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Lavender relaxes the nervous system, digestion and the mind


Lavandula angustifolia Lamiaceae

Lavender is a classic herb for cheering the heart and easing emotional pain.

Sustainability Status

Sustainability status

Not currently on risk lists but complete data may be missing on the status of the species. Read more about our sustainability guide.

Key benefits
  • Relaxes the nervous system
  • Supports digestion
  • How does it feel?

    Lavender is an attractive and aromatic shrub with a long history of cultivation for both horticultural and medicinal means. It is native to Spain, Gibraltar, north-western Africa, Israel and parts of Arabia and is part of the mint family. Due to the extensive cultivation of the plant, it has naturalised across the Mediterranean, Australia, New Zealand and California. The plant can grow up to 1m in height and width and has strong woody branches that then produce long flower stems. The leaves are small, toothed and a grey-green colour. The flowers occur in clusters along the top of the plant stems and range from violet to blue in colour, are small and delicate and have a characteristic pleasant scent. This species is of particular value to pollinating bees.

  • What can I use it for?

    Lavender is high in levels of naturally occurring essential oils that have a profound effect upon the central nervous system. Lavender essential oil contains linalool which demonstrates sedative and anti-spasmodic effects upon the central nervous system and also the enteric (digestive) nervous system. It is this component that has made lavender such a renowned relaxant.

    The essential oil is high in antioxidants that can provide protection against free radical damage within the nervous system but also the digestive system. The antioxidant properties of the plant have demonstrated protective actions within the brain, particularly in chronic degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

    When applied externally, it displays anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that are effective against wounds, bruising and burns.

  • Into the heart of lavender

    Lavender is a nootropic. Nootropics enhance emotional and mental well-being whilst also promoting cerebral circulation. Traditionally, they are used to protect the brain and improve cognitive functioning alongside mood.

    Lavender is effective in clearing anxiety, depression and insomnia through gently strengthening and tonifying the nervous system. It will treat states of nervous debility and exhaustion. It is of particular benefit for those who experience symptoms such as insomnia, hypertension, indigestion and tension headaches as a result of stress or anxiety. Lavender is effective for children and the elderly at promoting a more restful sleep, encouraging sleep and preventing frequent waking.

    The pungency of lavender essential oil makes it an excellent remedy for physical and emotional stagnation within the body. It will decongest a stagnant digestive system, relieving symptoms of nausea, bloating and indigestion. It will also revive states of nervous congestion such as stagnant depression and reoccurring anxiety and post-traumatic stress.

    Lavender is indicated in anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, insomnia and all forms of nervous or stress related exhaustion. Lavender will tonify and strengthen the nervous system whilst also relaxing it, allowing time for the restoration of the nerves.

    Indicated in symptoms of stress that manifest within the digestive tract such as nausea, bloating and indigestion. The pungent essential oils present in lavender will help to shift stuck congestion though stimulating the digestion but also calming the enteric nervous system.

    Lavender is indicated in chronic degenerative conditions of the mind such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, but may also be helpful after head trauma or injury. Lavender stimulates the cerebral circulation and provides a high antioxidant value that protects against further degeneration.

    Apply (as oil, strong infusion or tincture) to eczema, acne, varicose ulcers, nappy rash, minor infections, impetigo, Tinea infections, scabies, styes, burns, sunburn, cuts, wounds, sores, ulcers, insect bites & stings, head lice, bruises, sprains, tension headaches, gout & arthritic pain, shingles. Added to baths for muscle tension & spasm or after childbirth; rubbed on chest & inhaled for chest infections, coughs, colds and catarrh; tea or dilute tincture as a gargle for sore throats, tonsillitis & hoarseness, mouthwash for mouth ulcers and inflamed or infected gums, douche for leucorrhoea.

  • Traditional actions

  • Traditional energetic actions

    Herbal energetics are the descriptions Herbalists have given to plants, mushrooms, lichens, foods, and some minerals based on the direct experience of how they taste, feel, and work in the body. All traditional health systems use these principles to explain how the environment we live in and absorb, impacts our health. Find out more about traditional energetic actions in our article “An introduction to herbal energetics“.

  • Did you know?

    The name lavender is derived from the Latin ‘lavare’ which means ‘to wash’. In Victorian and Elizabethan times, lavender was used to perfume clothes and bed linen due to washing and bathing not being common practice. The fresh and dried herb was also often spread across floors and in the home to deter pests such as mice, flies and mosquitoes.

