- Family Labiatae
- Lavandula officinalis syn. Lavandula angustifolia
- Garden Lavender, French Lavender, True Lavender, Aljucema (Spanish)
Native to France and the western Mediterranean, it is now cultivated worldwide for its volatile oil. It is grown as a garden plant as far north as Norway. Lavender is a perennial shrub, growing to about three feet, producing spikes of violet-blue flowers that extend above the foliage. Some varieties have flowers of pale pink, dark purple, white, or magenta and are harvested toward the end of flowering season when the petals have begun to fade. They are generally picked by the end of July to obtain maximum strength in its essential oils, with sixty pounds of flowers yielding about sixteen fluid ounces of oil.
One of the most popular medicinal herbs since ancient times, its name is derived from the Latin lavare, meaning to wash. The Greeks and Romans were fond of it in their bath water.
Since ancient times, the oil has been used to kill lice and fleas and as an embalming fluid.
In Arab medicine, it was used as an expectorant and antispasmodic
In European folk medicine, it was regarded as a useful wound herb and a worm remedy for children.
It became popular as a medicine during the late Middle Ages and taken to the New World by Pilgrims in 1620.
As a strewing herb, lavender was popularly used to mask the smells of households and streets.
The glovers of Grasse used the oil to scent their fashionable leather and were remarkably free of the plague. This encouraged others to use the herb to ward off the pestilence.
The medical properties of lavender have been noted in the earliest English herbals and in the British Pharmacopoeia for about 250 years.
You can find Lavender in these itineraries: