Lavender essential oil has a long and rich history of health benefits throughout the world. Ancient civilizations like the Greeks, Romans, and Ancient Egyptians have used lavender for its varied uses as a relaxing aromatic essential oil in both perfumes and bathing and as an aide for various skin conditions. The Romans even used it as an insect repellant. Even Queen Elizabeth I used lavender in her tea to relieve tension. Can you imagine the level of stress that woman was under? Not only is lavender essential oil beneficial to humans, the same health benefits apply to animals as well. Lavender is one of the safest essential oils available and can be applied directly to the skin. Using lavender essential oil for horses with skin conditions, as a pain reliever and for relaxation are only a few of the reasons for keeping this diverse essential oil in your barn's emergency kit.
Historical Uses Of Lavender Essential Oil
It wasn't until the early 20th century though that the first serious scientific studies began to support some of the historical uses of lavender essential oil. In particular, the use of lavender for pain relief and to aide the healing process. The French scientist Rene Gattefosse was the first modern scientist to document lavender essential oil's healing benefits when he inadvertently discovered them for himself after a laboratory accident. He sustained 3rd degree burns on his arm and dunked his arm in what he thought was a container of water. But instead of a container full of water it was a vat of lavender oil. He found that the lavender immediately reduced his pain, and with repeated applications his burns healed quickly with no scarring.
The Latin derivative of Lavender means "to wash". Lavender has long been known for its antifungal, antiseptic, analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. The Romans used lavender in their baths to wash and for its cleansing properties. It has long been used aromatically in perfume and is known for easing nervous tension. Some of the documented uses for lavender essential oil are:
- menstrual cramps/PMS
- nervous tension
- high blood pressure
- cholesterol reduction
- respiratory infections
- hair loss
- skin conditions, such as eczema or dry skin, etc.
- pain reliever
- promote calming and relaxation
As you can see from the list above, this is one of the most versatile and widely used essential oils and has many applications for first aide and wound care. I have personally experienced several of lavender's benefits first hand when I was stung by a red wasp (VERY PAINFUL!). They pack quite a wallop, and with only a drop or two of lavender, I got immediate relief from the pain. It was quite amazing. I also apply lavender regularly between my eyebrows to help with sinus pressure.
Using Lavender Essential Oil For Horses
Lavender essential oil is safe to use for all animals, even cats. The same applications for humans would also apply to animals. I've found lavender to be quite useful for my Arabian mare, who has an allergy to some weed that was in our last load of hay bales. At least once a month she'll have a reaction from whatever plant is in there and either get hives or her eyes will swell a little. The first time it happened, both she and my gelding got hives. My mare got hives across her jaw, neck and shoulder, and my gelding across his chest and sides. Because I was dealing with locations near the eyes, I needed something that was very gentle. Lavender is a very safe and gentle oil, so I was able to rub several drops into the palms of my hands and then rub the affected areas of her head and around her eyes without any ill effects. For the widespread areas of hives on the body, rather than applying the oil directly I added lavender oil to a spray bottle with water and sprayed all the affected areas.
Because of its antiseptic, analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, lavender essential oil is an excellent choice for wound care. You can add it to your irrigation solution or apply several drops directly to the area depending on the location of the wound. It would obviously be a little more difficult to drop oils onto certain locations, such as the underside of your horse, and applying with an irrigation solution, carrier oil or directly using your finger or palm of the hand would be much more effective. Apply several drops directly to cuts, scrapes, burns or for any kind of skin irritation that your horse might develop.
For nervous horses, or horses that are stressed use lavender essential oil aromatherapy by either rubbing several drops of lavender oil onto the palms of your hands and allow your horse to inhale the oil, or just hold the bottle below the nostrils and allow them to inhale directly from the bottle. Be careful though because some horses will try to eat the bottle if they really like the smell!
To help with tension relief apply 3 to 4 drops of lavender essential oil at your horse's poll and gently massage in. Make sure you get some oil on either side of the mane. Another location that I'll apply it to relieve tension is the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Horses clench their jaws when tense just like humans do and applying lavender to this area can help them release some of this tension. Just rub a couple of drops into the fingertips of each hand and then gently massage your fingertips around your horse's TMJ.
Given it's many varied potential health benefits, lavender essential oil is truly an "essential" oil. It is a must have for any holistic first aide kit, whether for the home, to keep in the car or in the barn. There are few oils that can rival lavender's versatility. It's a safe, easy to use and natural alternative to the more traditional first aide products on the market.
What natural remedies do you use to help with some of the applications listed above? Share your remedies on my Facebook page, we'd love to hear from you. You can post those here: http://www.facebook.com/HeavenlyGaitsEquineMassage.
Lisa Carter is a Certified Equine Massage Therapist (CEMT), with multiple certifications from several different equine bodywork schools. She incorporates her knowledge and experience with Parelli Natural Horsemanship, equine bodywork and as a veterinary technician to provide her clients with the resources they need to make informed decisions for their horses. She encourages and facilitates network building between equine health care professionals, working together to find the best combination of therapies to meet the needs of the "whole horse".
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