Additional information

  • Safety

    Avoid during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

  • Dosage

    Dried: 1-2 grams daily infused in boiling water.

    Essential Oil: 5-10 drops in 5ml base oil for massage or in hot water for steam inhalation. Do not use essential oil internally.

lavender illustration
  • Recipe

    A ‘cup of love’ tea

    A blend of flowers bringing you some of nature’s finest love. Drink to soothe a broken heart or feed you when you just want a sip of love.


    • Chamomile flower 3g
    • Limeflower 2g
    • Marigold (calendula) petal 2g
    • Rose flower 1g
    • Lavender flower 1g
    • Licorice root 1g

    This will serve 3 cups of love.


    • Put all of the ingredients in a pot.
    • Add 500ml/18fl oz freshly boiled filtered water.
    • Leave to steep for 10–15 minutes, then strain and let the love flow.

    ‘Let there be joy’ Tea

    Not all of life’s experiences are easy, but this tea will help you digest them with this blend of ‘instant-happiness-herbs’.


    • Lemon balm 3g
    • Limeflower 3g
    • Lavender flower 2g
    • Rosemary leaf 1g
    • St John’s wort flowering top 1g
    • Rose water 1 tsp per cup
    • Honey a dash per cup

    This will serve 2 cups of happiness.


    • Put all of the ingredients in a pot (except for the rose water and honey).
    • Add 500ml (18fl oz) freshly boiled filtered water. Leave to steep for 10–15 minutes, then strain.
    • Add the rose water and honey to taste, then sip for joy.

