5 Healing Effects of Lavender
Unique uses for the purple plant
Got flakes? "Lavender oil can help scalp conditions," says Francesca Fusco, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist. To make Dr. Fusco's gentle dandruff remedy: Wet hair with warm water and towel dry. Next, grab a mug and mix 15 drops of lavender essential oil (available at drugstore.com) in 2 tablespoons olive or almond oil. Microwave for about 10 seconds or until it feels warm. Massage the oil into your scalp, pop on a shower cap, let set for an hour, then shampoo out. "It may take several treatments to see benefits," Dr. Fusco notes.
Bloating and poor digestion can result from an overgrowth of "bad" bacteria (which can happen when you take antibiotics). "The polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) in lavender can help reduce the 'bad' bacteria in your gut," says Christine Gerbstadt, MD, author of Doctor's Detox Diet and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For its de-puff perks, sprinkle dried culinary lavender onto Greek yogurt (also gut friendly).
It helps you relax
You may have heard that breathing in the smell of lavender makes you drowsy; turns out, it's true. Research shows the scent lowers heart rate and blood pressure, putting you in a relaxed state. To set yourself up for zzz's, put a handful of dried lavender in a vase on your nightstand—or use a diffuser with lavender oil.
But note: "Lavender isn't a game-changer unless you practice other sleep-promoting habits," says Joseph Ojile, MD, founder of Clayton Sleep Institute in St. Louis. Start to avoid caffeine 10 hours before bed, keep gadgets silent, and turn in at the same time every night.
Calm itchy skin
So you're a mosquito magnet? Get the itch out with lavender essential oil. "It's a natural anti-inflammatory, so it helps reduce itching, swelling, and redness," explains Naila Malik, MD, a Texas-based dermatologist. Dab a drop or two on the area and wait about 15 minutes for it to seep in (but stop if skin becomes more irritated). Apply as needed every six to eight hours for the next 24 hours.
Healthy up your meal
Add lavender's phytonutrients (good-for-you plant compounds) to any meal by using herbes de Provence (available at grocery stores). Sprinkle the lavender-based spice blend onto sauteed or grilled meats, poultry, vegetables, and even whole-grain pilafs (barley, couscous, brown rice), Dr. Gerbstadt suggests. Voila!