A well-loved Mediterranean herb, this English lavender has been associated with cleanliness ever since Romans added it to their washing water. In fact, the word comes from the Latin word lavare ("to wash") and is the root for the word "lavatory." Lavender remained a popular facial water from the 14th through the 19th centuries. The formula for the modern lavender water by Yardley adds attar of rose, musk and neroli. Today, Mitcham lavender of Surrey, England, produces an excellent quality oil. It is among the safest and most widely used oils in aromatherapy. When in doubt, use lavender!
Family: Lamiaceae (Labiatae)
Extraction: Distilled from flowers. Absolute, concrete. The odor is sweet floral and herbal, with balsamic undertones. The term "40-percent ester," often seen on lavender oil, means that it has a high ester content-boosted, if necessary, with natural esters that have been extracted from lavender.
Medicinal Action: Lavender treats lung, sinus and vaginal infections, including candida. It is an excellent treatment for laryngitis and asthma. It relieves muscle pain, headaches, insect bites, cystitis and other inflammation. It also treats digestive disturbances, including colic, and helps boost immunity.
Cosmetic/Skin Use: Lavender is suitable for all skin types. A cell regenerator that prevents scarring and stretch marks, it has a reputation for slowing wrinkles. It is used on burns, sun-damaged skin, wounds, rashes and skin infections.
Emotional Attribute: Nervousness, exhaustion, insomnia, irritability, depression and even manic depression are addressed by lavender. It is specific for central-nervous-system problems. For centuries, lavender was brought into the birthing room and made into baby pillows. Old texts say it "raises the spirit," and Victorian women revived themselves with lavender-filled "swooning pillows." William Turner suggested in his Herbal that lavender could "comfort the braine." A balancing oil, it both relaxes and stimulates.
Lavandin (L. x intermedia or L. x hybrida) --This is English lavender crossed with spike lavender. Such strains-such as Abrial, Super, Grosso (the most productive and common), Standard and Maime Epis Tˆte-have a slightly camphorous fragrance that is less refined than their parent lavenders. About 20 times more of the less-expensive lavandin is produced than true English lavender, which is more difficult to cultivate. Lavandin has similar, but less pronounced, healing properties; use it for muscle pain, and as a disinfectant and deodorant.
Spike Lavender (L. latifolia) --Sometimes called aspic, this camphorous species relieves congestion and is good for acne. It has a high yield, so is less expensive. It is grown mostly in Spain.
Stoechas Lavender (L. stoechas) --This oil is said to heal wounds and reduce inflammation, but is more toxic than other lavenders-so use cautiously.