March 19, 2009

Lovely Lavender

To celebrate our spring-like weather I offer you a short course on herbs. We'll start with my favorite (hey I'm the author!) Lavender. This pretty purple flower is well known for its unique fragrance. The Greeks and Romans favored it in their bath water. Its name is derived from the Latin lavare, "to wash" so that makes sense. Lavender was used extensively in Europe during the 17th Century to mask household smells and stinking streets. Stories that the glovers of Grasse, who used lavender oil to scent their fashionable leather, were remarkably free from plague, encouraged other people to carry lavender. Ladies of refinement carried lavender sprigs tucked into their tussy mussy. A beautiful addition to any bouquet, it was also a very good way to daintily avoid unpleasant odors.

Lavender has long been used medicinally, the oil of the flower being the most popular. The flower is also infused as a tea to soothe headaches, calm nerves, ease flatulence, fainting, dizziness and halitosis. It is said that if you add 6 drops to an irritable child's bathwater it will help calm them. Now that's a bonus! Lavender was used during the World Wars as an antiseptic and is to this day, a dominating choice in the fragrance industry.

Essential oil of lavender is one of the safest and most widely used oils in aromatherapy for its calming and antifungal properties. We use lavender oil in many of our bath and body products not only for it's heavenly scent but also for its ability to relax and soothe. While it is relatively safe, remember the oil is essentially a plant derived concentrated medicinal and as such should be used with care and never at full strength on the skin or taken internally. If you have plant allergies you should be wary of products containing essential oils as they could cause a reaction. It's always best to test first than be sorry later.

Lavender in many forms is readily available at plant nurseries and home improvement centers. Do yourself a favor and buy a pot as it's hard to grow from seed and will flower faster. Put it on your deck or plant it in the garden in a sunny spot by favorite chair so you can enjoy the fragrant flowers all summer long.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like hearing about some of the history of lavender, very cool! I love lavender - it's one of the most calming, beautiful scents. I like to breathe in the essential oil for relaxation, and to soothe headaches. I have lavender hand soap, shampoo, moisturizer, a lavender-filled eye-pillow.