Lavender, the jewel of aromatherapy
By Eduardo Lera
Lavender is a very popular plant, well known and used since ancient times by different cultures, whose properties have made it a favorite among aromatic plants in practically all countries and times. The essential oil extracted from this plant has a diversity of effects: aromatic, therapeutic, hypotensive (lowers blood pressure), antiseptic, relaxing, sedative, anxiolytic (fights anxiety), anti-inflammatory, anti-spasm, muscular relaxant, among others. There are documented studies about the properties of lavender to fight insomnia and depression, to fight bacteria and fungus infections and to inhibit the action of some viruses. These properties make it one of the most widely used and appreciated plants. Since ancient times it has been used to make perfumes and to scent the environment. There is evidence of its use by the Egyptians 5000 years ago. It is believed to be originally from the Mediterranean region of Europe and the north of Africa.
Some of the most popular varieties are Lavandula angustifolia, Lavandula latifolia and Lavandula stoechas. Also, some hybrids have been produced mixing these varieties. One of the most used is Lavandin.
The therapeutic properties of essential oils are the result of the biological activity of some of the bio-components that they are made of… very complex organic molecules like terpens, sesquiterpens, phenols, among several others. Multiple research studies register and measure the medicinal properties of these components. The effectiveness and fastness of their action is due to the fact that they have access to the nervous system when their vapors are breathed or penetrate the skin, they reach the blood stream, breaking the natural blood-brain barrier, affecting both nervous systems central and sympathetic and triggering natural mechanisms, generally producing therapeutic and relaxing effects, producing an emotional and spiritual condition both pleasant and beneficial.
Recent studies consign anti-cancer and anti-mutagenic (prevent the mutation of DNA that produces cancer cells) properties, it also induces apoptosis (the programmed self-destruction) of cancer cells and open a wide field of investigation and development of products to treat skin and other kinds of cancer. Other studies consign the effect of lavender essential oil on patients suffering from dementia, showing an important reduction on their level of agitation and seemingly, after a test period of four weeks, those patients showed an increase of their cognitive level, which made the investigators conclude that an improvement in their mental health occurred.
Many of these studies, besides consigning their discoveries, suggest new lines of investigation that the scientists could foresee during the research process. The scientists suggest and invite other colleagues to take these new lines of investigation and to widen the already-made tests with samples that include a larger number of test subjects.