Lavender derives it's name from the Latin lavare, meaning to wash. It has been a favorite herb for centuries and has been in documented use for over two and a half thousand years. The Egyptian's used Lavender for mummification as well as perfume. The Greeks and Romans used Lavender scented water to bathe in, which is where it first took it's name from. The use of Lavender spread across Europe from Greece and is now commonly found and used around the world both in cooking and for medicinal purposes.
One of the most widely used types of Lavender is English Lavender. This was developed in the 1600 about the same time the first Lavender plants were making there way to the Americas. It was to gain royal status when Queen Elizabeth I of England commanded that the royal table should never be without Lavender conserve. She also valued Lavender for it's perfume and drank Lavender tea to help ease the pain of her migraines.
Another royal to favor Lavender was Queen Victoria of England. She was known for having it in every room and to be used in a variety of ways such as cleaning the floors and furniture as well as an air freshener. This in turn gave rise to it's popularity across the country.
To demonstrate how important an herb it was considered for it's medicinal qualities, it was used during the First World War by nurses to bathe soldiers' wounds. It has a long established tradition for being valued not only for it's scent, but as a remedy for many complaints and ailments. It is generally regarded as one of the most versatile essences therapeutically.
Lavender has a powerful calming scent that is now used in a vast range of perfumes, cosmetics and soaps or in it's natural state in Lavender bags or as dried flower decorations. The essential oil in the flowers has a sedative, calming effect. This is why it is widely used to relax muscles, calm the nerves, ease anxiety and help to promote a good nights sleep.
Lavender For Medicinal Use
As an essential oil, Lavender can be used to treat a huge variety of ailments and should be an essential component of any first aid box. It is one of the most useful skin care oils. Not only does it have excellent antiseptic properties but it is also very mild to the skin. Due to it's healing as well as analgesic properties, it can be used to bring instant relief to sunburn, preventing blistering. it also relieves heat rash or red and sore skin. By using a lotion of 12 drops of lavender essential oil in 1 tablespoon of distilled water dabbed gently onto the area it is very soothing. It can also be applied neat to insects bites and stings.
Taking Lavender as a tea or tincture has soothing effects on the central nervous system. It is thought to help to slow nerve reactions, ease pain and irritability and calm nervous tension. It is most effective for sleeping disorders. Drinking a cup of Lavender tea an hour before bed acts as a mild sedative. It can also aid digestion, relieving intestinal spasms.
Lavender is very useful for use with children as it has such a pleasant smell. It is particularly useful in the treatment of head lice in children as commercial products can be very harmful and unpleasant to use. To treat head lice, dilute 5-10 drops of oil in water or use neat on a fine tooth comb.
For painful muscles dilute 1ml Lavender in 25ml carrier oil such as sweet almond oil, and massage into painful muscles. For relief of a tension headache or the first sign of a migraine, dilute 10 drops in 25ml of carrier oil and massage into the temples and nape of the neck.
These are only a few of the many ailments that Lavender is used for. The list is vast and includes many skin problems such as eczema, athlete's foot, wounds etc. It is also used for muscular problems, respiratory conditions, digestive and nervous system complaints. It is no wonder that Lavender has remained so popular throughout the ages.
Lavender In Cooking
Although thought of mainly for it's medicinal properties, it is also an incredibly versatile herb for cooking. Fresh edible flowers are making a comeback in many fashionable restaurants as well as being used as an ingredient. It can both enhance the flavor as well as the appearance of the food. Adding Lavender to a dish or drink as a garnish can give it that 'wow' factor.
Both flowers and leaves can be used in food preparation. They can be used fresh or dried. There are many different varieties of Lavender but English Lavender has the best and sweetest fragrance of all the different types. It has a sweet, floral flavor with lemon and citrus notes. If using in cooking note that dried Lavender increases in potency, so less should be used. If new to cooking with Lavender start with a small amount and experiment, as adding too much will be like eating perfume and make your food taste bitter.
The flowers can add a beautiful color to salads and other dishes. It can be used as a substitute to rosemary in recipes such as bread. To use in cakes or custards, grind the Lavender in a coffee or similar grinder and place in a sealed jar with sugar. This adds a wonderful flavor to your baking.
Apart from Lavender being one of the most versatile and useful of herbs in both cooking and for medicinal purposes, it is also a wonderful herb to grow in your garden for it's scent and beauty alone. It can provide an attraction for bees to your garden as well as create an all year round supply of home remedies. This is certainly an herb that no home should be without.