This beautiful plant is native to the Mediterranean, but it is also grown in northern and eastern Africa, and southern regions of Asia. Many varieties are cultivated extensively as ornamental plants for garden and landscape use, however this versatile plant has been wildly used as culinary herb and is also known for its medicinal and health-enhancing properties, especially as essential oil.
It grows best in dry well-drained, lime-rich soil and can reach more than 1 m in height. Lavender is best harvested just before full blossoming on a dry mid-summer day. To dry this wonderful herb, tie the stems together and hang upside down for several days.
The most common way to extract the essential oil from the lavender flower is distillation which involves the boiling and condensing of liquid.
Some of the benefits of lavender:
– Aromatherapy and Therapeutic uses
- antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and rejuvenating properties;
- helps reduce pain and prevents blistering on minor burns (including sunburn), excellent fist aid remedy for small cuts and scratches, as well as insect bites, prevents infection;
- calming, soothing effects on the nerves, relieving tension, depression, panic, hysteria and nervous exhaustion in general;
- relieves the symptoms of sore throat, bronchitis, asthma, colds, laryngitis, halitosis, other throat infections and whooping cough;
- helps the digestive system deal with colic, nausea, vomiting and flatulence;
- alleviates sleep disorders;
- stress relief, helps relieve anxiety and works as a gentle sedative;
- remedy for migraines and headaches;
- relieves pain when used for rheumatism, arthritis, lumbago and muscular aches and pains, especially after physical exercises;
- hair loss prevention
– Other household uses
- good household disinfectant;
- excellent insect repellent, including fleas (pets), flies (house) and ants nests;
- great hair conditioner, helps untangle hair
- addition to perfumes and potpourris
The essential oil of lavender can be applied in following ways: burners and vapourisers, massage oil, bath oil, applied directly onto the skin, cold compress, component of cream, lotion or other cosmetics. You can get it from local suppliers on online shops – English Lavender (Lavender (English) 100% Essential Aromatherapy Oil 10ml) or for US readers – Lavender 100% Pure Undiluted Essential Oil Therapeutic Grade- 10 Ml (Lavender, 10ml).
In cooking it is recommended to use about one third the quantity of dried lavender flowers to fresh. The best approach is to experiment and adjust the quantities accordingly to personal preference. The lavender flowers add a beautiful colour to salads. Lavender can also be substituted for rosemary in many bread or other recipes. Flowers look great and taste good too in a glass of champagne, with chocolate cake, cookies, custards or as a garnish for sorbets or ice creams.
It is very important, especially if used for culinary purposes, to ensure that the lavender flowers are suitable for human consumption i.e. are free from pesticides and other pollutants.