This article is from the Herb Reference series.
In biblical times Lavender was known as nardos, or mard, and Pliny recounts that the Romans payed as much as a hundred denarii a pound for the blossoms. The Latin name Lavandula derives from the verb lavare, "to wash," for even in those times it was a favorite bath scent. From the time of the Tudors until today it has remained the primary ingredient in many soaps, perfumes, and colognes. The flowers are still used in country districts as a filling for sweet bags and sachets to place among the linens. Not only do they impart their fragrance, but they also serve as an excellent moth deterrent. Herbalists of Gerard's day used lavender a lot as a condiment for flavoring dishes to comfort the stomache. It is now considered to posses aromatic and stimulating properties, suitable for the gentle relief of fatigue when used externally in a bath sachet or taken internally as an infusion.Habitat:
Lavender is a hardy shrub originally indigenous to the Mediterranean area but now cultivated in gardens all over the world.Description:
L. angustafolia ( L. officinalis, L. spica, L. vera ):Properties:
Stems: The angular grey-green stems have a flaking bark.
Flowers: The lavender purple ( of course ) flowers are tubular, have a five lobed corolla, a five toothed calyx, and grow in whorls of six to ten flowers on six to eight inch terminal spikes.
Leaves: The silver-grey leaves are opposite, smooth edged, somewhat hairy, and grow to two inches long.
Fruit: Four dark grey-brown, shiny nutlets.
Height: to 3 feet
Flowers: Grow in short spike like clusters topped with a tuft of petal like bracts. Will bloom almost continually in areas where winters are mild.
Leaves: Narrow, grey-green, with square toothed edges, grow to 1 1/2 in.
L. d. candicans:
Leaves: Somewhat larger than L. dentata. Has a dense greyish white down on young foliage.
These are hybrids between L. angustafolia and L. latifolia. There are several varieties. "Provence" is the one used in France for perfumery
Stems: Covered with a white woolly down
Flowers: Deep purple in color in spikes 1-4 in. long.
Leaves: Also covered in thick white down. Grow to 2 in. by 1/2 in.
Looks much like L. angustafolia.
Flowers: Stalks are frequently branched.
Leaves: Broader than L. agustafolia.
L. pinnata buchii, L. canariensis, L. multifida:
These three are very similar. They will bloom almost all year 'round and do well in containers where winters are harsh.
Flowers: The tall stalks branch near the top, with each branch having a short spike of deep purple flowers.
Leaves: Deeply cut, almost fern like.
Flowers: Are dark purple and grow in short, dense spikes topped with a tuft of large, petal like bracts.
Leaves: Grey. 1/2 to 1 inch long.
Height: Stocky. 1 1/2 to 3 feet.
Cultivation: Lavender can be planted from seed in April, but the seeds take a long time to germinate. It is generally far easier to take cuttings or divide off roots from a parent plant. Root division should take place in spring, but cuttings can be taken at any time of the year. Make sure you take the cuttings from the newer shoots of the old bush. Plant them securely in well-drained, sandy soil in a sunny place, watering them well until they have begun to sprout. Once they develop into a bush, prune the long flower stems back after flowering to ensure a strong, healthy growth the following year. Lavender can make a very fragrant and attractive garden hedge.
Lavender is rich in essential oils, notably linalool, cineol, pinene, limonene, geraniol, and borneol. It also contains a small amount of tannin.Uses:Antispasmodic Anti emetic Carminative Sedative Stomachic
A pleasant way to relieve nervous tension and exhaustion, is to infuse 1 teaspoon dried, bruised lavender in 1 covered cup of boiling water for 15 minutes. Strain and flavor with honey if desired. Drink upto 1 cup per day.