Lavender is so much more than just a simple herb plant that produces an oil. It has been used for centuries and pops up often in history books and folktales. There is much to learn about lavender essential oil. Here are some interesting facts about the plant and oil.
About The Lavender Plant
There are more than thirty different species of the plant but they most all have the word lavender in their name. There are three main types of lavender plants that are used to make lavender essential oil. They include lavndula augustifolia, lavendula x intermedia and lavendula stoechas.
Today, lavender can be found growing all over the globe, including in Asia, Europe and the United States. It is grown commercially and in the wild. It is also a popular plant to grow in home gardens. Lavender is very easy to grow in an herb garden, even for an inexperienced gardener. The plant should be kept in a sunny location where it will get at least eight hours of sun a day and should not be over watered to avoid root rot.
Lavender plants grow in the shape of tiny shrubs. They can grow as tall as three feet and produce anywhere from one to eight bunches of flowers. Most lavender plants are purple, as the name suggests but they are commonly also blue. Some varieties contain yellow or pink flowers. In most varieties, the leaves are covered with tiny hairs Lavender is part of the mint family. Lavender plants do not produce seeds. They reproduce through cuttings or root divisions.
Lavender In History
Lavender oil is mentioned in the Bible numerous times and may have been the oil that was used to wash Jesus’ feet. There is also speculation that the plant was present in the Garden of Eden. Legend says that they brought lavender with them when they were banished from the garden.
The ancient Egyptians used lavender oil during the mummification process. They would soak the garments that wrapped the body in lavender oil or water with lavender. It is also rumored that Cleopatra wore lavender scented perfume, possibly when seducing Mark Antony and Julius Caesar.
The Romans introduced the lavender plant to England, where it became a staple in royal gardens.
During the Middle Ages, crushed lavender was a popular condiment and remains a common ingredient in French recipes today. During the Great Plague, lavender was worn as a bracelet around the wrist and brought up to the mouth to prevent contracting the disease. It also helped to cover up the smell of decaying bodies.
Lavender was most likely brought to America by the pilgrims on the Mayflower. The plant was very popular at the time for its natural healing abilities.
Queen Marie Antoinette of France would have lavender flowers placed throughout the castle to keep foul odors at bay. Queen Victoria required that her furniture be polished with a solution containing lavender oil and also sipped on lavender hot tea when she suffered from headaches or an upset stomach. King Charles VI of France requested that all of the cushions in his home be stuffed with lavender.
Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, the Father of Aromatherapy, was the first to scientifically document the healing powers of lavender oil. After badly burning his hand in a lab accident, he quickly placed it in the nearest container with liquid, which just so happened to be lavender essential oil. He noted how quickly the pain disappeared and how his hand healed quickly with little scarring. This led him to experiment with essential oils during World War I in military hospitals. Many soldiers carried lavender oil with them in first aid kits.
- While humans find the scent of lavender to be calming, most bugs are repelled by the scent. They can’t stand it and will vacate an area where it is present, making lavender oil a great natural bug repellent. It can safely be sprayed on windowsills and door frames to make an invisible bug barrier.
- It takes close to one hundred and fifty pounds of lavender to make one pound of lavender essential oil. An acre of lavender plants can produce anywhere from twelve to twenty pounds of essential oil, mainly affected by the weather during the growing season. As lavender oil increases in popularity, so does the demand for the plant.
- The word lavender is thought to be derived from the Latin word lavare (to wash) as it was commonly
- used while bathing by the Romans in their community baths. They also used it in cooking and most likely were the ones to introduce the plant to areas outside their community.
- Some areas of Spain and Australia consider lavender to be a weed as it has grown out of control in the wild.
- There are lavender essential oil impostors on the market. When shopping for oil, always check the source of the oil for authenticity.
- Lavender plans that don’t sell for essential oil production are often bought by crafters to be used for dried floral arrangements or for use in soaps and lotions. A bunch of flowers can take up to three weeks to dry.
Lavender festival are popular in areas where the plant grows. They usually occur when the plant is in full bloom and include food and drinks containing lavender, like lavender chocolate, lavender cake and lavender lemonade. They also will have displays of lavender and provide demonstrations on how to grow the plant and how the distillation process works. They are both fun and educational. In the United States, they can be found in Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Illinois, just to name a few.
Studies regarding lavender essential oil are becoming more frequent as promising results are recorded regarding lavender’s abilities to heal skin, hair and the body. It is used by many as a natural acne eliminator, a hair regrowth treatment, an aid in overcoming anxiety and as a natural alternative to cleaning with chemicals. As more about lavender is learned, its popularity will most likely increase just as it has throughout the years as it proved its abilities to new generations.