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Essential oils have become an integral part of natural health over the last few decades and we have seen an increase in a wide range of people employing lavender and its oil for a variety of uses. Lavender has been used across the globe for centuries and whether it is being used for its calming scent, cleansing properties or medical benefits, people from all over the planet (past and present) have found the joy in using lavender oil.
Lavender across the Globe
Lavender is said to have originated in Arabia but other sources suggest that lavender was used by the ancient Egyptian cultures before its use was recorded in the Arabian region. No matter where lavender was first used and recognized as a useful plant, research shows that by 600 BC, Greek traders had begun to trade the precious lavender plants to the Hyeres Islands of France. From the French islands, the lavender plant saw widespread growth and use, soon finding its way to the mainlands of France, Italy and Spain. Following Lavender’s spread through southern Europe, the America’s also saw the planting and growth of lavender when pilgrims traveled to what is now North America in the 1600’s.
Lavender Use throughout History
There are several time periods in history that refer to, use or implicate the use of lavender plants and lavender oil.
For many people the beginning of history starts with Adam and Eve. Many believe that the Bible calls lavender by the name Spikenard and that Eve brought it with her from the Garden of Eden to the rest of the world.
Ancient Egyptians were said to have used lavender during the mummification process of their great pharaohs and wealthy citizens. Lavender oil stills have been found among ancient machinery and it is said that the smell of lavender was used in many Egyptian perfumes. Medical salves also used lavender oil and were placed on the heads of the wealthy to heal and permeate their aurora with the sweet lavender smell. In King Tut’s (Tutankhamun) tomb, archeologists found large urns that smelt of lavender and mythology suggests that Julius Caesar and Mark Antony were each bewitched by Cleopatra while she was wearing lavender infused perfume.
The word "lavender" is believed to derive from “lavere,” a Latin verb meaning “to wash.” This is certainly believable because Greek and Roman cultures are said to have used lavender as a washing scent. Whether Lavender was used in public baths, in foot soaks or as a linen fragrance, it was certainly used “to wash” in these ancient cultures.
During the Medieval and Renaissance periods, the European people fell in love with lavender. Laundresses were referred to as "lavenders” at the time because they would wash clothing and then hang it to dry over lavender bushes, allowing the sweet lavender scent to permeate the clothing items. The European people also spread lavender plants across the stone laid floors of large manors or castles to deodorize as well as disinfect.
Royalty took a particular liking to lavender with Queen Elizabeth the 1st using it in her tea to rid herself of headaches, Henrietta Maria (the queen of King Charles the 1st) implementing it into her bathing routines as well as her potpourri and much later, Queen Victoria insisting that lavender be used to wash the floors and furniture.
Early Uses of Lavender for Healing
The first reported uses of Lavender for healing is suggested by the ancient Egyptians who used lavender oil is salves which were placed on their heads. However, no factual evidence of lavender oil being used for medical purposes is mentioned until the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries.
In 15th century England, Queen Elizabeth the 1st used lavender to help cure her headaches and in 16th century France, lavender was thought to protect a wearer from infection. However wide use of lavender oil for medical purposes wasn’t fully implemented until the 17th century during London’s Great Plague or as we would know it, the Black Plague. Those wishing to ward off the plague would wear lavender sprigs on their wrists or bathe in a liquid concoction called the "Four Thieves Vinegar." This of course contained lavender oil, which could have single-handedly repelled the fleas on which the disease lived and spread.
The Origin of Lavender and Aromatherapy
Lavender essential oil played a key role in the discovery and practice of the aromatherapy that we have today. In the early 20th century, a French perfume maker by the name of René-Maurice Gattefossé severely burned his hand. To soothe the burn he grabbed a bottle of the nearest perfume oil and treated his injury with it. That oil turned out to be essential lavender oil, which Gattefossé noticed healed his wound incredibly fast and reduced a large amount of scarring. This discovery, encouraged Gattefossé to research the healing properties of other essential plant oils he had and in 1937, he produced a book discussing his incredible findings. The book, Aromathérapie: Les Huiles Essentielles Hormones Végétales introduced his findings and when translated to English, gave the world the new term and health remedies of "Aromatherapy".
Although Aromatherapy may seem like a new age health trend, as we saw above, it has been around for centuries. However, the use of lavender oil in aromatherapy today is much more extensive than it has ever been throughout the lavender plant’s long, multicultural history. Today, the lavender plants can be found growing across the globe with their oils being harvested to meet a multitude of uses within and outside of aromatherapy.
