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Lavender

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Lavender

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Introduction

This fact sheet provides basic information about the herb lavender—common names, uses, potential side effects, and resources for more information. Lavender is native to the Mediterranean region. It was used in ancient Egypt as part of the process for mummifying bodies. Lavender’s use as a bath additive originated in Persia, Greece, and Rome. The herb’s name comes from the Latin lavare, which means “to wash.”

Common Names–lavender, English lavender, garden lavender

Latin NamesLavandula angustifolia

What It Is Used For

  • Historically, lavender was used as an antiseptic and for mental health purposes.
  • Today, the herb is used for conditions such as anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, and depression.
  • Lavender is also used for headache, upset stomach, and hair loss.

How It Is Used

  • Lavender is most commonly used in aromatherapy, in which the scent of the essential oil from the flowers is inhaled.
  • The essential oil can also be diluted with another oil and applied to the skin.
  • Dried lavender flowers can be used to make teas or liquid extracts that can be taken by mouth.

What the Science Says

  • There is little scientific evidence of lavender’s effectiveness for most health uses.
  • Small studies on lavender for anxiety show mixed results.
  • Some preliminary results indicate that lavender oil, combined with oils from other herbs, may help with hair loss from a condition called alopecia areata.

Side Effects and Cautions

  • Topical use of diluted lavender oil or use of lavender as aromatherapy is generally considered safe for most adults. However, applying lavender oil to the skin can cause irritation.
  • Lavender oil may be poisonous if taken by mouth.
  • When lavender teas and extracts are taken by mouth, they may cause headache, changes in appetite, and constipation.
  • Using lavender with sedative medications may increase drowsiness.
  • Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

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Monarda

Monarda

Monarda (bee balm, horsemint, oswego tea, or bergamot) is a genus consisting of roughly 16 species of erect, herbaceous annual or perennial plants in the Lamiaceae, indigenous to North America. Ranging in height from 1 to 3 feet (0.2 to 0.9 m), the plants have an equal spread, with slender and long-tapering (lanceolate) leaves; the leaves are opposite on stem, smooth to nearly hairy, lightly serrated margins, and range from 3 to 6 inches (7 to 14 cm) long. In all species, the leaves, when crushed, exude a spicy, highly fragrant oil. Of the species listed, M. didyma (Oswego Tea) contains the highest concentration of this oil. The genus was named for Nicolás Monardes who wrote a book in 1574 describing plants found in the New World.

Blackfoot

Menominee

Bee Balm

Uses : Several bee balm species (Monarda fistulosa and Monarda didyma) have a long history of use as a medicinal plants by many Native Americans including the Blackfoot, Menominee, Ojibwa, Winnebago and others. The Blackfoot Indians recognized the strong antiseptic action of these plants, and used poultices of the plant for skin infections and minor wounds. A tea made from the plant was also used to treat mouth and throat infections caused by dental caries and gingivitis. Bee balm is the natural source of the antiseptic Thymol, the primary active ingredient in modern commercial mouthwash formulas. The Winnebago used a tea made from bee Balm as a general stimulant. Bee balm was also used as a carminative herb by Native Americans to treat excessive flatulence. An infusion of crushed Monarda leaves in boiling water has been known to treat headaches and fevers.

Although somewhat bitter, due to the thymol content in the plants leaves and buds, the plant tastes like a mix of spearmint and peppermint with oregano, to which it is closely related. Bee balm was traditionally used by Native Americans as a seasoning for wild game, particularly birds. The plants are widespread across North America and can be found in moist meadows, hillsides, and forest clearings up to 5,000 feet in elevation.

Flowers, species, cultivars : Monarda species include annual and perennial upright growing herbaceous plants with lanceolate to ovate shaped leaves. The flowers are tubular with bilateral symmetry and bilabiate; with upper lips narrow and the lower ones broader and spreading or deflexed. The flowers are single or in some cultivated forms double, generally hermaphroditic with two stamens. Plants bloom in mid- to late summer and the flowers are produced in dense profusion at the ends of the stem and/or in the stem axils. The flowers typically are crowded into head-like clusters with leafy bracts. Flower colors vary, with wild forms of the plant having crimson-red to red, pink and light purple hues. M. didyma has bright, carmine red blossoms; M. fistulosa—the “true” wild bergamot—has smokey pink flowers. M. citriodora and M. pectinata have light lavender to lilac-colored blooms and have slightly decreased flower quantities. Both species are commonly referred to as “Lemon Mint.” There are over 50 commercial cultivars and hybrids, ranging in color from candy-apple red to pure white to deep blue, but these plants tend to be smaller than wild species, and often developed to combat climatic or pest conditions. Other hybrids have been developed to produce essential oils for food, flavoring, or medicine. “M. didyma” species can grow up to 6 feet tall. Seed collected from hybrids—as with most hybridized plants—does not produce identical plants to the parent. A number of hybrids also occur in the wild.

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