The father of modern aromatherapy, René-Maurice Gattefossé, allegedly stuck his badly burnt hand in an open vat of pure lavender essential oil and accidentally discovered the ah-mazing healing properties of lavender oil which then lead to the development of aromatherapy as an alternative healing modality. I have since learned that this is a myth, perpetuated by a persistent rumour, not only online but also in books about aromatherapy.
So what is the truth? Yes, Monsieur Gattefossé did suffer chemical burns and yes, he did indeed treat them with lavender oil… but it was no accident! He used lavender essential oil to rinse the wounds quite intentionally, probably well aware of its antiseptic and soothing qualities.
The burn incident happened in 1910. The first book on modern aromatherapy, written by Gattefossé, was published in 1937… but the use of essential oils for both health and beauty has been around for literally thousands of years.
Good quality lavender essential oil is relatively easy to get hold of and its numerous uses has made it one of the best known essential oils. You certainly don’t need any formal education to use it for yourself or your loved ones!
“Every home should have a bottle of lavender oil,” says Valerie Ann Worwood, in The Complete Book of Essential Oils. “Lavender oil is a natural antibiotic, antiseptic, antidepressant, sedative and detoxifier (…)”
Here are ten ways to put this wonderful all-rounder to use:
1. Improve sleep: put one drop on your pillow case before you go to sleep
2. Calm yourself when stressed: put a couple of drops in the palm of your hand. Rub your hands together and cup them over your face. Inhale deeply.
3. Stop bleeding: got a razor cut when shaving? No problem. Just put one drop of lavender essential oil on the cut to kill bacteria and stop the bleeding.
4. Kill the sting: lavender oil does wonders for insect bits. Again, simply apply one drop neat straight onto the bite or sting (removing the stinger first if necessary). The swelling will go down almost instantly.
5. Lip balm: make your own lip balm with beeswax, coconut oil and lavender oil. There are plenty of recipes for this online, some include vitamin E oil but that is an optional extra.
6. Mist spray: add 10-20 drops of pure lavender essential oil to 100 ml of warm (at least room temperature) purified water or spring water. A couple of sprays will scent the whole room nicely.
7. Dandruff relief: rub a few drops into the scalp at night time. As a bonus you will probably sleep better too!
8. Cleaning: mix 100 ml water with 100 ml distilled white wine vinegar and add 20-30 drops of lavender essential oil. You can half the amount of lavender oil and combine with orange, peppermint or tea tree oil. Increase the amount of vinegar in proportion to water for tough cleaning jobs so that there is only a third water.
9. Flavouring: try a drop in your tea or a couple of drops in your next batch of chocolate fudge brownies!
10. Add to your favourite unscented moisturizer: make sure you use a clean wooden spatula to mix it in. A couple of drops is enough for a normal sized tub of skin cream. Will help keep acne at bay as well as prevent dryness and itching of the skin (eczema, dermatitis).