Lavender Essential Oil : The Story of Lavender
Won’t you buy my sweet blooming lavender,
Sixteen branches one penny,
Ladies fair make no delay,
I have your lavender fresh today.
Buy it once, you’ll buy it twice,
It makes your clothes smell sweet and nice.
It will scent your pocket handkerchiefs,
sixteen branches for one penny.
As I walk through London streets
I have your lavender nice and sweet,
Sixteen branches for a penny.
Lavender Sellers’s Cry, London
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender is a flowering plant in the mint family, and Lavendula Angustifolia, is the most widely cultivated species. It is incredibly fragrant and versatile, and usually harvested at the end of july which is the end of its flowering season, just when the petals are beginning to fade and the plant can best yield maximum strength essential oils. It takes around 150lbs of lavender to produce 1lb of pure lavender essential oil.
The bright aromatic flowers are turned into essential oil after being laid on a grid with steam passed through them The plant essence from the flowers is released in the form of a vapour, which is then cooled in tanks to make the essential oil.
Lavender is a perennial shrub and grows to around 3 feet with violet blue spikes of petals extending above the foliage. Some lavender species have different colour petals ranging from pale pink, dark purple, white and magenta.
Throughout history lavender has been valued and appreciated for its impressive healing properties and has been used for over 2500 years.
The Ancient Romans, Greeks and Persians added the lavender flowers to their baths to help wash and purify the skin. Its very name comes from the Latin “lavare”, which means “to wash”. The Romans also used it as a perfume, in their cooking and as medicine. It is believed the Romans brought lavender to Britain.
The Greeks also used lavender essential oil for throat infections, chest complaints and constipation.
The Egyptians, Arabians and Phoenicians used this beautiful plant, with its sweet, floral and slightly woody scent, as a perfume and in the mummification process. The bodies of their dead were wrapped in lavender-dipped garments.
Cleopatra is said to have applied lavender oils to her body, and that its fragrance helped seduce Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.
The monasteries are credited with preserving the use of lavender, and other herbs, throughout the Dark Ages as the first recorded use of lavender by the monks is recorded as early as 1301.
In medieval times, lavender was spread over the stone castle floors to act as a natural deodorant and disinfectant.
The washerwomen of the 16th century were sometimes called “lavenders” as they used lavender in their washing or dried the laundry on lavender bushes. Lavender was used to scent drawers and chests to prevent moths, and used over bedding or placed in pillows to keep bed bugs away.
During the Great Plague of 17th century London, people wore lavender flowers around their waists, or tied to each wrist to ward off infection.
English farmers wore lavender buds in their hats to prevent sunstroke.
During World War 1, lavender essential oil was used as an antiseptic and disinfectant in treating the soldiers’ wounds, and sterilising medical equipment. Civilians were encouraged to gather all the lavender they could to send to the soldiers at the Front where medicine was in heartbreakingly short supply.
It was hung in bags in homes to freshen the air, and sometimes mixed with charcoal to clean teeth.
Why It’s So Good?
Lavender Essential Oil is
- a natural antibiotic
- a natural antiseptic
- a sedative
- helps treat minor burns and scalds
- helps treat cuts and grazes
- helps soothe dermatitis
- helps soothe eczema
- helps soothe acne
- helps treat boils
Most other essential oils need to be diluted in a carrier or base oil, but lavender is so gentle it can be used neat in some circumstances.
A drop on the cushion pad of a plaster, for example, can offer protection to the skin from infection and speed up the healing process.
And, a drop in the bath or on the pillow at night -time can help you have a restful sleep.
It is great when added to a massage blend as it helps muscular pain whether caused by tension, rheumatism or exercise.
Acne seems to respond well to lavender essential oil as it inhibits the bacteria that cause the initial infection and it helps regulate the over-secretion of pore clogging sebum.
Lavender and Irish Customs
Many of our wedding traditions date back to Celtic customs. Lavender was regarded as a symbol of love, devotion, loyalty and good luck. Sprigs of lavender were placed in the flowers of the bride to ensure a long-lasting and happy union.
The Birth of Modern Day Aromatherapy
At the beginning of this century, the natural healing benefits of lavender were experienced by a chemist, René Maurice Gattefossé who was working in his father’s perfume and cosmetic factory when a small explosion occurred. Gattefossé’s hand was burnt and he immediately immersed it in the nearest tub of liquid, which happened to be neat lavender oil. To his astonishment, his hand quickly healed and showed no sign of scarring or infection.
This experience led Gattefossé to further investigate the healing properties of lavender essential oil, and he began to organise research on the medicinal qualities and benefits of lavender and other essential oils and in 1937 published Aromathérapie, and so aromatherapy became part of the 20th century.
Did You Know?
When Howard Carter, the English Egyptologist first entered the tomb of King Tutankhamun in 1923, the lavender contained in urns still released some of its fragrance 3000 years after the burial of the boy King.