Introduction

Scientific research into the psychological effects of lavender has only recently begun. However, there is a long tradition in folklore of its use by ordinary people (rather than clinical use) to affect psychological states. Presumably, this traditional use is founded on consistent observations of the effects of lavender on people's psychological states, though we should note that although such consistency may be suggestive of a real effect, it is always possible that the effect may still be due to placebo and expectation rather than some property of the lavender itself.

So how has lavender been commonly used? To get an idea of how 'ordinary' people, rather than clinicians, understood how lavender was used in everyday life, this chapter starts by looking at the references to lavender in fiction as represented in literature and plays. The speech of people is not available to us, but it is likely that any appearance in literature will be in terms, and of uses, commonly understood and known by the 'ordinary person'. This may even be more so in plays, since they present only speech. Moreover, main elements in literature and plays, and without which it is doubtful that they would be of interest, are accounts of people's feeling, thinking and doing, and these are psychology's objects of study.

Following these examples from literature and plays, recent scientific research will be reviewed to see why lavender might have psychological effects, and what these effects might be.

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