Lavandula vera, a proving from Provence

Vol. 23 No. 5 November 2003

by Frederique Dervieux and Francois Simon of the Dynamis Group
Adapted from a presentation given at the Trobada d’Oc Congress – Collioure 2001

There are about 20 species of lavender, among them three come from Provence: Lavandula stoechade, L. aspic and L. vera. Lavandula vera, the object of our research, is the “true” or fine lavender of the Provence hills (up to 1800m), where it finds the climate and rocks ideal for its growth.

Traditional uses range from the writings of Abbess Hildegarde of Bingen (12th Century), who recommended it in order to “find knowledge and pure understanding”, through the plagues of the 14th Century, the 18th Century, when lavender healed rheumatism, dysmenorrhoea and catarrhs, until the 20th Century when it was used to fight conditions like moods, atony and paralysis of voluntary movement. Its healing and antiseptic properties have also made it famous for centuries.

The Dynamis Group from Montpellier conducted a proving of Lavandula vera in 2000. The methodology was rigorous. The double-blind method was used and those taking part were only told the name of the substance once all the symptoms had been collected and discussed.

The main features shown by the proving are the mental, with a feeling of slow and perturbed memory; ear, nose and throat, with irritation; extremities and back, with pain chiefly in the knees, toes, and sacrum, and muscle fatigue also. Dreams occurring during the proving play an important part and reflect the ideas of obstacle, teamwork in a circle, progress and ancient times.

Nowadays the symbol of calm and reassuring beauty, representing the smell of Provence, lavender evokes holidays and summer sweetness. Nevertheless lavender is a flower which hides her mystery very well and which has more than one aspect.

Lavender belongs to the Labiatae family and is therefore related to rosemary, savoury, marjoram (oregano), thyme, mint and sage. The flower spike of the plant is made out of several tiers of flowers. Each of them is complete and independent from the others .

All of its vital strength is in the flower, which differs from other labiates. Each seed is specific and generates a particular seedling and then a particular adult plant, which explains the different varieties, as each plant is genetically different from the others.

Pliny ( 1st Century BC) mentions lavender in his Natural History. Dioscorides (2nd Century BC) classifies it as a “precious plant” in his De Materia Medica. Lavender oil was already being used then in pharmacies and perfumeries.

Romans traditionally used it in childbirth preparation; the midwife made a cross out of dried flowers above embers in order to diffuse the perfume in the room during labour.

Even Celts managed to produce a lavender based lotion, known as “Celtic nard”.

Abbess Hildegarde famously suggested lavender to “ensure knowledge and pure understanding” in a whole chapter on the plant in her Causa Et Cure.

In the 13th and 14th Centuries, lavender was commonly found in the medicinal gardens of monasteries. The so-famous “English Lavender” became famous thanks to the French Revolution. French monks, who were expelled from their monastery in Ligières, took this plant with them to England, where they found refuge.

During plague epidemics in the 14th Century, doctors used to put lavender in the beak of their big masks. It was also spread on the floor of houses and churches to prevent contagion. Matthiolus, a 16th Century botanist/herbalist, recommended it for all sorts of neurological problems, such as epilepsy and apoplexy, as well as mental illnesses. It was renown for healing headaches and sunstroke if worn under a hat.

An 18th Century Benedictine declared it “useful against rheumatism, catarrh, vertigo and dysmenorrhoea. It is diuretic and gets rid of nits”. At the same time, Lieutaud, doctor to the Dauphin, said that lavender flowers were “useful against nervous illnesses; it is being chewed in order to recover speech”.

The famous Fr Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897) prescribed lavender against bloating and digestive migraines (“when digestive gases reach the head”) and nausea. Also treated with lavender were “mood illnesses”.

In his 1949 book on medicinal plants, Doctor Heraud underlined its stimulating, antispasmodic and tonic action. He used lavender in cases involving dementia and atony. It is also used in treating the paralysis of voluntary movements and sense organs. Gargles were useful against paralysis of the tongue and amaurosis; he recommends rubbing it on the eyebrows. He also treated bloating dyspepsia with the stimulating action of lavender.

The antispasmodic action of the plant treats hysteria, spasms and hot flushes. Lavender essence is effective against ringworm.

Lavender has approximately 300 active principles.

The only scientific article regarding the toxicity of lavender was published in 1991 and reports on some work carried over by researchers at the University of Vienna, who wanted to check the legendary hypnotic effect of lavender (in popular medicine, lavender flowers are often put in little bags and placed under the pillow in order to facilitate going to sleep).

