Many people appreciate lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) for its aromatic fragrance, used in soaps, shampoos, and sachets for scenting clothes. The name lavender comes from the Latin root lavare, which means "to wash." Lavender most likely earned this name because it was frequently used in baths to help purify the body and spirit. However, this herb is also considered a natural remedy for a range of ailments from insomnia and anxiety to depression and mood disturbances. Recent studies bear out years of anecdotal evidence showing that lavender produces calming, soothing, and sedative effects.
In folklore, pillows were filled with lavender flowers to help the restless fall sleep. There is now scientific evidence to suggest that aromatherapy with lavender slows the activity of the nervous system, improves sleep quality, promotes relaxation, and lifts mood in people suffering from sleep disorders. Studies also suggest that massage with essential oils, particularly lavender, may result in improved sleep quality, more stable mood, increased mental capacity, and reduced anxiety. In one recent study, participants who received massage with lavender felt less anxious and more positive than participants who received massage alone. Lavender flowers have also been approved by the Commission E in Germany as a tea for insomnia, restlessness, and nervous stomach irritations.
Aromatherapists also use lavender as a tonic in inhalation therapy to treat headaches, nervous disorders, and exhaustion. Herbalists treat skin ailments, such as fungal infections (like candidiasis), wounds, eczema, and acne, with lavender oil. It is also used externally in a healing bath for circulatory disorders and as a rub for rheumatic ailments (conditions affecting the muscles and joints).