Lavender—if there was such a thing as having a plant spirit, lavender would be mine. I have always thrived in places that lavender thrives. When I trained as an aromatherapist my love for lavender was solidified. I remember being moved to tears as I read The Chemistry of Essential Oils by David G. Williams while studying for my aromatherapy registration exam. The overwhelming complexity and planning in God’s creation of the lavender plant made me think of all the thought, love, and care that God had in mind for us with the creation of lavender on the third day.
I love lavender so much that my daughters and I recently got lavender tattoos together. Lavender doesn’t always thrive in the environment that it is planted in. It did not thrive here in Tennessee, and it seemed it especially struggled in my yard when I was struggling to thrive here. But alas I found the right lavender for Tennessee and around the same time I learned to thrive here.
Lavender played a huge role the current history of aromatherapy. This excerpt from my book The Art, Science, and Business of Aromatherapy gives a quick look at that history.
“According to the myth, in 1928 Rene-Maurice Gattefosse rediscovered the healing properties of essential oils after an explosion severely burned his hand while working in his family’s perfumery business. He’d plunged his hand into the first liquid near him. That liquid turned out to be lavender essential oil which was being used for its fragrance and cosmetic purposes. He was amazed at how quickly his wound healed without infection or scarring. In the myth version of this story, it was the result of Gattefosse’s burn that turned his scientific attention to the medicinal properties of essential oils and their benefits for skin conditions.
“The story of Gattefosse’s famous burn is pivotal to the history of modern aromatherapy and its rebirth. But, like the story of the “fish that got away,” in which the fish keeps growing with each retelling of the story, the story of Rene Maurice Gattefosse has grown in such a way that it is told differently in nearly every aromatherapy book.
“However, when I was doing some fact checking, I discovered a reference stating that, according to Robert Tisserand, the famous telling is incorrect. I went to RobertTisserand.com and—lo and behold—the true story was right there on his site, “Gattefossé’s burn.” In reality, his treatment of his severe burn with lavender was deliberate (Robert Tisserand 2011).
“And according to Martin Watt, Gattefosse used deterpenated oils which were commonly used by perfumers because they have better solubility in alcohol than whole essential oils. Deterpenated oil is an essential oil that is terpene free by means of fractional distillation at a reduced pressure (Martin Watt).
“Although all accounts of his famous burn are in 1928, it actually happened in 1910. Gattefosse’s findings can be found in his 1937 book, Aromathérapie, along with the story of the famous burn that happened in his laboratory. It was well received by others who went on to do their own research. It was originally written in French and wasn’t published in English until 1993.
In Gattefosse’s Aromathérapie, he said, “The external application of small quantities of essences rapidly stops the spread of gangrenous sores. In my personal experience, after a laboratory explosion covered me with burning substances, which I extinguished by rolling on a grassy lawn, both my hands were covered with a rapidly developing gas gangrene. Just one rinse with lavender essence stopped ‘the gasification of the tissue.’ This treatment was followed by profuse sweating, and healing began the next day (July 1910)” (Gattefosse 1937).
“Gas gangrene is a serious bacterial infection which produces gases within the tissues that are gangrene, or dead. It is a very deadly form of gangrene and, in his time, would have most likely been fatal. The bacterium that causes gas gangrene can be found in soil. I agree with Tisserand’s belief that Gattefosse probably came into contact with the bacterium when he extinguished the burning substances “by rolling on a grassy lawn.” Knowing the real story makes me even more impressed with the power of lavender. I have, on many occasions, poured lavender onto burns with amazing results. I have never witnessed the results of it on gas gangrene.” from The Art, Science and Business of Aromatherapy.
I have personally used lavender repeatedly on burns, but it was the story of Gattefosse that inspired me to give my friend Pastor Tom some lavender when he badly burned his face.
As Pastor Tom tells the, “Story is it was about 100 degrees F outside when I opened the lid on some paint/stain stripper. I knew I needed to open it slowly lest it explode. But I barely made a turn on the lid and the can was so hot it blew the lid off and into my face. My glasses frames were actually partially melted which I am glad I was wearing or it may have blinded me. I was right near the hose and I doused my face with water. In the emergency room, they simply gave me some sort of ointment and said it would probably leave scarring. When you (Kayla) gave me the lavender the next day and I used it regularly for over a week, it cleared it all up with no after effects!”
What isn’t there to love about lavender?