Lavender - a brief introduction
So what is lavender anyway?
Are you one of those people who can’t get enough of the sweet, floral fragrance of lavender? If so, you’re not alone. The use of lavender as a scent and an essential oil has grown in popularity over the past decade. It’s no wonder that we are all finding so many uses for this unique plant; after all, there is nothing quite like it!
If you take a look around your home, you might notice that lavender is everywhere. You can find it in lotions and perfumes, essential oils and teas, aromatherapy oils and sprays... the list goes on! Even though most people are familiar with the purple-blue flower commonly known as “lavender”—and have probably used it to repel insects or as an air freshener in their laundry room—this remarkable plant is actually incredibly versatile. In fact, its usage dates back thousands of years.
Before we can explore the history of lavender, let’s start by understanding what it really is. Lavender is a member of the mint family, and there are more than 30 different species of lavender. The most common varieties are the English Lavender, the French Lavender, and the Spanish Lavender. They range in colour from blue-purple, to purple, to pink, to white.
Lavender is one of the most aromatic plants, and there is a reason for the abundance of lavender-based products available today: it has a long history as a natural remedy! The earliest traces of lavender come from the Mediterranean around 8000 BC.
The History of Lavender
To fully appreciate the history of lavender, we must travel all the way back to Ancient Egypt. There, we discover that the first records of the uses of lavender were almost certainly medicinal. It is believed that ancient Egyptians would use lavender as an ointment to keep their mummies smelling fresh! This might seem strange, but scientists have confirmed that the essential oils of lavender, when applied to the skin, create the same effect as modern-day anti-bacterial sprays and lotions.
Later, during the Roman Empire (around 400 BC), people would use lavender to treat headaches and toothaches—perhaps this is where our modern day idiom “rubbing a bit of lavender on it” comes from. Lavender was also commonly used to treat insomnia and anxiety.
How Scientists Are Using Lavender Today
Today, scientists are using lavender for a wide range of things, from treating pain and anxiety to improving mood and helping with sleep disorders. A study has shown that drinking a lavender tea can help with sleep disorders (insomnia) and reduce anxiety.
Lavender is also used as an anti-inflammatory and antiseptic agent. When applied topically, it has been found to be useful in treating pimples, burns, and insect bites. Researchers are also exploring lavender as a treatment for anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depression (major depressive disorder).
Finally, there is evidence that lavender may also help treat certain types of pain. Lavender may be used to reduce swelling and pain from fractures and sprains, as well as the pain associated with headaches, toothaches, and sore muscles.
The Different Types of Lavender You Can Find
There are many different varieties of lavender, and they come in a wide range of colours, sizes, and scents. If you are hoping to grow lavender in your garden, you will want to make sure you select the right variety for your growing conditions.If you are hoping to use lavender as a medicinal herb indoors, you will be happy to know that most varieties can be grown as houseplants.
The main varieties are:
- English Lavender - English lavender is perhaps the most well-known variety of lavender. It is known for its sweet, floral fragrance and dark blue flowers. This variety is the best choice for making lavender tea, potpourri, and sachets. It is also a good choice for planting outdoors in Mediterranean climates.
- French Lavender - This lavender variety is known for its rich purple flowers and licorice scent. It is a very attractive plant and makes a good choice for landscaping. French lavender also works well for harvesting lavender oil.
- Spanish Lavender - This is another attractive variety of lavender, with fragrant, light blue flowers. It is a good choice for people who want to use lavender as a landscaping plant. Spanish lavender is also suitable for growing indoors.
How Lavender Evolved Over Time
The word “lavender” actually originates from the Latin term “lavare,” which translates to “to wash.” This is believed to have been the reason that the plant was cultivated in the first place: to be used as a natural cleanser. Throughout the years, scientists have discovered many other uses for Lavender. The Egyptians used it as an incense, while the Romans put it in their bathwater to soothe their nerves. Medieval Europeans also used Lavender in their bathwater and as a way to repel insects.
Ancient Origins of Lavender
The origins of Lavender are unclear, although it is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean region. It has been cultivated for centuries for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Lavender has been endemic to the Mediterranean for so long that its precise native range is uncertain. Some sources state that it was first cultivated in the Middle East and then spread to the Mediterranean, while others believe that the plant is native to the Mediterranean only and was spread to the Middle East during its cultivation.
Modern Day Uses of Lavender
Lavender is used for more than just aromatherapy. When it comes to reaping the benefits of lavender, the options are limitless! Lavender can be used in everything from teas, aromatherapy sprays, and sachets, to sprays and potions designed to heal wounds and treat skin infections. Here are a few ways that you can use lavender around your home and in your daily life:
- Use lavender as a natural insect repellent. Add dried lavender to your outdoor plants to keep bugs away. You can also add lavender to a cotton ball and place it in your closets or drawers to keep bugs out of your clothing.
- Add lavender to your bath for relaxation. Place a few drops of lavender oil into your bath for a relaxing, full-body experience.
- Treat acne and acne scars. Lavender is an excellent remedy for acne and acne scars. Simply apply lavender oil to your skin to kill the bacteria that causes acne and reduce redness and scars.
- Reduce stress and improve sleep. Add lavender oil to your daily aromatherapy diffuser or use a reed diffuser to help you unwind after a long day, sleep better, and reduce anxiety.
- Use lavender as a natural fragrance. Add lavender essential oil to a cotton ball and place it in a reed diffuser, or add a few drops to a spray bottle and mist your pillows and sheets. You can also make your own DIY perfume by adding a few drops of lavender oil to a cotton ball and storing it in a reed diffuser.
The History of Lavender is long and fascinating. As a member of the mint family, this unique plant has been used in everything from medicines to scents for thousands of years. Lavender is native to the Mediterranean region and has been used by humans to repel insects, heal wounds, and treat infections ever since its discovery. The earliest known record of lavender’s use dates back to Ancient Egypt, where the dried flowers were used to treat infections and heal wounds.
Modern day uses for lavender are endless. You can use it to repel insects, heal wounds, and treat skin infections. You can also use it as an alternative to benzodiazepines, as an anti-depressant, as a natural insect repellent, to reduce stress and improve sleep, and as a natural fragrance.