Lavender essential oil has been a part of history for centuries and has been used by almost every culture and social class. Since the oil can be taken directly from the flower, it is readily available to use if there is a budding plant nearby. Just as lavender is one of the most common essential oils today, its popularity can be seen throughout history as well. There is speculation that during the mummification process, Egyptians made use of lavender oil to preserve bodies for the afterlife. Before modern medicine, lavender oil was used along with chants and prayers asking spiritual powers for healing. It is speculated that lavender oil was used during biblical times and may have been the perfume that was used to anoint Jesus Christ and may have been one of the plants that were used by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It is also rumored that Cleopatra used perfume made of lavender oil.
The plant’s name most likely was coined by the ancient Romans. The word itself is derived from the Latin word lavare, which means to wash. The Romans would include lavender oil and flowers in their community baths. Their clothes were also often placed on top of lavender bushes to dry and would absorb the pleasing scent. While there is no clear evidence as to when exactly people started using lavender as an antibacterial healer, the Romans did issue lavender oil to their soldiers to be used for wounds obtained during battles.
Lavender can be found being mentioned often during historical works dedicated to the Middle Ages. During the Great Plague, there was a group of robbers who would steal property from the homes of the ill. When they were eventually caught, they were asked why they had never gotten sick. They explained how they cleansed with a solution after each robbery. They were freed once they gave away their secret ingredient, which was lavender oil. Bouquets of dried lavender were then used to cover up one’s mouth and nose when traveling through an area burdened by the Plague to prevent infection and to disguise foul odors.
Rene-Maurice Gattefoss was a French scientist in the early twentieth century who is now known as the Father of Aromatherapy and is credited with the term itself. He was working in his lab one day when he suffered from a serious burn. He instantly plunged his hand into the nearest container of liquid, which just so happened to be lavender oil. He was amazed at how fast the burn healed and noticed minimal scaring. He immediately began to research the oil and other essential oils and allowed the public access to his findings by writing a book that is still popular today. Lavender oil was used in hospitals during World War I to heal wounds and prevent infection.
Powdered lavender was also a common condiment during the Middle Ages. While many other cultures used lavender in recipes, it did not become popular worldwide until a mixture of herbs that contained lavender were invented in 1970. It was sold under the name herbs de Provence and soon became popular with the public. There are even festivals dedicated to lavender where several different varieties of foods and beverages are served that incorporate the herb or essential oil.
Where Lavender Has Been Grown
Lavender grows in the wild very easily but is also grown on commercial farms to be made into essential oil. It takes quite a bit of lavender to make each small bottle of essential oil so there is a high demand for the plants. Not all farms grow lavender for distillation of the essential oil though. Some grow the plants for landscaping needs and floral arrangements. In some countries, lavender has been deemed a weed . In Victoria, Australia it has been considered a harmful plant since 1920 as its natural growth has gotten out of control.
There is documented information saying that lavender was grown in royal gardens in Paris during the fourteenth century and was most likely grown in England during this same time with the intentions of being used as a medicine. Many castles would be filled with the flower to add a pleasant aroma in times where body odor could be offensive. Herbal gardens grew in popularity as civilization entered the sixteenth century and lavender was most likely one of the most common plants grown in royal and common gardens.
Lavender can be found naturally in Spain, North Africa, Egypt, France and the United States. As of 2011, the largest producer of lavender in the world is Bulgaria. Lavender was first grown with the intent of being sold in 1823. It is quite easy to grow and does well in many different types of soils, as long as there is full sun. The plants need little care or fertilizer.
Today, lavender can be found virtually all over the planet. It is a common plant to grow in herb gardens in kitchens and a great crop for farmers to dedicate part of their land to.
Lavender essential oil is an easily acquired substance in today’s market. It is used by people who seek natural medicine instead of man-made substances and is quickly gaining recognition in the medical world for being a real treatment for certain medical conditions. Studies have been conducted in many countries that have found a promising future for the use of lavender oil in modern medicine.
Lavender is a common aromatherapy oil and can be found in most spas and medical offices that offer relaxing procedures like massages and therapy. It is also a commonly prescribed natural treatment for sleeping disorders and stress.
Lavender oil is also becoming more popular as a natural cleaner and is being incorporated into homemade body products, such as deodorants and moisturizers. It is also popular in perfumes and potpourris.
There is no shortage of lavender throughout history and is likely to only grow in popularity in the future.