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Welcome Spring with the Many Gifts of Lavender

Jennifer DiFrancescoThe first official day of spring is March 20th. It marks a time to welcome the beautiful hues and heady aromas nature provides. Morning Glories, Lilacs, Pansies and Lavender open their blooms and thrive. The benefits of Lavender are that it adds beauty to a table in the form of a fresh or dried bouquet, and has healing effects both topically and internally.

For more than 2,500 years lavender has exhibited anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties. Lavender is derived from the Latin word lavare meaning “to wash” since it was used to scent water in Roman baths. Bathers soon experienced benefits other than a sweet smelling bath. The calming, skin healing, soothing benefits of Lavender were also sensational side effects.

Lavender is now one of the most common essential oils with a myriad of uses including soothing burns, healing acne, relieving cramping and calming muscle spasms, and for repelling fleas and mosquitoes in insect repellents. It is a known natural remedy for insomnia as it helps initiate sleep and is often found in pillows for the head and eyes, and bath products. Lavender herbal teas can be a warm internal remedy, and when combined with a warm lavender bath and eye pillow, can provide a soothing night’s sleep.

Every year it is a priority to carve a day out of my schedule to attend the Lavender Festival in Cherry Valley. This festival is the last two weeks in June and is located at 123 Farms at The Highland Springs Resort. It is a wonderful secret setting, approximately an hour away from our desert landscape. 123 Farms is certified organic and adheres to strict federal standards including handpicking and the use of no pesticides. During the festival, participants can take a variety of classes from lavender wreath making to technical classes on how lavender is distilled. Learning the distillation process opened my eyes to how every particle of this plant has apothecary power. You experience the steaming and pressing of the lavender plant to reap oil, and the process that emits pure lavender water called hydrosol. This water is as powerful as the oil and can be used as a skin hydrator or an insect repellent. Many stores will sell waters from essential oils, yet be wary and ensure that the product states it is a hydrosol, as scented water with essential oils does not hold the same value.

In addition to the medicinal uses of the oil and water, there are culinary opportunities to use lavender in cookies, breads, teas and lemonade. Lavender-infused sugar and butter also enhance cooking. The internal effects of lavender can settle upset stomach, reduce flatulence and stop colic.

Essential oils are plant hormones and we must not forget their power. We sometimes underestimate plant oils yet in the case of lavender, the body processes it similar to estrogen therefore pregnant or breastfeeding mothers need to avoid this oil until later. Aside from new moms or moms to be, we should all welcome spring with the introduction of lavender into our life.

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