Lavender essential oil and its therapeutic nobility

It is said in ancient texts that lavender was burnt in the rooms where the sick stayed . Formerly, it also perfumed the water of the Roman thermal baths which benefited, at the same time, from the cutaneous virtues of lavender. From purification to sanitation, lavender emanates from its name these two characteristics. Indeed, ” lavandula “, from the Latin “ lavare ”, simply means to wash .

A little history

It is relatively easy to understand the purifying virtues of officinal lavender, especially since we have long considered odorous plants as capable of warding off miasma and parasites. In the 18th century, lavender and other aromatics were fumigated during epidemics. It is therefore without any chance that we find it in the vinegar of the four thieves .

Hildegarde says of this simple that if we cook it in wine which is drunk lukewarm, we soothe the pains of the liver and the lungs, as well as the vapors of the chest ”. Saint Hildegard of Bingen particularly insists on the feeling of purity that comes from what she already calls lavendula. The scent of lavender clears the sight and, thanks to the latter, “we thus obtain pure knowledge and a pure mind.”

Matthiole seems to already know the essential oil of lavender and indicates it for the liver, spleen and stomach as an antispasmodic, as well as in cases of nervousness. The Tuscan doctor notably lifts the veil on a set of properties that make lavender a powerful antispasmodic and a regulator of the central nervous system .

In the 18th century, Vaucluse had the most beautiful wild lavender plantations. It was not uncommon to see a few itinerant stills there, sometimes carrying their stills on the back of a mule, which lasted until the beginning of the 20th century.

The fate of aromatherapy was sealed thanks to the essential oil of Lavender:

The anecdote takes place in Lyon, in 1910, in the laboratory of a young chemical engineer named René-Maurice Gattefossé . An explosion occurred and will burn the chemist’s hand. This legendary story tells that he plunged his hand by reflex into the first container he would have found within reach; the latter being filled with essential oil of lavender.

However, as reality was somewhat distorted, the facts did not quite turn out that way. There was indeed an explosion and a burn, however, this hand dipped in a whole tub of lavender essential oil is a false claim. Gattefossé was initially treated with traditional medication following his burn. Seeing no result, noting that gangrene was setting in, he therefore followed his intuition: he brushed his wounds with lavender essential oil.. Until then, the young chemist had only been interested mainly in the applications of essential oils in the field of perfumery, but had already laid some foundations about their healing properties. In this sense, he coined the term “aromatherapy” in 1928 and wrote numerous books on the subject, including the famous Aromatherapy – Essential oils, vegetable hormones in 1937.

Lavender essential oil, which everyone knows today, if only by its smell, had not yet acquired its therapeutic nobility. But it was without counting thereafter on Jean Valnet , Fabrice Bardeau , or Pierre Franchomme who changed the situation.

What are the pharmacological properties of the essential oil of true Lavender flowers ?

Anxiolytic property:

One study showed that lavender essential oil reduced plasma cortisol . Its marked anxiolytic effect is due to the inhibition of GABA-induced currents. It has a relaxing effect by inhalation and causes a decrease in blood pressure , heart rate and skin temperature, thus indicating a decrease in arousal vegetative activity .

Its significant, dose-dependent anxiolytic activity is also comparable to that of lorazepam . It actually increases the sleep time induced by pentobarbital , without any significant effect on locomotor activity.

Sedative property:

Active on the central nervous system , lavender protects, calms and soothes. It notably reduces stress by reducing circulating cortisol. Calming and anticonvulsant, it also interferes with glutamatergic transmission.

Antispasmodic property:

The essential oil of true lavender acts on the smooth muscles of the intestine; the linalyl acetate reduced the contraction of the vascular wall. Powerful spasmolytic , lavender is muscle relaxant, by a postsynaptic mechanism of action and not atropine-like.

Antimicrobial property:

The antifungal effect of the essential oil has been demonstrated in vitro against 50 strains of Candida albicans taken from humans. The antibacterial effect of lavender essential oil, meanwhile, has been demonstrated in vitro against pathogens such as salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus, while an extract has shown in vitro action against Helicobacter pylori involved in stomach ulcer .

Effective on resistant staphylococci (especially in mixtures with other chemotypes), lavender is also antimicrobial with respect to the pathogenic flora while respecting the resident flora (microbiota) when applied to the skin on a related area.

Antiparasitic effect:

The essential oil of officinal lavender is an antiparasitic against human parasitosis ( Giardia duodenalis and Trichomonas vaginalis ).

Insecticidal property:

Insecticide , effective against ticks, mites, lice and insects, especially mites.

Anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties:

The essential oil opposes the edema and shows a local anesthetic action . The linalool shows an analgesic effect and linalyl acetate is anti-inflammatory . Lavender essential oil therefore inhibits inflammation induced by lipopolysaccharides (LPS) by increasing the expression of (HSP70). The anti-hyperalgesic and anti-nociceptive effects of (-) linalool derive from its ability to stimulate the opioid, cholinergic and dopaminergic systems.

Other effects:

  • Active on the SNA: Ʃ-
  • Cellular healing and regeneration
  • Hypotensive tonicardiac
  • Psychologically and immunologically favorable effect of massage, increases the level of CD8 lymphocytes
  • Lavender essential oil could contribute to the modulation of the immune and neuroendocrine system by acting on indoleamine 2,3 – dioxygenase (IDO) and the metabolism of tryptophan
  • Anti hypertensive by sympatholytic effect
  • Antiallergic, inhibits mast cell degranulation
  • Dose-dependent estrogenic effect (canceled out by a specific anti-estrogen) and anti-androgen

Does true Lavender essential oil require any precautions for use?

  • Essential oil essentially active by the transcutaneous route, the oral route has no interest.
  • Beware of possible gynecomastic effects in prolonged use. The linalool and linalyl acetate inhibit testosterone production, avoiding the long course in males as endocrine disruptors.
  • Contraindicated in pregnant or breastfeeding women.
  • Reserved for adults.
  • Forbidden in children and non-pubertal adolescents (possible cause of idiopathic pre-pubertal development of the breast in young girls and young boys).
  • Contraindicated in cancer or hormone-dependent history.
  • Authorized in animals for external use.


Medical bibliographic sources and clinical trials :

Clementine. M.
Naturopath – Aromatherapist / Herbalist – Phytotherapist
Consultant in Clinical Phyto-aromatherapy and Ethnomedicine

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