To test this effect mice were used. Some were made to inhale lavender oil, while another group did not. The conclusion was that inhaling lavender had a particular sedative effect on mice. Those mice cowered in a corner of their cage, contrary to their habit of exploring the environment and of being active around food and other mice. Similarly the intra-peritoneal injection of caffeine followed by the inhalation of lavender caused a significant reduction in the hyperactivity induced by caffeine. The researchers said, however, that some aromatic components of lavender can have a stimulating effect.

The proving of Lavandula vera

M. Mege, pharmacist with Dolisos Laboratories, grows 20 Mediterranean plants chosen for their historical therapeutic interest. A Lavandula vera plant was chosen at random and the Dolisos Laboratories prepared 12 groups of five bottles: Three of them were placebo. Nine were of five differing potencies (three arranged in the order 6x, 9x, 12x, 15x, 30c, and six in the opposite order, 30c, 15x, 12x, 9x, 6x). The 6x upward order is shown by *, the 30c down by **.

Prover: A [Irene] *, B**, C [Beatrice] **, D [Francoise] placebo, E [Jean-Claude] **, F [Corrine] **, G *, H [Sylvie] *, [Jean-Michel] placebo, J [Anne-Marie] placebo, K [Anne-Marie] **, L [Bernard] **.

Provers B and G did not follow protocol and were discarded.

The chosen protocol was as follows:

1. The 12 sets of bottles were distributed among members of the Dynamis Group in March 2000 and the proving was carried over between March and September 2000 by the 12 experimenters (among them three on placebo). Each experimenter took 10 drops a day from each bottle (number 1 to 5), stopping the intake of the drops if unusual symptoms appeared and waiting a minimum of 10 days before continuing with the next bottle.

2. Once the results of the proving were collated, the symptoms were analysed in a group, with the maximum of experimenters being present and without them knowing the name of the plant. This protocol allowed everyone to comment on his/her experience and the group could discuss the reliability of the symptoms, their unusual effect and the possible causes without being influenced by either the knowledge of the plant, nor its potency or the existence or not of a placebo; therefore only significant symptoms are retained.

3. The name of the substance was revealed.

4. Bibliographical, ethnopharmacopical and toxicological researches were carried on.

5. The symptoms were given greater importance according to the following criteria:
• frequency in the proving
• re-occurrence by an experimenter
• possible concordance with the ethnopharmacopy and/or toxicology
• unusual, even exceptional, characteristic of a symptom
• the symptom was not found in a placebo experimenter

Pathogenesis of Lavandula vera

A Days 1,2 & 3 on 6x: Odours are unpleasant, the drops have a bad taste Memory disorders. I forget what I was going to say before finishing a sentence.
Day 2, evening: Sensitive, needle-like pain, like a sting, left side of the lumbo-sacral area.
Day 4: Anxiety that have done something wrong, of being blamed by a patient.
Day 5: Anxiety when waking up. Tension between the shoulders (right side) and lumbar (left side).
Day 7: Stinging crack in the right nostril.
On 6x generally: Feeling of slowness, slow to understand, to comprehend what is being said. Head cold, nostrils blocked alternately (R and L).
Day 5: Strong sneezes, clear mucus, a little bit thick, then stop, blocked nose, a little bit hot.
Day 2: Morning, heavy right leg, like after a cramp in the calf muscle and sciatica pain in the afternoon.
Day 4: Heavy right leg and pain around the right knee, as if my knee had been bent for too long.
Day 5 on 9x: Dream: I am being told that I stink.
Day 7: In the evening, feeling that the right knee can not be stretched fully. Dream that I am at a patient’s; we will play a game; we are elevated, as if I saw the village from above, like a three dimensional map.
Day 2 on 12x: Dream of operation on an elephant’s phimosis. I go up a mount like climbing up a wall. Discussion around a table with people who had to be placed in a rest home. Deep sleep during all of 12x period.
The first 5 days on 15x: Twitching.
When on 30c: Head cold; pain above the right eye, turning into a left cheek sinusitis. During the proving, left para-sternal patch of fungal infection.

C Dream: I was in my maternal grandparents’ house. (mas = traditional house in Provence). I was with my grandmother, a school friend and new owners. We were visiting each room and I was evoking childhood memories. When it was time to go up the big central staircase to the bedrooms, I couldn’t as it was “plastered” to the wall. I let myself fall into my husband’s arms and woke up.