    These recipes are from Cleanse, Nurture, Restore by Sebastian Pole

An ‘aromatic’ remedy, high in volatile essential oils, was most often associated with calming and sometimes ‘warming’ the digestion. Most kitchen spices and herbs have this quality: they were used both as flavouring and to ease the digestion of sometimes challenging pre-industrial foods. Many aromatics are classed as ‘carminatives’ and are used to reduce colic, bloating and agitated digestion. They also often feature in respiratory remedies for colds, chest and other airway infections. They are also classic calming inhalants and massage oils, and are the basis of aromatherapy for their mental benefits.
Astringent taste
The puckering taste you get with many plants (the most familiar is black tea after being stewed too long, or some red wines) is produced by complex polyphenols such as tannins. Tannins are used in concentrated form (eg from oak bark) to make leather from animal skins. The process of ‘tanning’ involves the coagulation of relatively fluid proteins in living tissues into tight clotted fibres (similar to the process of boiling an egg). Tannins in effect turn exposed surfaces on the body into leather. In the case of the lining of mouth and upper digestive tract this is only temporary as new mucosa are replenished, but in the meantime can calm inflamed or irritated surfaces. In the case of open wounds tannins can be a life-saver – when strong (as in the bark of broadleaved trees) they can seal a damaged surface. One group of tannins, the reddish-brown ‘condensed tannins’ are procyanidins, which can reduce inflammation and oxidative damage.
Bitters are a very complex group of phytochemicals that stimulate the bitter receptors in the mouth. They were some of the most valuable remedies in ancient medicine. They were experienced as stimulating appetite and switching on a wide range of key digestive functions, including increasing bile clearance from the liver (as bile is a key factor in bowel health this can be translated into improving bowel functions and the microbiome). Many of these reputations are being supported by new research on the role of bitter receptors in the mouth and elsewhere round the body. Bitters were also seen as ‘cooling’ reducing the intensity of some fevers and inflammatory diseases.
Blue-purple colouring
Any fruits with a blue-purple colouring contain high levels of the polyphenols known as anthocyanins. These work 1) on the walls of small blood vessels, helping to maintain capillary structure to reduce a key stage in inflammation, and improving the microcirculation to the tissues; 2) to improve retinal function and vision; 3) to support connective tissue repair around the body.
Traditional ‘cold’ or cooling’ remedies often contain bitter phytonutrients such a iridoids (gentian), sesiquterpenes (chamomile), anthraquinones (rhubarb root), mucilages (marshmallow), some alkaloids and flavonoids. They tend to influence the digestive system, liver and kidneys. Cooling herbs do just that; they diffuse, drain and clear heat from areas of inflammation, redness and irritation. Sweet, bitter and astringent herbs tend to be cooling.
Traditional ‘hot’ or ‘heating’ remedies, often containing spice ingredients like capsaicin, the gingerols (ginger), piperine (black or long pepper), curcumin (turmeric) or the sulfurous isothiocyanates from mustard, horseradich or wasabi, generate warmth when taken. In modern times this might translate as thermogenic and circulatory stimulant effects. There is evidence of improved tissue blood flow with such remedies: this would lead to a reduction in build-up of metabolites and tissue damage. Heating remedies were used to counter the impact of cold, reducing any symptoms made worse in the cold. .
Mucilages are complex carbohydrate based plant constituents with a slimy or ‘unctuous’ feel especially when chewed or macerated in water. Their effect is due simply to their physical coating exposed surfaces. From prehistory they were most often used as wound remedies for their soothing and healing effects on damaged tissues. Nowadays they are used more for these effects on the digestive lining, from the throat to the stomach, where they can relieve irritation and inflammation such as pharyngitis and gastritis. Some of the prominent mucilaginous remedies like slippery elm, aloe vera and the seaweeds can be used as physical buffers to reduce the harm and pain caused by reflux of excess stomach acid. Mucilages are also widely used to reduce dry coughing. Here the effect seems to be by reflex through embryonic nerve connections: reduced signals from the upper digestive wall appear to translate as reduced activity of airway muscles and increased activity of airway mucus cells. Some seed mucilages, such as in psyllium seed, flaxseed (linseed) or guar bean survive digestion to provide bulking laxative effects in the bowel. These can also reduce rate of absorption of sugar and cholesterol. .
New-mown hay aroma
The familiar country odour of haymaking, of drying grass and other plants, is largely produced by coumarins (originally isolated from tonka beans – in French coumarou) and widely used in perfumery. They are chemically categorised as benzopyrone lactones and are important phytochemicals, with strong antioxidant activity in the laboratory and likely effects in modulating inflammation. They were most often associated with the calming effect linked to their use in stuffing mattresses and pillows and plants, high In coumarins were commonly used for these properties.
Resins are most familiar as tacky discharges from pine trees (and as the substance in amber, and rosin for violin bows). They were most valued however as the basis of ancient commodities like frankincense and myrrh (two of the three gifts of the Three Wise Men to the baby Jesus) and getting access to their source was one benefit to Solomon for marrying the Queen of Sheba (now Ethiopia). Resins were the original antiseptic remedies, ground and applied as powders or pastes to wounds or inflamed tissues, and were also used for mummification. With alcohol distillation it was found that they could be dissolved in 90% alcohol and in this form they remain a most powerful mouthwash and gargle, for infected sore throats and gum disease. They never attracted much early research interest because they permanently coat expensive glassware! For use in the mouth, gums and throat hey are best combined with concentrated licorice extracts to keep the resins in suspension and add extra soothing properties. It appears that they work both as local antiseptics and by stimulating white blood cell activity under the mucosal surface. They feel extremely effective!
The salty flavour is immediately distinctive. A grain dropped onto the tongue is instantly moistening and a sprinkle on food enkindles digestion. This easily recognisable flavour has its receptors right at the front of the tongue. The salty flavor creates moisture and heat, a sinking and heavy effect which is very grounding for the nervous system and encourages stability. People who are solid and reliable become known as ‘the salt of the earth'.
The sharp taste of some fruits, and almost all unripe fruits, as well as vinegar and fermented foods, is produced by weak acids (the taste is generated by H+ ions from acids stimulating the sour taste buds). Sour taste buds are hard-wired to generate immediate reflex responses elsewhere in the body. Anyone who likes the refreshing taste of lemon or other citrus in the morning will know that one reflex effect is increased saliva production. Other effects are subjective rather than confirmed by research but there is a consistent view that they include increased digestive activity and contraction of the gallbladder.
In the days when most people never tasted sugar, ‘sweetness’ was associated with the taste of basic foods: that of cooked vegetables, cereals and meat. In other words sweet was the quality of nourishment, and ‘tonic’ remedies. Describing a remedy as sweet generally led to that remedy being used in convalescence or recovery from illness. Interestingly, the plant constituents most often found in classic tonics like licorice, ginseng are plant steroids including saponins, which also have a sweet taste.

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