender I will use in my individual and group medicine making experiences from Jean’s Greens: http://www.jeansgreens.com/index.htm .
Jean’s Greens was founded and owned by “Jean” for 14 years before being in business under current owner Holly Applegate for the past 10 years. I spoke with Holly on the phone to inquire about the quality of products supplied by Jean’s Greens.
Holly would not disclose the farms and growers from which she obtains her plants, but did say she uses 7 different suppliers for her products and has been happy with their business and product quality for as long as she has been in business. She said most of her suppliers are large U.S. companies with their own laboratories that test for heavy metals, sulfurs and microorganisms. The credentials of the specific tests conducted on the plants, including lavender, were not known off hand. However, she did know that the lavender is grown outside, certified organic and meets the standards for this credential. Holly attested to the quality of the lavender she supplies by its potent aroma and bluish-purple color, opposed to being brown, dry and non-aromatic.
I purchased 4 oz. of organic whole lavender flower for $7.48 and paid $6.50 for USPS Priority Mail shipping for a total price of $13.98. The shipment arrived in my mailbox in about 3-4 days.
When I first picked up the shipped box from my home mailbox, I immediately knew my lavender flowers had arrived -I could smell a strong cloud of lavender aroma around me – even through the box!
The lavender was labeled in a durable plastic bag with a thin piece of green tape as the tie. This bag was shipped wrapped in a large piece of glossy neutral-colored magazine-like paper.
I am ready to make medicine with my lavender.