The year is 1910. René-Maurice Gattefossé is a French perfumer; a chemist in the employ of a perfume company, to create new fragrances. This fateful day, René burns his hand rather badly. So the legend goes, he accidentally douses his hand in lavender oil and marvels as the pain goes away. 17 years later, he publishes Aromathérapie: Les Huiles Essentielles, Hormones Végétales and, it is said, fathers contemporary aromatherapy.
From that point, Lavender Essential Oil has remained a popular aromatherapy selection for over a century. So popular, in fact, that it is cultivated globally for its essential oil. Thanks to a booming industry, products from soaps to candles to air fresheners can be easily found with the real essential oil. However, even as possibly the most famous aromatherapy fragrance, the plant itself retains some anonymity.
There are, in fact, many species of Lavender. The species best preferred for its oil quality is Lavandula angustifolia. The oil’s sweet scent with earthy notes is widely recognized, even when the name is not. Known by the common name of English Lavender, this pleasant shrub has a long history of medicinal use.
Despite the name, English Lavender does not come from England. It is actually native to the mountainous western regions of the Mediterranean Basin, such as the Pyrenees Mountains and Provence. It is a sun-loving shrub in the Mint family that prefers well-draining soils and thrives with infrequent watering. While beautifully aromatic when it flowers in the summer, the thin, woolly leaves also release a sweet fragrance when rubbed or crushed. It is an excellent pick for xeroscaping and herbal gardens.
While well known for fighting irritation and anxiety, herbals through the centuries point out other uses for this truly remarkable plant. The essential oil itself is actually more than just a stress reliever. Massages involving the essential oil are said to have additional benefits to the skin, muscles and nerves. It is known to be a calming, effective antiseptic for the treatment of skin irritations, burns, and even abrasions.
When using the fresh or dried herb, teas and tinctures are common. Both are said to make an excellent mouthwash, probably owing to its antiseptic qualities in fighting halitosis and gum infections. Such extractions may also be good remedies for various digestive ailments, as well as nerve-related complaints. Along with Lavender floral waters, the tea can also be used as a freshening spray for linens to repel fleas. Even the dried plant itself makes delightful, sweet and earthy incense.
This brief look has hinted at the lofty history of English Lavender, and its scenic, warm native climes. We even took a look at its wonderful medicinal and therapeutic value. Any way you look at it, English Lavender is a great ornamental, medicinal, and low maintenance herb.
Disclaimer: It is highly recommended to consult a Naturalist or Aromatherapist before starting an herbal treatment. Essential oils, as a rule, are not for internal consumption. When working with essential oils and raw herbs, check for allergies before a reaction can occur.