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Spring has officially reached Montana and sipping coffee on the back porch watching the robins hunt for their breakfast is just what my soul needs this morning. To take the time for long, deep breaths and listen to the sounds of nature with the addition of the steady rhythm of my fingers on the keyboard. To take the time to get grounded and feel the deep connection to our Mother Earth. Please join me for a moment: Unclench your jaw. Release your shoulders. Sit up straight. Inhale through the nose…1…2…3. Exhale through the mouth…1…2…3. Inhale through the nose…1…2…3. Exhale through the mouth…1…2…3. Perfection. Now sit back and relax.
This has become a favorite place to reground myself: Metaphorically though the breathing exercise above, but also by my physical location. I am fortunate to live on a Lavender farm. The Lavender plant gives off a naturally calming energetic frequency in every stage of its life cycle, adding to Rosemary Gladstar’s description of lavender as “first aid in a bottle.” March in Montana the rows of Lavender appear bare and well-manicured as they wake up from their long winter’s nap. Beautiful in its own way, of course, but I would prefer to tell you about my favorite time in this growing zone, July. When the rows are in full bloom and the breeze carries a strong aroma of lavender, and a striking aesthetic of its signature deep purple on nature’s best version of pastel green. My hands are rough and calloused (with occasional tiny serrations from the scythe used during harvest), and bundles of raw plant material are hanging from every nook and cranny for drying. Distillation of the essential oil is in full swing, the longer-stemmed Grosso Lavender gets sorted to make wands and bouquets, while the English Munstead Lavender gets de-stemmed and prepared for sachets and other products. There are over 450 varieties of lavender that can be cultivated around the world, so please look into a variety you could grow in your area.
Why Lavender? My amazing Mother is the driving force behind the development of the my family’s love of lavender and I inquired as to how she started with a couple plants and within a few years developed into to a full-fledged farm, Springhill Acres Lavender Farm. Her response–it all started as a natural deer repellent. As an avid gardener living amongst Western Montana wildlife, the original intent was to create a perimeter of plants that deer are less inclined to eat in order to protect the ones they will eat. The lavender plant is native to the Mediterranean which experiences a range of cold, precipitous winters to hot, dry summers. Once introduced to the arid summers and snowy winters of Montana, it immediately flourished. In addition to its ability to repel deer, it did not take long after having a surplus of lavender to discover the medicinal properties and really lean into nourishment, production, and distribution of this amazing plant.
Meanwhile, I was in the midst of a long, strenuous battle with both eczema and psoriasis, in 2008 I was hospitalized with MRSA, a type of staph infection resistant to penicillin, and I have a long history of being prone to cold sores. To say I have battled with skin conditions most of my life is a massive understatement. Through all the pharmaceuticals to which I always seemed to experience adverse reactions, the one component that remained consistent in my healing journey is Lavender essential oil. To this day I remain on a steady regiment of alternating Lavender and Melissa oil (Melissa officinalis, derived from Lemon Balm plant) and my eczema remains at bay.
Anyone that has seen the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is familiar with the affinity Mr. Portokalos has to “put some windex on it.” Anyone that knows me, knows this is how I feel about Lavender. Itchy bug bite or bee sting? Lavender. Rash or skin irritation? Lavender. Feeling stressed? You know what I am going to say. Lavender is one of the rare essential oils that doesn’t require a carrier oil to put directly on the skin, it is a skin-regenerator that is safe for most ages and ailments so never fear to reach for a bottle of lavender. It’s an essential oil that truly is essential for every at-home kit, as well as on the go.
So what can this “miracle plant” really do? *Inhales a deep breath* Lavender is one of the most versatile plants on the planet with healing properties that include anti-fungal, antiviral, antispasmodic, antiseptic, and mild antidepressant; it treats fainting and dizziness, increases focus and concentration, calms the nerves, treats insomnia, and alleviates tension, stress, irritability, and exhaustion; it gives relief from headaches, pain, and inflammation, soothes bug bites, stings, burns, rashes, and other skin irritations or infections, and diminishes scars, stretch marks, wrinkles, and sun-damage. Did I mention it also smells -and tastes- phenomenal? There are innumerable uses for both the flower buds and essential oil from sleep and relaxation, to first aid, cleaning, and culinary.