Top Ten Herbs: Lavender

Lavender grows as an evergreen shrub and it is a part of the mint family. Its flowers are the color we tend to associate with the word. It is common to find lavender in perfumes, makeup, and medicine, as well as some foods. Lavender is known for its recognizable scent and its distinctive color.

Health Benefits and Side Effects

Lavender can be used as flowers, dried, and essential oil. It has been used to treat such things as anxiety, hair loss, wound care, and fungal infections, among others. While some believe it can be helpful against depression, eczema, hypertension, menstrual pain, and nausea, scientific evidence does not support this, yet. It has a calming effect and is often used to encourage relaxation.

Lavender tea can help ease digestive conditions such as bloating, gas, indigestion, nausea, and vomiting.

Lavender is safe in food amounts, and generally safe in medical amounts, though it can cause headaches and constipation in some.

When blended with other herbs (as in herbs de Provence), it can be used as a substitute for salt.

Be careful about using lavender if sleep-inducing drugs are being used, or if blood pressure reduction medication is being used. Some think that lavender slows the nervous system, so it is recommended to avoid lavender for the two weeks before surgery. The oil should not be used topically on prepubescent males, as it can cause hormone disruption which can result in the development of breast tissue. It is unknown if it would have a disruptive effect in prepubescent females. The oil should usually be used with a carrier oil or other dilution, as full strength can cause skin irritation.

Food and Nutrition

Those who know lavender as a floral scent may be surprised to find that lavender can be used in food. There are many recipes for both sweet and savory dishes that include lavender. The herb itself contains, in 100g, only 49 calories and 1g of fat. It also contains vitamin A, calcium, and is rich in iron.

It is important to note that if lavender is not used carefully, it can cause the food to have a soapy flavor. It is also important to use food-grade lavender. It is often preferred to use an infusion rather than the actual leaves in order to have a better experience when eating it. It does not require a large amount to get the flavor; it is strong! If unsure, start will less and add more if needed. Because of its strength, it is good to combine it with other strong flavors such as lemon, mint, and rosemary.

The flowers can be used as-is in salads for a pop of flavor. The stems can be used as skewers in kabobs or bundled to add flavor when smoking meat.

An herb grinder, spice mill, or mortar and pestle can be used to make the plant parts small enough to use easily in recipes or to infuse.

Other Uses

Lavender can be used as aromatherapy for anxiety, depression, and pain relief. It has also been shown to improve memory function.

Lavandula oil has been shown to be effective against fungal infections that tend to be resistant to other antifungal treatments.

Topical application of lavender oil has been shown to accelerate hair growth in many cases.

It is believed that lavender oil is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, and this means it works well on insect bites and minor burns to reduce itching and speed healing.

As a backup for soap or hand sanitizer, get a bottle that holds one or two ounces, fill it to about 1/3 with vodka, add ten or fifteen drops of lavender oil, then just as much tea tree oil or peppermint oil. Fill to the top with aloe vera gel and shake well.

Lavender plants will soak up toxins and clean up areas that may be contaminated with things like lead and zinc.

Sprinkling lavender mixed with baking soda on the carpet will help to eliminate odors and reduce bacteria.

Lavender and tea tree oil mix to make an excellent head lice remedy.

Some women have found lavender aromatherapy helpful in combating hot flashes from menopause.

A couple drops of lavender oil in the iron’s water can add a pleasant scent when dewrinkling clothes, and a few drops on a dry washcloth tossed into the dryer will add a pleasant scent to the whole load.

Add a couple drops to the inside of the toilet paper roll to refresh the bathroom air every time someone uses it.


Deer dislike lavender, so it is an excellent addition to the edges of a garden. The foliage tends to be grayish and the plant grows up to two feet tall in a shrub-type manner. They are perennials and they bloom toward the end of spring and beginning of summer. Lavender is native to Europe, the Mediterranean, and surrounding areas.

Lavender plants prefer full sun, and well-drained soil. Lavender especially likes the soil to be more alkaline and will have a better fragrance in that type of soil. It is tolerant of drought once it is firmly established. Too much water can damage lavender; if the roots are wet for too long or if there is a lot of humidity, lavender will need more space to have air and to dry out. This is where full sun is very helpful. In places where it gets cold, planting by a wall will provide protection from the cold wind and offer a bit of heat as it soaks up sunshine.

Plant in the spring, leaving 24-36 inches between plants. Well drained soil is good, but lavender is happy in poor soil, too. Avoid planting in areas that stay wet.

Compost can be used for fertilizer, but most standard fertilizers may prove too much for lavender.

Pruning by harvesting is a good way to keep the plants healthy, but plants can be pruned in the spring to about 2/3 of their total height; but wait to prune until the plant is showing new growth.