D (Placebo).

E Third day of 30c: Dream: right thigh bitten by a dog. Dreams involving women – anima. Sensual dreams.

F Days 1 & 2 of 30c: Dreams that she took some tablet, which prevent her from doing things. Dream: With people around a table, like in a workshop situation (evoking the group), with a patient with B; foetal monitoring graphs with dips.
Day 4 of 30c: Mental state as if just before a period (but this was not before an actual period); irritability etc . . . without physical troubles
All week on 30c: Painful crisis at base of the big toe (metatarsal phalanx) and of the right knee, inflammatory, < night, like a hammered nail, < pressure lying on it.
Days 2 & 3 on 15x: Occipital headache, like a pressure, as if I hadn’t slept well or had partied.
Day 3: Right temporal headache, like tightening radiating go the occiput.
Day 4 and following days: Again pain in the right metatarsal phalanx; next extension to all joints (especially elbows and wrists). Pain in the spine, painful rigidity, like feeling every vertebra. Bruising of all para-vertebral muscles.
Day 6: In the car during the day. Unbearable and extremely violent pain, like from a knife, around the left part of the sacrum. Muscular tiredness of the thighs, like after physical effort or beginning of the flu.
On 15x: Sore thighs again. Head cold with feeling of a crumb in the throat, triggering an irritating cough in order to get rid of the crumb. Then head cold with sneezes.
On 9x: Nothing
Day 3 of 6x: Feeling of bruised and sore thighs.

H 17 August: 10 drops of 6x.
18 August: 10 drops.
19 August: 10 drops. Awoken between 2 and 3am by an array of thoughts coming to mind, passing without stopping. The thoughts are not unpleasant and relate to everyday matters. 21 August: 10 drops. During the night, awoken in the same hours as the night before with similar overactive mind; more anxiety than the night before, with the fear of missing out. The cerebral hyperactivity continues until the morning with impossibility to go back to sleep.
22 August: 10 drops. Awake at the same hours; cerebral hyperactivity with images which chase after each other without stopping, no unpleasant thoughts.
23 August: 10 drops. Awoken at 2.15am, same as the previous night; back to sleep around 5am.
24 August: 10 drops of 9x. Awoken at 2.30am; back to sleep at the end of the night. Experiment stopped for 7 days. The same symptoms continued for 2 days after the last doses, then stopped and back to normal sleep.
1 September: 10 drops of 9x. The symptoms start again during the night with waking up at 2.30am and cerebral hyperactivity.
2 September: 10 drops. Same.
3 September: 10 drops. Awoken at 2am with cerebral hyperactivity and impossibility to go back to sleep; unpleasant thoughts about it – I will not manage to do it, what will happen to me? Proving stopped. Back to normal within 48 hours.

I (Placebo)

J (Placebo)

K Day 1 on 30c: Epigastric heaviness, < pressure; from 4pm: intense anal discharge > sitting on something warm.
Days 6 & 7 on 30c: Gelatinous nasal secretions, ticklish pharynx, need to clear throat with salty gelatinous excretion; irritating whooping cough in the evening, > sleeping (Mistral blowing).
Day 1 of 15x: 6pm, headache from the base of the nose with irradiation above the right eye, like a vice, > with pressure, lying on right side, head low, > cold, < light, noise with nausea.
On 12x, 9x, 6x: Frequent dreams about people familiar to the family.

