The smell of real lavender flowers or an oil pressed from them is indescribably delicious. No wonder brides love it in their bouquet sprays!.
The long, thin stems form into spikes near from the tips with small, tightly-clustered, purple flowers. Gardens planted with lavender attract nature’s pollinators such as bees and wasps so planting away from doors may be a good idea to avoid close encounters of the stinging kind.
Lavender (Lavandula) plants can grow quite large so give them plenty of room in the garden. This herb loves a hot, dry climate – no surprise since it comes from North Africa and the Mediterranean mountains with low humidity and high temperatures.
People have been reaping the gains from lavender since antiquity. It is said that, in 1923, with the opening of King Tut’s tomb came the faint scent of lavender which was still detectable after 3,000 years!
The ancient Romans purified the air, cooked with, and added lavender to their famous baths. In fact, the word “lavender” comes from the Latin word “lavare” which means “to wash.” Bible references mention lavender oil as one of the aromatic herbs used for anointing and healing.
The fresh flowers can be dried and crushed to use in herbal formulas or to fill sachets (little cloth bags) which can be placed in a drawer or closet to repel moths and mites. Some people place sachets with lavender under their sleeping pillow to calm and purify the mind to prepare for deep, restorative sleep.
Lavender is a natural antioxidant, antimicrobial, sedative, calmative, and antidepressive. It has been used in cooking, cosmetics, and therapeutically for centuries.
The perennial evergreen shrub comes in four main hybrid varieties: English, French, Spanish, and Egyptian. After the young plants become established after several growing seasons, they will sprout each spring and fade after flowering and seeding.
All types of lavender repel garden aphids so savvy green thumbs plant it among other crops. Lavender thrives in mass plantings and is an excellent choice for hedges, borders, and edging.
The French province aptly named Provence (which actually means “province”) hosts huge lavender fields for commercial production. Visitors may tour the fragrant area from June to August when the blooms are drop-dead gorgeous.
After harvesting fresh lavender flowers, the purple sprigs can be used fresh or dried to preserve them. Dry most herbs by bundling them with string, then hanging them upside-down for a few days until they dry out. Then, package the dried flowers for crushing (which releases their essential oils).
Lavender is grown for its essential oil, made by distilling the flower spikes.
It’s perfectly fine to use fresh lavender flowers or food-grade essential oil to season cooking. But never eat non-grade lavender essential oil because it is a toxin! For this reason, it is wise to keep lavender oil away from small children.
Do not delay! Call 1-800-222-1222 POISON CONTROL if you suspect anyone has ingested harmful non-grade lavender essential oil.
The U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has not officially approved lavender for medicinal use but it has been used as a home remedy for a long time to treat a wide variety of conditions, including:
- Reduce anxiety and emotional stress
- Protect against diabetes symptoms
- Improve brain function
- Help to heal burns and wounds (NOTE: never apply lavender oil to an open wound)
- Improve sleep
- Restore skin complexion and reduce acne
- Slow aging with powerful antioxidants
- Relieve pain
- Alleviate headaches
Essential lavender oil kills germs and calms inflammation. These antibacterial and antiseptic properties may soothe minor burns and bug bites when applied topically (directly on the skin’s surface).
Children and people with sensitive skin may develop a rash or have a strong allergic reaction after applying lavender essential oil to the skin. Proceed with caution when treating children and avoid letting them inhale lavender products.
In adults, scientific studies have linked drinking lavender tea with easing rheumatism and digestive issues, including vomiting, nausea, intestinal gas, upset stomach, and abdominal swelling.
Smelling lavender is a potent aromatherapy treatment. In the bath, lavender relaxes the body and quiets the nerves.
Some people report that using lavender oil makes them drowsy and slows down their reaction times so be careful driving or operating heavy equipment afterward.
Lavender provides so many health-promoting benefits. Why not add it to your pantry and, like the ancient Romans, wash your troubles away?