Lavender

Lavender is a popular herb that can be mixed with other herbs or smoked on its own. It’s characteristic smell, taste and anti-anxiety properties makes it popular in herbal smoking blends.

Overview

Lavender is a genus of 47 flowering herbaceous plants — some of which only grow to be nine inches tall, while others are used as decorative shrubs that also attract butterflies and pollinators. These larger species can reach up to two feet!

Lavandula angustifolia, which goes by the common names English lavender, common lavender, or narrow-leaved lavender is, without a doubt, the most famous species in the genus. When someone just says “lavender”, they’re most likely to be talking about this species.

Lavender is native to the Mediterranean, and its very name already points to the herb’s long history as one used for pleasure and medicinal benefits — “lavender” comes from the Latin word for “washing”, because (rich) Romans used the herb in their baths!

The herb has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, and remains popular for pain relief, menopause-related hot flashes, as a sleep aid, and to treat anxiety naturally1. It also has a place in the kitchen — lavender can be used to make jellies, to add to cake or artisanal bread, in wine, and in tea. As an aromatherapy ingredient, lavender is often said to relieve anxiety and combat insomnia. The herb also simply has a pleasant and strong fragrance, which is valuable in itself and which makes it popular in perfumes and cosmetics.

Lavender is also, of course, grown in gardens across the globe — appreciated for its scent, beauty, and the fact that it attracts butterflies.

dried lavender flowers on dark background

Method of Use

People who are interested in smoking lavender should first get their hands on some dried lavender — the only form in which this herb should be smoked. Do not use lavender essential oil in herbal cigarettes or vaping cartridges!

If you grow lavender in your own garden, ideally without the use of pesticides, simply harvest the stems. Find a dry, clean, room with a low relative humidity, and hang the bunched stems upside down to allow them to dry fully. You can then use a cannabis grinder to grind the lavender herbs into coarse or finer pieces that you can smoke.

If you don’t grow your own lavender, you don’t have to miss out — smokable lavender is now readily available from numerous online specialty shops. Lavender can be smoked on its own or in blends with other herbs, including cannabis. By adding some lavender to a nice Indica strain you could, for instance, increase the relaxing effect and fight anxiety. Some people also create chamomile and lavender smoking blends for an all-round de-stressing experience.

Effects of Lavender When Smoked

What does it feel like to smoke lavender? While lavender has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, the fact that it contains the important monoterpene linalool was not discovered until more recently. This terpene is found in many plants with calming properties, including lemon, cypress trees, and indeed cannabis, and can best be described as an entirely natural mild sedative. This is precisely why lavender has become so popular in essential oils, and also why lavender is now gaining traction as a smokable herb.

People who smoke lavender on its own or add it to a joint to create an entourage effect say that smoking lavender makes them feel calm, that it reduces their stress levels, and that it helps them fight anxiety. 3

While there is very little scientific evidence to specifically support the effects of smoking lavender, there has been some research about the effects of inhaling linalool 3 — which is precisely what you are doing when you smoke lavender. According to one study, inhaling linalool has the potential to reduce anxiety and stress levels, to increase prosocial behavior, and to reduce levels of aggression. Another study found that exposure to lavender essential oils, which of course also contain the terpene linalool, slashed participants’ cortisol (stress hormone) levels by more than 60 percent.

You will not get high from smoking lavender on its own, but you are likely to experience a pleasant calming effect. As you smoke lavender, you will also enjoy the deep smoky fragrance released by the herb.

A Brief History of Lavender

Lavender has been used in culinary, cosmetic, and medicinal contexts since ancient times. The ancient Egyptians and Romans used the plant as a luxury cosmetic ingredient, and Roman emperor Nero already recognized its potential as a health remedy. Lavender was known in ancient Greece and the Middle East, too.

The popularity of the plant continued into the middle ages, when it was cultivated by monks and nuns, who valued the herb for its fragrance and medicinal use. Beyond that time, lavender was rather fashionable as a perfume ingredient and curative herb in Victorian times, and lavender made its way to America with some of the earliest European settlers.

Lavender essential oil was used in field hospitals during the first world war, and never lost its popularity among herbal medicine proponents. The herb did experience a temporary tip in popularity during the mid to late twentieth century, when it had been popular so long that it came to be thought of as something grandmothers used — causing it to lose its appeal with younger generations.

It’s recently been making a huge comeback, though. As hipsters discovered “novel” uses for the herb, by incorporating it into jellies, baked goods, home-made cosmetics and aromatherapy products, and of course in herbal cigarettes, lavender became all the rage again!

Throughout its long history, lavender has been used to:

  • Relieve stress and anxiety
  • Fight insomnia
  • Treat gastrointestinal discomfort, including the kind caused by parasitic infections
  • Promote wound healing after a burn
  • Treat insect bites

Lavender was practically considered a cure-all during some periods of time, and modern science continues to investigate the medicinal properties of this ancient herb.

Potential Health Benefits of Lavender

As with all forms of alternative and complementary medicine, the scientific evidence to support the many purported health benefits of lavender is lacking — partly because only a relatively small number of studies have been conducted to investigate the effects of lavender.

There is currently enough evidence to support the idea that lavender is likely to be beneficial in treating anxiety, depression, and certain kinds of pain 5. This includes headaches, acute pain from minor injuries, chronic pain (such as due to fibromyalgia), and post-operative pain.

Research that suggests lavender has potential as a sleep aid for people with insomnia has also been carried out, and it appears that lavender is especially beneficial for people who are currently using sleeping pills and would like to discontinue their use. 1

People who are considering smoking lavender recreationally may be most interested in the fact that research has found that lavender acts as a mood booster, while decreasing working memory. In other words, if you have been under a lot of pressure and have a “racing mind”, lavender (in any form) may be of use to you.

Keep in mind that all the evidence that supports the potential health benefits of lavender focuses on other mechanisms of use. Aromatherapy, message oils, and topical applications in tinctures are the most common ways to use lavender.

Contraindications

Lavender is generally considered to be safe, both as an aromatherapy ingredient and in a culinary context, such as when lavender is added to cake. However, not everyone should be using lavender.

Needless to say, people who are allergic to lavender — not as unusual as you might think — should avoid any exposure to the herb and should not smoke it, either. It is also important to stress that herbal cigarettes still expose nearby people and pets to second-hand smoke. Since lavender is toxic to cats and dogs, you would be advised against smoking it, or keeping ground lavender, anywhere near these pets.

The possibility that lavender acts as an antiandrogen has also been investigated, after cases of gynecomastia (more commonly called “man boobs”) were reported among young boys after the topical application of lavender on their skin. It remains unclear whether the lavender itself was responsible for this condition, but men who are considering smoking lavender will be pleased to hear that the gynecomastia resolved on its own after the boys stopped using lavender skin products.

Research additionally found that lavender can potentially cause gastrointestinal discomfort, a risk that is likely bypassed by smoking it.

Finally, pregnant women or those who are trying to conceive should not use lavender in any form. This herb has historically been used to bring on menstruation, and it is possible that lavender could lead to a miscarriage.

Sources:

1. Lavender and the Nervous System: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3612440/

2. Lavender Health Information: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/lavender

3. Effects of inhaled Linalool in anxiety, social interaction and aggressive behavior in mice https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0944711309002578

4. Effect of lavender essence inhalation on the level of anxiety and blood cortisol in candidates for open-heart surgery: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4979264/

5. Lavender – Uses, Side Effects, and More: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-838/lavender

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