Where Lavender Plants Are Found
Lavender plants can be found growing in most regions throughout the world including Western Iran, India, Arabia, the Mediterranean and the Americas as well as Europe. Science has discovered that these popular and global plants are a plant species made up from 39 different plants categorized within the mint family. Because lavender is made up of so many unique plant species and because of its easy cross pollination properties, it often appears in different forms across several different landscapes. Some lavender plants are found featuring jagged leaves while others have long and slender leaves displaying varying shades of lavender flowers. These plants can be found being cultivated on lavender farms or in the wild, growing freely.
Lavender farms can be found across the planet ranging from Australia to Asia, Europe to the United States. The country/region with the largest lavender production in the world is Bulgaria but the most popular lavender essential oil, Kashmir Lavender oil is produced and found at the base of the Himalayan Mountains. No matter where the lavender plants are found or what they look like, two things remain the same. First, the benefits of lavender essential oil are practically immeasurable and second that the oils are produced in the same way, through a distillation process of the floral lavender spikes.
How Lavender Oil is Produced
The production of essential lavender oil is fairly similar to that of essential peppermint oil. Much like the peppermint plants that are harvested and put into a steam distilling process, so are the lavender plants. Conventional lavender farms usually begin to harvest the plants at the beginning of September when the flowers are in just ending their full bloom. This allows them to have the highest potency in fragrance and oil production throughout the steam distillation process.
Using steel tanks and a temperature monitored steam process, the lavender farmers use stream distillation to extract lavender oil from the plants. The plants are first cut and harvested, then placed into large steel tanks that are connected to a stream filtration system. This system pushes the steam into the tanks, infiltrates the plants and causes the oil glands within the plant to erupt and be collected into the steam. The steam is then moved through a condenser which separates the steam from the oil, resulting in pure lavender essential oil to be used in households, foods and for medical purposes.
Implementing Lavender in Your Life
Essential lavender oil is implemented into daily life throughout the world for a variety of uses. Most of these uses can be condensed into the three unique categories of Health, Flavor and Household use. We will look into each of these categories and how lavender can be implemented and make a difference in your life.
Lavender for Health
Using lavender oil for your health is a common practice that has been around since Gattefossé’s 1937 book about the benefits of essential oils and aromatherapy. Now nearly 80 years later, we’ve found even more uses for lavender oil than was originally predicted. Some common health uses for essential lavender oil include:
We see adults and children utilize the benefits of lavender oil for better mental and physical health throughout the globe and we think we will continue to find more health benefits of lavender essential oil as time progresses.
Lavender Oil for Flavor and Scent
Many people use lavender oils to add flavor to food, resulting in improved health through lavenders benefits but also some truly amazing dishes. We’ve seen drinks, salads, Crème Brûlées, cookies and even pork chops flavored with lavender. The flavoring possibilities are endless with essential oils and lavender is no different, offering one delicious flavor to a variety of edible dishes.
The scent of lavender is one the most revered smells across the planet and we often find lavender oils being used in relaxing massages, in bars of soap and throughout several other products. New health trends promote using lavender for several purposes in the home and we are seeing many people complete DIY (do-it-yourself) projects using this essential oil.
The Household Uses for Lavender Oil
The benefits of using lavender oil in the home are practically innumerable. Lavender essential oil is perfect for repelling insects and pests as well as helping promote a relaxing and calm atmosphere within a home. Lavender has several health benefits and works as a great resource for quick healing of cuts and scrapes as well as boosting personal stamina and energy. For robust families or couples in their first house, lavender oil is recommended as a cleaner, a deodorizer, a healer and a calming smell within a home.
Essential Oil Precautions for Lavender
Essential oils are full of health benefits but because they come in such high concentrations, it is important to remember to dilute the oil for the best results. Non diluted lavender oil can be toxic in high amounts and we suggest that those interested in essential oil health never use the oils in excess or in undiluted amounts. Please remember to take the necessary precautions when using lavender essential oil to prevent dizziness, constipation and headaches. Follow exact instructions of oil dilution to reap the benefits of this incredible essential oil.
A Guide to Lavender Essential Oil
Essential oils have become an integral part of natural health over the last few decades (as well as centuries) and we continue to see a rise in interest about natural essential oil health practices and products. One of those products is the essential oil of lavender and those who are using it are seeing great results. Whether using it as the Romans did for bathing or for its medical purposes, lavender oil is yielding safe, natural and beneficial health outcomes for people all over the globe.