All about Lavender

What is Lavender, where does it derive from, potential health benefits?

The English word lavender is generally thought to be derived from Old French lavandre, ultimately from the Latin lavare (to wash), referring to the use of infusions of the plants. Lavandula (common name lavender) is a genus of 39 known species of flowering plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae.

The most common form in cultivation is the common or English lavender, Lavendula angustifolia
(formerely named L. officinalis). As a result of cultivated forms being
planted in gardens worldwide, they are occasionally found growing wild
as garden escapes, well beyond their natural range.

Lavender is native to the Mediterranean areas where it grows in
sunny, stony habitats. Today is flourishes throughout Southern Europe,
in countries such as Spain, France, Italy, it is also found from Cape
Verde, to the Canary Islands, across to northern and eastern Africa, the
Mediterranean, south west Asia to south west India, Australia, and the
United States.

Many members of the genus are cultivated extensively in temperate
climates as ornamental plants, for garden and landscape use, for use as
herbs, and also commercially for the extraction for essential oils,
additionally for florist use, including dried lavender.

Lavender flower spikes are often used for dried flower arrangements,
the fragrant pale purple flowers and flower buds are used in pot-pourris
as well as items such as bouquets. Lavender is also extensively used as
a herbal filler inside sachets to freshen linens. Dried and sealed in
pouches, such as lavender bags, are often placed among stored items of
clothing to give a fresh fragrance and to deter moths. It is also
popular in scented waters, and sachets.

In folklore, pillows were filled with lavender flowers to help
restless people fall to sleep. Scientific evidence suggests that
aromatherapy with lavender may slow the activity of the nervous system,
improve sleep quality, promote relaxation and lift mood in people
suffering from sleep disorders.

A number of studies have reported that lavender may be beneficial in a
variety of conditions, including insomnia, alopecia, anxiety, stress,
and postoperative pain. Most of these studies have been small. Lavender
is also being studied for antibacterial and antiviral properties. In
Germany, lavender flowers have been approved as tea for insomnia,
restlessness and nervous stomach irritations.

Commercial preparations are made from dried flowers and essential
oils of the lavender plant. These preparations are available in the
following forms:

  • Aromatherapy oil
  • Bath gels
  • Extracts
  • Infusions
  • Lotions
  • Soaps
  • Teas
  • Tinctures
  • Whole flowers, along with dried flowers

If you are pregnant you should seek advice from your doctor before
using lavender, it is advised currently that pregnant and breastfeeding
women should avoid using lavender.