Lavender has long been used in perfumery, but its history as a healing herb is just as long-standing. Nicholas Culpeper writing in his landmark book about herbs in the 1650s claimed that it was well suited for headache, cramps, convulsions and even faintings.
Lavender is conveniently available in essential oil form, and is so useful that it has often been called 'first-aid in a bottle'. It is one of the few essential oils that can be applied directly to the skin 'neat', or undiluted.
The oil is antiseptic and anti-bacterial, and can be applied directly to burns and stings, where it will cool the pain. It will stimulate blood flow to the affected area, which may aid healing.
Most people agree that the scent is calming, and can be used to reduce anxiety. A few drops in an aroma diffuser such as an aromalamp (a small bowl of water over a tealight) will infuse the air with the scent of lavender and provide balance to overwrought emotions.
Lavender oil rubbed into the temples can quiet a headache, even in some cases halt a migraine if it hasn't taken too firm a hold. Massaged into the neck and shoulder muscles, it can relieve tension headaches and 'computer headache'. The oil is analgesic (pain-lessening); rub it into painful joints for relief from arthritis symptoms, or into muscles made sore from overexertion. It will certainly smell better than most pungent 'sports cremes' on the market.
While many scented bodycare products such as scented shampoos attract insects, lavender essential oil is actually an insect repellent. It can be worn as perfume or added to a hair rinse to keep mosquitoes and other outdoor annoyances away. (Men can use citronella essential oil to keep the bugs at bay.)
Lavender essential oil is quite reasonably priced, especially in comparison to some of the rarer oils, and is so widely useful that no home should be without a bottle.