Throughout the ages and in many cultures the Lavandula varieties of lavender were used as ingredients for perfume, medicines, farming, culinary delights, and as antimicrobial agents. Greeks and Romans used Lavender in their historic baths.
The Egyptians used it in their incense. In some cultures, it was considered an aphrodisiac and, superstitiously, thought to make the one wearing lavender less likely to winder romantically.
Medicinally, Lavandula lavenders have been used for a wide variety of ailments. Ancient history finds the Greek physicians and Roman army using lavender to clean and disinfect wounds, ease sore throats and aid in digestion. Lavender was even used in WWII to aid wound healing. During the middle ages it was strewn over the floors of castles and rooms for the sick to disinfect and deodorize. (1)
More recent history (1930’s) finds the French chemist, René-Maurice Gattefossé, using lavender to heal his own burn wounds from a laboratory accident. So, impressed by is healing effects, he coined the phrase “Aromatherapy” and wrote a book called “Aromathérapie: Les Huiles Essentielles, Hormones Végétales” (Aromatherapy: Essential Oils, Vegetable Hormones). (2)
Lavandula’s prowess as a healing oil includes treatments for headaches, anxiety, digestive issues, palsy, toothaches, lice, insect bites, smelling salts, and sore throats. A recent historical study (1992) out of Austria site the sedative properties
Recent historical studies of the Lavandula species (1992 and 1993) have found valuable uses in farming for preserving potatoes in storage and protecting crops from insects.
Lavandula has also been used in the culinary world for centuries. Famed for its calming effects, it is used as a tea as is chamomile. It is used to flavor vinegars, cooking oils and jellies. (3) Lavandula angustifolia is a favored herb in the culinary arts. Today, many recipes can be found on line for using this versatile plant and its essential oil. (4)
About Lavender angustifolia
Lavandula angustifolia is not only one of the hardiest of the Lavandula varieties, it is also one of the most grown. It comes from the Western Mediterranean regions of Europe. It is grown in warmer climates but can withstand temperatures as cold as 5°F. Lavandula angustifolia grows best is soils rich in calcium, is drought resistant, evergreen, and flowers usually between July and September. (5)
All Lavenders come from the Botanical family Lamiaceae (Labiatae) and the genus Lavandula. That said, there are over 25 varieties. So, it is especially important to know which Lavender plant you are buying and from which plant your essential oils extracted.
Lavandula angustifolia: This variety is also known as L.officinalis and L.vera. However, it is known to some by several other names such as True lavender, Bulgarian lavender, English lavender, high altitude lavender, Himalayan lavender, lavender Kashmir, and lavender maillette. Lavandula angustifolia is most popular and associated with the many commonly accepted uses and benefits of Lavender.
Its unique characteristics and properties are owed to the high concentrations of the esters linalool and linalyl acetate. The higher altitudes encourage a higher concentration of esters and thus gives this variety its special calming benefits. Lavandula angustifolia is a gentle variety of lavender and can be used safely with all age groups. It the variety of lavender used in pharmacopeia for internal as well as external uses.
Lavandula Latifolia: L.latifolia is most known as Spike Lavender. It still has a high concentration of linalool, but the linalyl acetate of the angustifolia variety is mostly replaced by a higher concentration of 1,8 cineole. This chemical component is more stimulating to the body and therefore has different safety guidelines. It is recommended only for external uses. Note: Do not confuse this variety with the plant/oil spikenard. Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi) is of the botanical family Valerianaceae.
Lavandula stoechas: This variety is most known as Spanish or French Lavender. Its chemical profile is far different from the other two lavenders. It contains no linalyl acetate and is low in linalool. Its primary components of ketones, monoterpenes, and 1,8 cineole gives this variety its favored use for respiratory conditions and as an antimicrobial agent. CAUTION: Because of its chemical profile this variety of lavender should only be used under the care of a qualified practitioner or physician.
Lavandula x intermedia: This variety is a hybrid variety commonly called Lavandin. Lavandin is a combination of the angustifolia and latifolia Lavandula varieties. As is the nature of hybrids, depending the how, what, and where of the growing, hybrids can have traits ranging in spectrum from more angustifolia to more latifolia Hybrids do not produce seeds so the propagation of the variety is done primarily from small cutting or clippings from the parent plant (also known as cloning).
The typical chemical profile of Lavandin contains fair amounts of linalool, linalyl acetate, 1,8 cineole, and camphor. This gives a variation more or less suited for calming or more or less suited for antimicrobial activity.(6) Either way this variety is grown for quantity rather than quality and lends itself more toward adulteration with synthetic chemicals to adjust its profile one way or the other. This it is primarily used in the fragrance industries.
Benefits of Lavender angustifolia
Lavandula angustifolia being the most versatile and gentle of all the Lavandula varieties promotes health throughout the integumentary (skin, hair, nails), circulatory, nervous, urinary, and endocrine systems of the body. Some common health benefits include:
- Sedative – Calms the nerves, relieves anxiety, promotes sleep (7)
- Antiseptic and antimicrobial – Encourages wound healing (8)
- Carminative- Reduces abdominal cramping due to menstruation and digestive issues (9)
- Cholagogue – Stimulates the flow of bile from the liver, aids in digestion and detoxification process (10)
- Anti-inflammatory – May repress inflammatory cytokines and their receptors as well as stimulate the human innate macrophage response. (11)
How to Use Lavender angustifolia Essential Oil
- Diffuse – Diffuse 10 to 15 drops 15 minutes every two hours during the day, 6 to 8 drops in water of candle warmer, 10 to 15 drops in potpourri (keep out of reach of children)
- Inhale – Inhale from bottle or lid 2 to 3 times a day, Place 2 drops on a cotton ball and inhale, rub 1 to 2 drops on hand, hold near face (avoid touching face), and inhale.
- Mist – Add 40 to 50 drops to a half cup of water. Shake vigorously before each use and apply lightly to areas of concern. Avoid getting it in the eyes.
- Rub – Place 6 to 8 drops in one ounce (2 TBS) of massage cream or oil. Apply to areas of concern.
- Soak – Add 6 to 8 drops to a half cup of Epsom salt in a glass jar. Shake vigorously and let sit for a few minutes. Get into a tub of warm water and sprinkle in the oil infused salt mixing as you go. Enjoy!