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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Benefits of Lavender

Lavender as a Health Aid

Today I want to talk about Lavender. Here is why, I am going to begin a juicing fast in about a week and I ran into some recipes that called for lavender. Now, I never would have thought to add lavender to a juicing recipe, but then I looked up all of the benefits and realized it actually is an important addition to a juice fast.

Lavender is an herb and is used across the world as a medicine to help with several health issues. According to WebMD, Lavender is used for restlessness, insomnia, nervousness, and depression. It is also used for a variety of digestive complaints including meteorism (abdominal swelling from gas in the intestinal or peritoneal cavity), loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea, intestinal gas (flatulence), and upset stomach.

Some people use lavender for painful conditions including migraine headaches, toothaches, sprains, nerve pain, sores, and joint pain. It is also used for acne and cancer, and to promote menstruation.

Lavender is applied to the skin for hair loss (alopecia areata) and pain, and to repel mosquitoes and other insects. Some people add lavender to bathwater to treat circulation disorders and improve mental well being. By inhalation, lavender is used as aromatherapy for insomnia, pain, and agitation related to dementia. In foods and beverages, lavender is used as a flavor component.

Now, I don't know about you, but that is a lot of good benefits for using lavender while juicing. Lavender goes well with flavors such as; pineapple, citrus fruits, berries, and other herbs like mint, sage, and rosemary. It would be best to use as a snack before bedtime to help soothe and relax you. 

Growing Your Own Lavender 

English Lavender is the most common lavender to grow since it is fairly easy to maintain and can withstand cold winters. However, English Lavender does not do well in humidity and so because I live in Georgia where it does tend to get pretty humid, the best Lavender for me to plant would be Grosso or Provence LavinDIN which is just another species of Lavender. 

The most important part about growing this beautiful flower is where to grow it. Lavender must be planted where drainage can occur, soggy areas are a huge no-no. Choosing a leaning downhill bed in a nice sunny spot is best for this flower to grow happily.  Because I live in Georgia where our soil is clay, I would need to dig a hole and mix the clay with sand for best results. 

These flowers should only be watered when the soil is dry to a depth of 3 to 4 inches, they don't like to be over watered and could cause rot.  Because I live where it may get humid, watering the lavender will not need to occur very often.

It will take about three years before the lavender plant has reached it full maturity. So fertilizing this plant is best to wait until about two years after it was first planted.  According to E-How, Pruning is necessary to extend the life of the plant because lavender gets very woody if not pruned. Lavender flower wand stems are a bright green and Lavender leaves are gray. Cut back not only the flower stem, but also about a third of the gray-leaved stems as well. Avoid pruning back so far that only woody stems with no leaves are showing as it may die.
 
Harvest the flowers according to end use. For a fresh bouquet pick when the flowers are in full bloom and scent. For dried bundles the stem must be harvested before the florets completely open. If you wait until the flower is open it will fall apart when they are dried. Take a handful of stems and cut them off at the base of the plant and then wrap rubber bands around them. To dry them hang them upside down. Drying takes about two weeks, but keep good circulation around your bundles to avoid them falling part or rotting. Harvesting the lavender for oil must be done at the peak of the day's heat. Essential oil can be extracted by steam distillation from the fresh flowers.
Thanks for reading and more to come soon. :)
R.