Humans have been using lavender as a culinary, cosmetic, aromatherapeutic, and hygienic herb for at least several thousands years. In the Bible, Mary uses lavender (“very costly”) to anoint the feet of Jesus. In ancient Egypt, embalmers used lavender in the mummification process. Roman bathhouses often scented the water with lavender petals and women throughout the Mediterranean—where it grows natively—used it in hair oils, perfumes, and makeup. It became so ubiquitous as a fragrance in cleansing agents and bathing that the name “lavender” itself comes from the root Latin word for washing—lavare.
It turns out that the ancients were right about lavender. It is a valuable herb that you can use to enhance your health, sleep, cooking, baths, and overall quality of life by incorporating it into your daily routines and regimens.
Breathe in the aroma
Crush fresh lavender between your finger and take a big whiff, or rub lavender oil on your temples for a soothing dose of aromatherapy stress relief. If you’re not sensitive to it, you can apply a little bit of oil or fresh lavender to your upper lip, so you get a steady drip of soothing lavender scent throughout the day. Lavender aroma relieves anxiety and mental tension.
Drink lavender tea
Though it’s usually enjoyed for its aroma, lavender is also perfectly safe to consume and, as a tea, actually rather reminiscent of chamomile in its effects. Like chamomile, lavender tea improves sleep, reduces anxiety, and it can even lower depression scores.1
To make lavender tea, steep a handful of fresh lavender flowers (or two grams of dried flowers) in boiling water for 5-10 minutes. Strain and enjoy.
This is just as effective as chamomile for promoting sleep and helping to soothe frazzled nerves. You can even combine the two for synergistic effects.
Lavender oil makes a nice, chemical-free alternative to perfumes and colognes, especially combined with a more woody scent like sandalwood. Dab a little at the back of your neck or wrists to smell clean and light.
To make it last longer, dilute the oil in the fat of your choice. MCT oil, olive oil, avocado oil, or even beef tallow are excellent mediums.
You can also steep the fresh or dried lavender flowers in the fat using a double boiler to warm it up and speed up the extraction; strain before it cools.
Take a Roman lavender bath
The Romans would add fresh lavender to their public baths. They ruled much of the known world for over a thousand years, so they knew a thing or two. Adding either oil or fresh lavender buds to a hot bath will make an already-relaxing bath even more relaxing via two routes—topical absorption and aromatic absorption.
Use lavender at bedtime to sleep more deeply
Tie up fresh flowers and tuck them inside your pillow case, or just keep it beside your bed when you sleep. You can also do some inhalation before bed. Lavender also works well placed in a satchel, small pillow case, or reusable eye pillow.
Lavender helps you to sleep better, sleep faster, and sleep more deeply.
Topical lavender to soothe skin
Is your skin burned, chafed or irritated? Add some lavender oil to your moisturizer or a spray water bottle and apply or mist your skin generously. You can also steep fresh lavender in a carrier oil, then apply to irritated, burned, or chafed skin.
Make sweet, fresh-scented laundry
Instead of using chemical-laden dryer sheets, tie up a bundle of lavender blossoms in a cloth and add them to the dryer cycle when you do laundry. Be sure to shake out your clothes after they dry to get rid of any residue from the lavender. You’ll have to replace the lavender in between drying cycles.
Use lavender on cuts and scrapes
Lavender oil applied to wounds can actually improve and speed up wound healing. Add a few drops to carrier oil (coconut, olive, avocado) and apply it to wounds when they occur. Lavender has antiseptic properties, too, so the lavender oil blend can act as a comfortable alternative to more painful antiseptic sprays (great option for kids).
Use lavender on your scalp
When applied to the scalp, lavender may stimulate the growth of hair follicles. It also exhibits anti-dandruff activity.
An easy way to make a lavender “shampoo” is to add a few drops of lavender oil to a single raw egg yolk. Apply to wet hair and rub it in. Leave it in for a couple minutes, then rinse.
Another option is to steep lavender as you would to make tea; allow to cool and use as a rinse daily until dandruff clears up.
Cook with lavender
Lavender gives a unique floral accent to many dishes. It goes particularly well with lamb, grilled fruits, and higher fat cuts of meat. One really nice way to use it is to grill peach halves wrapped in bacon and then finish with fresh lavender flowers, crushed black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. Another way is to add lavender to your smoker or BBQ when cooking lamb; the fragrant smoke lends a powerful effect.
Do be warned: a little bit of culinary lavender goes a long way.
As it turns out, lavender is much more than just a nice smell.
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.