Lavender is more than just a calming scent that you’ll find in many lotions, shampoo products and candles. While its aromatic fragrance sends us to a relaxed state of mind, lavender offers many different uses – most of which we don’t expect.
The botanical name for lavender is Lavendula angustifolia and comes from the Latin word “lavare” which means “to wash.” In ancient times, lavender was used for mummification and perfume by the Egyptians. The Greeks and Romans bathed in lavender-scented water, which is when lavender got its name.
Queen Elizabeth I of England used lavender perfume and drank lavender tea to calm headaches, while Queen Victoria of England had lavender in every room and used it to freshen the air and her linens. And during World War I, nurses bathed soldiers’ wounds with lavender washes.
Lavender grows abundantly in fields along the Mediterranean shores of Europe, mostly France. It grows in several different varieties and belongs to the mint family, close to rosemary, thyme and sage. The most common type is English lavender.
There are many benefits of lavender, much more that most expect. According to Natural News, this herb’s anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiseptic properties, make it an effective wound treatment. Lavender stimulates the cells of a wound to regenerate more quickly and prevent scarring. It’s also useful for treating headaches, insomnia, fever blisters, acne, disrupted digestion and even anxiety, stress and depression. It’s also a detoxifier and kills germs.
Since fresh lavender is not always easily accessible, some use lavender oil. The versatile oil calms, revitalizes and balances the mind and the body. It is popular in spa treatments and is used through inhalation (which helps oxygenate blood), massage, bath and shower and personal skin care products.
You can apply diluted lavender oil to bacteria-infected wounds or nails. You can also add a drop of organic oil under the tongue to help clear stuffy noses. In addition to treating these ailments, lavender also helps with the following:
While this oil may be addicting to inhale, try not to go overboard – too much can be toxic to any system. As long as you use it sparingly, this “wonder oil” will be your new best friend.
Fresh lavender, particularly English lavender, is not only a beautiful garnish to your dinner plate, but also edible. Even in today’s upscale restaurants, fresh edible flowers are making a comeback as a flavor enhancement and presentation piece. If you’re having a dinner party, drop some leaves in a glass of champagne or as a garnish for sorbet or ice cream. The taste is a pleasant surprise, featuring sweet floral and citrus notes.
Flowers and leaves can be used fresh and both buds and stems can be used dried. The sweetest among all the lavenders is the English Lavender, so this one is the most commonly used in cooking. You can also add lavender oil as a flavor booster. Lavender oil is great in sparkling water, desserts, raw chocolate and salad dressing. With these many uses (aside from its medicinal benefits), it makes sense to just keep a bottle with you.
For those feeling ambitious, try this lavender cake that includes blackberries, coconut, dates, vanilla and lavender leaves. If you cook with lavender using dried leaves, start with a small amount of flowers and add more as you go. Adding too much, will be like eating perfume – bitter and far from tasty!
Lavender recipes choices are infinite, so let your imagination run wild. Keep in mind not to eat flowers from florists or nurseries. Oftentimes these are sprayed with pesticides and aren’t meant to be consumed.
Whether you use lavender in a delectable dish, spa treatment, scent for the home or for health benefits, this is one herb that you don’t want to “leaf” behind.