When I was growing up, so called “lavender water” was a popular perfume among ladies of a certain age, ahem, but considered a big no-no among the younger set. Basically, if you were under the age of 70 you didn’t wear it!
Today, however, things have changed dramatically. Although still not really worn as a perfume, lavender is an incredibly popular herb, not just for its scent but also for its flavour as an ingredient in cooking (think lavender sugar, lavender cookies and lavender smoothies).
Why so popular? Well, we all know it’s relaxing properties. Lavender has long been used as a natural sleep aid, simply sprinkle a few drops of essential oil into a warm bath before bed, or for even more impact, sprinkle a few drops onto your pillow as well. You’ll be off to the land of Nod in no time. But did you know lavender has powerful antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties as well? Throughout the centuries it has been used to treat ailments of all kinds including headaches, burns, bites and stings, depression and anxiety, even the Plague!
It is believed the Romans originally brought the plant to England, where it remains popular to this day. 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.
Believe it or not, lavender is actually part of the mint family. There are more than thirty different species of the plant but almost 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 lavendula augustifolia (most commonly used in soap making), lavendula x intermedia and lavendula stoechas.
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. However, it wasn’t until 1910 that French chemist and scholar, Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, first documented the healing properties of lavender oil. Rumour would have us believe his discovery was a happy accident that occurred after badly burning his hand in a lab accident. He “just so happened” to plunge his burning fingers into the nearest container of 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 which in turn led him to experiment with essential oils during World War I in military hospitals. Almost true. But not quite. His own journal reflects a more deliberate action on his part:
“The external application of small quantities of essences rapidly stops the spread of gangrenous sores. In my personal experience, after a laboratory explosion covered me with burning substances which I extinguished by rolling on a grassy lawn, both my hands were covered with a rapidly developing gas gangrene. Just one rinse with lavender essence stopped “the gasification of the tissue”. This treatment was followed by profuse sweating, and healing began the next day (July 1910).”
While the incident did not initiate his study of aromatherapy, it was certainly a push in the right direction. Subsequently he collaborated with a number of doctors who treated French soldiers for war wounds using lavender and other essential oils. The accounts of these cases constitute a large part of his text which later became his 1937 publication Aromathérapie and earned him the moniker “The Father of Aromatherapy”.
Today, 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.
Did you know?
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.
There are lavender essential oil impostors on the market. When shopping for oil, always check the source of the oil for authenticity.
By the 16th century, lavender was being used all over England to help scent laundry and toilets. It was also thought to ward off bedbugs, and was routinely sewn into sheets.
10 Everyday Uses for Lavender
I like to add drops of lavender essential oil to padded clothes hangers. Keeps my clothes smelling fresh and keeps bugs out of the closet.
I use lavender hydrosol, also called lavender water, to wipe down worktops and surfaces in my kitchen and bathroom, zaps germs but is safe for kids and pets.
I keep lavender oil in my first aid kit. It is great for dabbing on bites and stings, and minor burns. I also use it on blisters too from too many unsuitable-but-have-to-have-them shoes lol.
As it is one of the only essential oils that can be used directly on skin without needing a carrier oil, I usually massage a couple of drops into my temples in a firm circular motion whenever I get a headache.
Adding a few drops of essential oil to a warm bath can really help with monthly cramps and PMS.
I use the essential oil along with a bunch of other ingredients to make natural toilet fizzers. Keeps the toilet clean and fresh. If you fancy having a go at making your own, I use the recipe on Mountain Rose Herb’s website, here.
If you are feeling anxious, try a lavender and blueberry smoothie. I came across a recipe on Greenblender.com and it is AMAZING! Try it here – and by the way, I usually pick up my maqui berry powder on Amazon but if I don’t have any I just skip it, still tastes great.
Add lavender hydrosol to your steam iron for an extra burst of freshness.
Nervous pets? Help calm those trips to the V-E-T by lightly misting pet beds and blankets with lavender hydrosol. Note: dogs can tolerate the essential oil on their bedding, but I would stick with the water based hydrosol for safety. Lavender essential oil is extremely dangerous for cats and if it gets on their skin can easily poison them. ONLY use the hydrosol around your feline friend.
I use a blend of lavender and peppermint hydrosols in my steam mop – chemical-free cleaning and a fab fresh smell afterwards.