Lavender has been treasured and loved for centuries due its many beneficial health properties and its one of a kind scent! Some of lavender’s medicinal actions include: alleviating stress headaches, reducing pain, healing skin conditions, promoting sleep, and bringing about a peaceful state of mind. With so many beneficial, medicinal properties it is no surprise that lavender remains one of the most popular herbs.
Lavender is a member of the lamiaceae (mint) family, which is made up of many aromatic culinary herbs, including basil, mint, sage, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, and thyme. Lavandula is the plant’s genus, which is derived from the Latin word “to wash.” Due to the herb’s clean and fresh scent, the Romans used this herb to scent their baths, beds, clothes, and even hair! There are over 39 Lavandula species and, within the species, over 400 varieties!
Lavender is a perennial plant, meaning it can live for more than two years and we do not have to replant the herb each season. This herb falls into the shrub category, which is used to describe plants that have multiple main stems arising near the ground. Each summer the plant flowers and each winter the plant dies back. The reason lavender is able to continuously grow back is due to the fact that it has a rootstock. This part of the plant contains an underground stem with a healthy root system from which new growth can be produced. The first year of this herb’s life is dedicated to developing this root system. After the first year, lavender grows at a steady pace, producing plenty of flowers and returning each year. At full growth the herb can reach up to 3 feet tall!
We begin harvesting our lavender plants after 3 year-long growth cycles when the herb is mature and bears many flowers. Harvesting typically takes place in the spring and can be repeated up to 3 times due to the continuous growth of flowers. Lavender must be harvested before the flowers open, while the petals are still closed. We collect the stems and place them on trays, where they air dry for 3-5 days. Once completely dried, we then separate the flowers one by one from their stem by hand.
Lavender is native to the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions and has historically played many roles. The use of lavender goes as far back as the ancient Egyptians, who used lavender oil in their mummification rituals. Roman legions carried lavender in their first aid kits to use as a disinfectant. In Elizabethan times, lavender was considered a lover’s flower, similar to the way the rose is viewed today. Queen Elizabeth I required that lavender jelly always be present on her dining table. Lavender eventually made its way to the New World in 1620 by crossing the ocean with the pilgrims.
One of the many ways lavender can be used for its medicinal properties is topically, meaning on the surface of the skin. Skin conditions such as dryness, acne, eczema and dermatitis can all be alleviated with the use of lavender. Tannins are the active compounds found in lavender that have astringent properties. “Astringent” refers to how lavender aids in the skin-healing process of coagulation by contracting the skin tissue. Folks who have acne are often advised to use astringents if they have oily skin. Lavender oil can be used to ease muscle pain, arthritis and neuritis (nerve pain) through its “rubefacient” properties, which describe how the capillaries become dilated and increase circulation, therefore aiding in alleviating pain. The herb is also said to soothe bee stings and burns, making it a wonderful first aid remedy. Lavender has antiseptic properties due to the presence of active compounds known as flavonoids. Flavonoids are known to possess anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties.
When lavender is ingested there are a variety of medicinal properties that differ from health benefits gained through topical application. Lavender is a nervine, meaning it positively impacts the nervous system by promoting natural sleep, alleviating stress headaches, and soothing nerves. The herb also aids in healthy digestion, relieves flatulence, prevents bloating and soothes stomach pain. Lavender is also antiemetic, which means that it aids in the prevention of vomiting and nausea, therefore useful in treating motion sickness.
Here at the Moon Valley Organics farmacy, we recently planted a variety of lavender plants for a new line of herbal tea infusions currently in development. At the moment, we are in the very exciting tasting stage, working on creating the perfect cup of tea; balanced in both flavor and health benefits. We are also very pleased to share that we have a new lavender Moon Melt Lotion Bar which will be offered during our test run exclusively online and at Pike Place Market. Other Moon Valley products that contain lavender include our Rejuvenation Rub, Peppermint Foot Rub, Lavender Calendula Cleansing Body Bar, Mint Sea Mineral Cleansing Body Bar, and Mint Lavender Foaming Liquid Hand Soap. We love adding lavender to our products for the amazing scent and health benefits it provides you with.