Lavender is an aromatic subshrub native to the low mountains (800-1,800 meters) of the Mediterranean basin, cultivated in France, Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, the former Yugoslavia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia. The material of commerce comes mainly from France (Bruneton, 1995;Grieve, 1979; Leung and Foster, 1996;Wichtl and Bisset, 1994).
Lavender was used as an antiseptic in ancient Arabian, Greek, and Roman medicines. Its genus name comes from the Latin lavare, to wash,probably referring to its use as a bath additive for the purification of body and spirit. It was also used as a bactericide to disinfect hospitals and sick rooms in ancient Persia, Greece, and Rome. The ancient Greeks called the plant nardus and later the Romans called it asarum.In the time of Pliny the Elder (ca. 2379 B.C.E.), the blossoms sold for 100 Roman denarii per pound (Bown, 1995; Grieve, 1979; Savinelli, 1993). Knowledge of its healing abilities spread to India and then to Tibet. In the book Makhzan-El-Adwiya, it is called the broom of the brain, because it is reputed to sweep away all kafa impurities (Nadkarni, 1976). The Gyu-zhi, or Four Tantras, by Chandranandana is the earliest Indian medical text to be translated into Tibetan (eighth century B.C.E.). In it, lavender (Pri-yangku in Tibetan) is included in psychiatric formulas, still used today in Tibetan Buddhist medicine, for treating insanity and psychoses, in an edible ointment or medicine butter dosage form. (Clifford, 1984). The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia (AP) lists Lavandula officinalis, along with a related Indian species, L. burmani, and specifically indicates its use for depressive states associated with digestive dysfunction. The AP reports its actions as carminative, antispasmodic, antidepressant, sedative, and antirheumatic; oil is a rubefacient (Karnick, 1994).
In Germany, lavender is licensed as a standard medicinal tea for sleep disorders and nervous stomach.Lavender flower and extract are also used in sedative and cholagogue medical preparations.In Germany and the United States, the aqueous infusion is used in balneotherapy and the essential oil is used in aromatherapy. Additionally, lavender flower is often used in the United States as a component of dietary supplement products, mainly in aqueous infusions. Lavender oil is also official in the United States National Formulary (Leung and Foster, 1996;NF, 1985; Wichtl and Bisset, 1994).
Modern clinical studies have investigated the neurophysical effects of its essential oil (Tasev et al, 1969), its choleretic and cholagogic actions (Gruncharov, 1973), its use as a bath additive for perineal discomfort and repair following childbirth (Dale and Cornwell, 1994; Cornwell and Dale, 1995), and its use as an alternative to tamoxifen (Ziegler, 1996).
The approved modern therapeutic applications for lavender are supportable based on its use in well established systems of traditional medicine, on phytochemical investigations, and on its documented pharmacological actions reported in in vitro studies and in vivo experiments in animals.
German pharmacopeial grade lavender flower must contain not less than 1.3% volatile oil and pass a botanical identity test determined by thin-layer chromatography (TLC). French pharmacopeial grade lavender flower must contain not less than 0.8% volatile oil. German pharmacopeial grade lavender oil must contain not less than35.0% ester, calculated as linalyl acetate, and must also pass a number of purity tests including detection of foreign esters. French pharmacopeial grade lavender oil must contain 2538% linalool, 2545% linalyl acetate, 0.10.5% limonene, 0.31.5% 1,8-cineole, 0.20.5% camphor, and 0.31.0% a-terpineol (DAB 1997; DAC, 1986; Ph.Fr.X., 1990; Wichtl and Bisset, 1994).
Lavender flower consists of the dried flower of Lavandula angustifolia Miller [Fam. Lamiaceae], gathered shortly before fully unfolding, and its preparations in effective dosage. The preparation contains at least 1.5% (v/w) essential oil with linalyl acetate, linalool, camphor, b-ocimene, and 1,8-cineole as its main components. Furthermore, the preparation contains about 12% tannins unique to the Lamiaceae.
Note: In U.S. commerce, lavandin (L. xintermedia) is often interchanged with L. angustifolia (Tucker, 1999). However, the official species approved for medicinal use by the Commission E is L. angustifolia.
Lavender flower contains 1.53% volatile oil, of which 2555% is linalyl acetate, 2038% linalool, 410% cis-b-ocimene, 26% trans-b-ocimene, 26% 1-terpinen-4-ol, <2% 3-octanone, 0.31.5% 1,8-cineole, 0.31% a-terpineol, 0.20.5% camphor, and 0.10.5% limonene; tannins (510%); coumarins; flavonoids (luteolin); phytosterols; and triterpenes (Bruneton, 1995; Leung and Foster, 1996; Wichtl and Bisset, 1994).
The Commission E reported sedative and antiflatulent activity.
Lavender oil exhibited central nervous system-depressive activities on experimental animals (Leung and Foster, 1996).
The Commission E approved the internal use of lavender for restlessness or insomnia and nervous stomach irritations, Roehmheld's syndrome, meteorism, and nervous intestinal discomfort. For balneotherapy: Treatment of functional circulatory disorders.
The German Standard License for lavender tea lists it for restlessness, sleeplessness, lack of appetite, nervous irritable stomach, meteorism, and nervous disorders of the intestines (Wichtl and Bisset, 1994). Lavender preparations are traditionally used to treat symptoms of neurotonic disorders, especially minor sleeplessness (Bruneton, 1995).
No restrictions known.
Unless otherwise prescribed: Tea extract, and bath additive.
Infusion: 1-2 teaspoons (approximately 0.8-1.6 g) in 150 ml water (Note: 1 teaspoon flower = 0.8 g).
Essential oil: 1-4 drops (approximately 20-80 mg), e.g., on a sugar cube.
Note: Combinations with other sedative or carminative herbs may be beneficial.
Bath additive: 20-100 g for a 20 liter bath.
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- This material was adapted from The Complete German Commission E MonographsTherapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. M. Blumenthal, W.R. Busse, A. Goldberg, J. Gruenwald, T. Hall, C.W. Riggins, R.S. Rister (eds.) S. Klein and R.S. Rister (trans.). 1998. Austin: American Botanical Council; Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications.
- 1) The Overview section is new information.
- 2) Description, Chemistry and Pharmacology, Uses, Contraindications, Side Effects, Interactions with Other Drugs, and Dosage sections have been drawn from the original work. Additional information has been added in some or all of these sections, as noted with references.
- 3) The dosage for equivalent preparations (tea infusion, fluidextract, and tincture) have been provided based on the following example:
- Unless otherwise prescribed: 2 g per day of [powdered, crushed, cut or whole] [plant part]
- Infusion: 2 g in 150 ml of water
- Fluidextract 1:1 (g/ml): 2 ml
- Tincture 1:5 (g/ml): 10 ml
- 4) The References and Additional Resources sections are new sections. Additional Resources are not cited in the monograph but are included for research purposes.
- This monograph, published by the Commission E in 1994, was modified based on new scientific research. It contains more extensive pharmacological and therapeutic information taken directly from the Commission E.