L (30c only bottle used).
25 March: 10 drops at 10pm.
26 March: Change of schedule: 10 drops at 8am. Dream: I was maybe on a boat and had to queue but I didn’t take a ticket for the queue, so that each time I came back, I was further back (more than 600 people in front of me).
27 March: 10 drops at 7am. Dream: I was in a house with a garden; my son or daughter (who was approximately 3 years of age) or myself had to go to school (it looks like the one in Arcachon ), but we couldn’t take off, something like inertia was affecting us. The weather was nice. I asked to be accompanied. A cousin accompanied my son, in a blue Ford – and then I asked a friend who was passing by, draped in a towel (you could see her bare and very tanned bottom) to come with me. I found myself cleaning up a room full of old objects. I was cleaning a duck or a wooden car model, which was turning blue as I was rubbing it with a small cloth. I realised that the time was 5 to – I went to the room next door and asked the person there to come with me and showed him his things, he thought that the wall was still dirty, and then he crossed the room wearing simple underwear, shaven, with two feathers on the top of his head like a punk. No one thought that it was out of line (he was a punk-yogi). Then I was at the entrance of a conference – I was kissing [in the usual manner of greeting] three friends. I held one of them (a woman) against my chest and threw an endless “Om” that filled the whole room and building . She stayed glued to me, with her eyes shut as if under a spell or hypnotised.
28 March: 10 drops at 7am. Distension of the abdomen and the stomach, in the evening after 10pm after a meal at friend’s place: wholemeal rice, smoked salmon and fresh cream, cakes. The symptoms were like Nux vomica or Lycopodium. Sharp cervical pain when turning the head – a result of standing on my head in a yoga asana.
29 March: No drops. Woke up feeling sick nauseous. Dream: I was going back to Ledignan by car and arrived at Quissac, I was followed by a man wearing a neck brace and by my mechanic. I was looking for the path that cuts through to the right but I took by mistake a small road through vines. The person following me went straight ahead. There was a Languedocian castle with Anduzian pots cut in half. I went past a moat; there were three dames, among whom a young blond woman dressed like in the 18th or 19th Century, with nice curls. I went up the small steep road, like at the Dieppe Castle and slipped into a passageway like into a crack and entered huge white-washed mediaeval rooms – this castle was like a rest home and belonged to religious men or women.
1 April: No drops. Nervous because someone stayed two hours in the morning to talk about nothing; internal cold; need to eat. Dream: I have a cupboard with plants like leeks or wild onions – it was in fact a powerful drug. I gave some (about a third) to people who were with me in that kitchen. Then I peeled the onions, which were huge, translucent and shiny – like a certain type of onions or huge bears’ garlic. I asked where the toxic substance was; it was in the onion. I washed my hands.
2-3 April: No drops. Tendency to fall asleep in the afternoon and to fall asleep early at night; difficulty to stay awake in the company of others when they talk.
4 April: No drops. Burning and sourness of the stomach during the day.
6 April: Dream: I was attending a congress and was showing someone articles that I had annotated – they were on Egyptology. One of them was written on quite ordinary sheets of paper – I had written VG on that one. Another one was written by a homœopath I knew, it was in a luxurious magazine from Czechoslovakia, edited in Prague – I had written G on that one. The person with me laughed because he thought that I didn’t appreciate the homœopath very much. I said that the work was good, but that it was away from the subject of homœopathy. Then I noticed that I had forgotten my wallet in a brasserie – panic. I thought about ringing and asking them to put it aside and transforming myself into an eagle and going to fetch it after my speech, but I found it – relief . I have to add that we all had to carry around suitcases and bags because the conference rooms didn’t lock.
8 April: 10 drops in the morning. Attended a meeting on palliative care.
9 April: 10 drops in the morning. Afternoon in Avignon. Dream: I was at a table or in a circle – there was a meeting where people were sitting on the floor in a circle with documents. A colleague was there – we were going to be questioned about homœopathy. I recited what I knew about Nux, particularly its mentals – fastidious, prone to overwork, etc.
10 April: 10 drops in the morning.
12 April: For several days scared of thieves +++. Itching, urticaria like, like flea bites (for several days); irregular and spread all over the body (the 11th, 12th ++ and 13th). Dream: I was in Toulouse – in fact, it was at the seaside – major works were on the way. The course of the river had been diverted and I was following it – there were waterfalls. I arrived at the end of the land – a small arm of the sea had to be crossed to reach the other side. People were diving; I had to swim because it was deep at a certain place and even swim further out because of the current that was coming from the sea into the harbour (a bit like in Brittany) – the water was between two mounts. I didn’t dare cross because I was scared of the water. When going back uphill, I saw an American lady with a wart on her lip – I was surprised to find her there because I thought that there was a lecture at that time. Men were talking to her about a farm in the Champagne area (with sheep or goats) – she said she knew it. The sky was blue and we could see mountains like the ones in Anduze. [A village about 50km north-west of Nimes.]
Since 15 April: Fungal patch on the posterior part of the right forearm, 5cm from the elbow – it will develop into the marginal eczema of Hebra.
18 April: Dream: I was in hallways – it was the war. There were butchers’ hooks with beef and human carcasses hanging from them because men were pulled and cut without anaesthetics – they entered a hallway heading for cutting and killing traps. It was a little bit like in the metro.
20 April: Erotic dream. Dream about going to the toilet, squatting, in a classroom with doctors – feeling of embarrassment.
21 April: Dream about rockers making love and excrement.
29 April: Colitis crisis due to annoyance, deception: pain < standing up with tightening pain in the abdomen – for 3 days. Same on 13 May: due to annoyance, overwork ( bailiff called for a stupid reason).

