Family: Lamiaceae or Labiatae
Other names: Lavandula angustifolia, L. spica. pro parte,L. vera, Spike, Nardus, Elf Leaf, Nard
Habitat: Europe – Mediterranean. Dry grassy slopes amongst rocks, in exposed, usually parched, hot rocky situations often on calcareous soils.
Lavender is a commonly used household herb, though it is better known for its sweet-scented aroma than for its medicinal qualities. However, it is an important relaxing herb, having a soothing and relaxing affect upon the nervous system. The flowering spikes can be dried and used internally in a tincture, though the extracted essential oil is more commonly used. The essential oil is much more gentle in its action than most other essential oils and can be safely applied direct to the skin as an antiseptic to help heal wounds, burns etc. An essential oil obtained from the flowers is antihalitosis, powerfully antiseptic, antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, cholagogue, diuretic, nervine, sedative, stimulant, stomachic and tonic. It is not often used internally, though it is a useful carminative and nervine . It is mainly used externally where it is an excellent restorative and tonic – when rubbed into the temples, for example, it can cure a nervous headache, and it is a delightful addition to the bath-water . Its powerful antiseptic properties are able to kill many of the common bacteria such as typhoid, diphtheria, streptococcus and Pneumococcus, as well as being a powerful antidote to some snake venoms . It is very useful in the treatment of burns, sunburn, scalds, bites, vaginal discharge, anal fissure etc, where it also soothes the affected part of the body and can prevent the formation of permanent scar tissue . The essential oil is used in prevent the formation of permanent scar tissue Its keyword is ‘Immune system’ . The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Lavandula angustifolia for loss of appetite, nervousness and insomnia, circulatory disorders, dyspeptic complaints.
Description of Lavender:
Lavandula officinalis, Lavender is an evergreen Shrub growing to 1.2 m (4ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in).
It is hardy to zone 5. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Jul to September, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, lepidoptera.It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline and saline soils.
Likes full sun. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.
Cultivation of Lavender:
Lavender Plants succeed in almost any soil so long as it is well-drained and not too acid . Prefers a sunny position in a neutral to alkaline soil . Prefers a light warm dry soil . When grown in rich soils the plants tend to produce more leaves but less essential oils . Established plants are drought tolerant . Plants are very tolerant of salt wind exposure . When growing for maximum essential oil content, the plant must be given a very warm sunny position and will do best in a light sandy soil, the fragrance being especially pronounced in a chalky soil . Plants are hardy to between -10 and -15°c . Lavender is a very ornamental plant that is often grown in the herb garden and is also grown commercially for its essential oil. There are several named varieties . Not a very long-lived plant, it can be trimmed to keep it tidy but is probably best replaced every 10 years . Any trimming is best done in spring and should not be done in the autumn since this can encourage new growth that will not be very cold-hardy. A good bee plant, also attracting butterflies and moths.
Lavender makes a good companion for most plants, growing especially well with cabbages.
Propagation Of Lavender:
Seed – sow spring in a greenhouse and only just cover the seed. It usually germinates in 1 – 3 months at 15°c. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter, planting them out in late spring after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood 7 – 10cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Usually very east, a high percentage will root within a few weeks. Grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter and plant them out in late spring after the last expected frosts. Cuttings 7cm with a heel succeed at almost any time of the year. Layering.
Culinary uses of Lavender:
Edible Uses: Condiment; Tea.
Leaves, petals and flowering tips – raw. Used as a condiment in salads, soups, stews etc . They provide a very aromatic flavour and are too strong to be used in any quantity. The fresh or dried flowers are used as a tea . The fresh flowers are also crystallized or added to jams, ice-creams, vinegars etc as a flavouring . An essential oil from the flowers is used as a food flavouring.
Actions: Carminative, anti-spasmodic, anti-depressant, rubefacient, emmenagogue, hypotensive.
Part Used: Flowers.
Indications: This beautiful herb has many uses, culinary, cosmetic and medicinal. It is an effective herb for headaches, especially when they are related to stress. Lavender can be quite effective in the clearing of depression, especially if used in conjunction with other remedies. As a gentle strengthening tonic of the nervous system it may be used in states of nervous debility and exhaustion. It can be used to soothe and promote natural sleep. Externally the oil may be used as a stimulating liniment to help ease the aches and pains of rheumatism. The oil will prevent blistering from burns if applied concentrated to the area straight away.
Preparations & Dosage:
Infusion: to take internally, pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 teaspoonful of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. This can be drunk three times a day.
External use: the oil should not be taken internally but can be inhaled, rubbed on the skin or used in baths.
Essential, Hedge, Incense, Pot-pourri, Repellent.
The essential oil that is obtained from the flowers is exquisitely scented and has a very wide range of applications, both in the home and commercially. It is commonly used in soap making, in making high quality perfumes (it is also used in ‘Eau de Cologne’), it is also used as a detergent and cleaning agent, a food flavouring etc and as an insect repellent . When growing the plant for its essential oil content, it is best to harvest the flowering stems as soon as the flowers have faded . Yields of 0.8 – 1% of the oil are obtained . The aromatic leaves and flowers are used in pot-pourri and as an insect repellent in the linen cupboard etc. They have been used in the past as a strewing herb in order to impart a sweet smell to rooms and to deter insects. The leaves are also added to bath water for their fragrance and therapeutic properties. They are also said to repel mice. The flowering stems, once the flowers have been removed for use in pot-pourri etc, can be tied in small bundles and burnt as incense sticks. Lavender can be grown as a low hedge, responding well to trimming. There are several varieties, such as ‘Hidcote Variety’, ‘Loddon Pink’ and ‘Folgate Blue’ that are suitable for using as dwarf hedges 30 – 50cm tall.
Magickal uses include love, protection, healing, sleep, purification, and peace. Promotes healing from depression. Great in sleep pillows and bath spells. Believed to preserve chastity when mixed with rosemary. Burn the flowers to induce sleep and rest, then scatter the ashes around the home to bring peace and harmony. Use in love spells and sachets, especially those to attract men.
- Volatile oil, containing linalyl acetate, with linalool, lavandulyl acetate, borneol, camphor, limonene, cadinene, caryophyllene, 4-butanolide, 5-pentyl-5-pentanolide.
- Coumarins; Umbelliferone, herniarin, coumarin, dihydrocoumarin.
- Miscellaneous: triterpenes e.g. ursolic acid, flavonoids e.g. luteolin.