Medical Medica from the proving of Lavandula vera

(The bold symptoms were shown by two or more people.)

Mental: Scared of thieves; anxiety when waking up; anxiety of having done something wrong; fears (professional) blame; irritated; irritable like before periods (but no periods); slowness; slow to understand; memory disturbances; when talking, forgets the end of the sentence.

Head: Occipital pain, like a pressure, like after partying; right temporal pain like tightening, radiating around to the occiput; pain at the base of the nose radiating around to the area above the right eye. Tightening > pressure, lying on the right side, cold; < light, noise. Pain above the right eye (with coryza).

Nose: Coryza with feeling of a crumb in the throat, then sneezes. Gelatinous nasal secretions. Coryza with nostrils blocked alternately; painful crack of the right nostril; odours smell unpleasant; sinusitis of the left maxilla.

Mouth: The drops have a bad taste. Twitching of the upper lip, for several days.

Throat – Larynx – Cough: “Crumb” in the throat, which causes an irritating cough; tickling in the larynx, with clearing of the throat++, gelatinous and salty expectoration; irritating cough in the evening > while sleeping.

Stomach: Heaviness < pressure; distension at 10pm; sick upon waking up; burning and sourness during the day.

Abdomen: Distension. Colitis after annoyance.

Rectum: Anal discharge+++ > sitting on something warm.

Back: Pain in the spine; painful rigidity, “feel every vertebra”; bruised muscles; pain in the left sacrum++ in a car, like a knife, violent++; tension between the shoulders, right radiating towards the left lumbar area; cervical pain ++ after turning the head.

Extremities: Pain in the right big toe; pain in the right knee < night, pressure, lying on it – like a nail; pain in the right toe radiating to all joints < elbow and wrist; muscular fatigue (thighs); heaviness in the lower right limb, calf, like after cramp; pain in the right knee as if bent for too long; right knee; can’t stretch it out fully; sciatica pain after pain in the lower right leg.

Skin: Left para-sternal fungal spot; eruption like urticaria or flea bites++, irregular and widespread; fungal spot on the right forearm (with further development).

Sleep: Very deep sleep; tendency to fall asleep during the day, even in the company of others; disturbed sleep around 2am due to influx of thoughts (not necessarily unpleasant) – not back to sleep before 5am.

Dreams: See Discussion.

Generalities: Feeling of internal coldness; feeling like having the flu. Right laterality of the lower limbs. Left laterality of the sacrum and lumbar region.

Discussion

In a nutshell, our proving reveals two opposite, therefore complementary, poles:

1. The narcotic and paralysing aspect of lavender, with somnolence, inertia, memory disorder, slowing down, slowness, muscular bruising, loss of mobility ( “frozen”), internal coldness.

2. The hyperactivating aspect of the plant, with nerviness, irritability, insomnia, dreams about work, dreams about climbing, irritation of the ENT system.

As far as we are concerned, this proving seems to be close to what Hildegarde of Bingen described in the 12th Century when talking about lavender as being a plant through which we will obtain “knowledge and pure spirit”.

We find indeed a person who, either through his/her professional activity (several dreams about work), or through “progress”, finds him/herself facing obstacles, prevented to carry out activities, as if lifeless, “drugged” (several times during the proving, we come across the notion of psychoactive substances and the narcotic aspect is present as much in the proving as in the toxicology).

Dreams show these obstacles, hitches, difficulties often happen in the presence of family members; an effort is then needed, access looks difficult; a path can be mistakenly followed, climbing, going uphill or upstairs; meeting around a table (symbol of the sky); object being rubbed turns blue (like the sky).

Therefore we can envision that lavender, which is used to clean and as an antiseptic (let’s remember its antiseptic properties, its use during plague epidemics as well as its reputation for “keeping the Evil Eye away”), may have purification properties and may symbolise an attempt to rise, to reach fulfilment through much reflection, around a table with the elders – and beyond old age, to reunite with the blue of the Provence sky, which makes one with the blue of the lavender.

Translated for Homœopathica by Franky Lewis and the editor

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