Lavender (Lavandula L. 1753) belongs to a genus of annual or perennial herbaceous plants widely used for their perfume and essential oil.

Origins and History –
Lavender is undoubtedly among the most known and appreciated plants of the whole Mediterranean area and with very ancient history; its use dates back to the time of the Greeks, where it was known as “Nardo” from the name of the city from which it was believed to have originated.
Roman civilization benefited greatly from this essence, which was widely used for the fragrance of the waters of the thermal baths, in preparations intended for the care of the body and the sanitation of the rich domus. It is no coincidence that the name Lavanda originates from the Latin term “wash”, as a sign of its wide use for domestic use for deodorising and perfuming purposes.
A popular legend says that lavender is an effective antidote against the poisonous bite of snakes and recommends rubbing the flowers soaked in water on the wounded area. In fact, hunters used to use it to treat their dogs.
In addition to being an antidote, lavender has always been indicated as a favorite nest by snakes and the ancients approached it with great caution. Hence the meaning of lavender in the language of flowers, synonymous with distrust. In the Middle Ages and in the eighteenth century it was sprinkled on the floor to perfume the environment and repel parasites.
Lavender essential oil in particular owes the launch of an important branch of phytotherapy.
Rene-Maurice Gattefossé, one of the founding fathers of modern aromatherapy in fact, after an explosion in his laboratory he began, almost by chance, to use this essential oil for the treatment of some wounds, obtaining excellent results that led him to expand more and more his studies on essential oils and all their therapeutic activities.
There are three very common types of this plant belonging to the vast family of Lamiaceae: the “true” Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia Miller), which is the most valuable in herbal terms; Lavender latifolia (Lavandula latifolia Medik., 1783) and the sink (Lavandula × intermedia Emeric ex Loisel.) which is a natural hybrid between the two previous species. This hybrid with larger dimensions than true Lavender is particularly widespread in the Italian territory and has an essence similar to the latter, but with a much more camphoric aroma.
As of 2011, the country with the highest production of lavender essential oil is Bulgaria.

Description –
The species of this genus have a shrubby or sub-shrubby or bushy-shrubby habit or rarely herbaceous of short duration.
These are highly aromatic plants with a garment that can be hairless or variously pubescent, sometimes with starry hair.
The roots are mostly woody.
The stems are generally erect and branched or simple; they are not rigid with reddish-brown or evergreen barks.
The leaves along the caule are arranged opposite; often found collated at the base of the plant. The leaves are colored in ashy green. The lamina can be whole linear, lanceolate or pennatifida / pennatosetta.
The inflorescences are terminal with the flowers grouped in thin thyrsoid spikes at the end of long scapes. In the inflorescence there are persistent bracts, sometimes even colored and arranged in an opposite or spiral way; while the bracts are minute or absent. The number of flowers arranged in whorls varies from 2 to 10 or just one but in this case without bracts. The flowers are sessile or pedicellated.
The drug, that is the part of the plant containing the active ingredients, is made up of the flowering tops, which are collected with the whole stem after fading, at which time the plant is richer in aromatic substances.

Active principles –
An essential oil is extracted from Lavender by distillation of the flowers of some species. Two types are distinguished, the lavender flower oil, a colorless substance, insoluble in water and with a density of 0.885 g / mL; and the toothed lavender oil, a distillate from the Lavandula latifolia plant, with a density of 0.905 g / mL. Like all essential oils, it is not a pure compound but a complex mixture of natural phytochemical compounds, including linalool and linalyl acetate, lavandulil acetate, sink and cineol.
The essential oil has some therapeutic properties, including relaxing, antidepressant and healing properties.

Properties and Uses –
Lavender flowers are used to pack scented bags (rather small) to be inserted in the linen, they can be made with paper or canvas bags, or compositions can be made to be inserted in small glass vases where the elegant can be combined perfume of lavender to beauty for its very characteristic violet color.
Another process to which lavender can be subjected is that of steam distillation to obtain lavender essential oil using freshly picked flowers, a yellow liquid is obtained, with a bitter taste and a particularly intense fragrance.
Some of these substances give lavender a calming effect, making lavender oil an excellent remedy for insomnia, irritability, headache, migraine and mild depression. This calming property makes lavender essential oil indicated in the treatment of some cases of asthma, especially if strongly related to the nervous system. Against infectious diseases affecting the respiratory system, the lavender plant develops an expectorant and fluidifying action, for which it can be used to combat coughs, bronchitis and laryngitis. Other substances contained in lavender essential oil have a calming effect on colic, help eliminate intestinal gas and swelling and attenuate the feeling of nausea caused by indigestion. excellent first aid remedy, lavender essential oil is highly antiseptic and healing if applied to sunburns, wounds, sores and insect bites. Finally, lavender essential oil performs an effective repellent action on insects, removing them both from our bodies and from closed places or from plants.
Furthermore, thanks to the action on the CNS (central nervous system), carried out by the volatile molecules contained in the essential oil, it is particularly suitable in states of restlessness and sleep disturbances. For this purpose it is also found in sedative and relaxing herbal teas added to other plants such as: Valerian, Hops, Passiflora, Escolzia, Chamomile and Melissa; but also more simply in the common and practical herbal pillows. The beneficial and healing effect should also not be forgotten.

Preparations –
For those who cultivate lavender, the moment of harvest is a very delicate phase, because although lavender does not require much care during cultivation, it has a precise ritual to follow during the harvest. Generally all the tops with flowers are collected which are normally used after a drying process, to be carried out in a closed, cool, shady and very ventilated place to favor a quick process that brings optimal results. If the drying is carried out in a workmanlike manner, the floral spikes will have the ability to maintain their perfume for a long time.
To produce lavender essential oil with the raw material of your garden, some small purchases will be necessary which, at an amateur level, can also be addressed with an affordable expense. The first purchase to be made is that of the essential oil distiller. In if you find different models with different characteristics and according to your real needs you can make the purchase that best suits you.
The distiller is essential for boiling lavender inflorescences and extracting essential oils from lavender water. The extraction is a not difficult process to carry out even if it requires a little practice, a little time and as much patience.
At the end of each cycle you can collect the extracted oil in special vials in which to store your lavender essential oil. On the net you will find many tutorials on the use of distillers and on the production of essential oils and once you have learned the procedure you can replicate the extraction with many other types of aromatic herbs.
Lavender essential oil is also an excellent natural remedy for stretch marks, cellulite and orange peel skin. It can be added to any type of cosmetic and adapts to all skin types.
In addition, the infusion of flowers, used for gargling, is an excellent disinfectant and refreshes the breath. The essential oil gives a pleasant relief in case of insect bites.
Among the various practical uses we mention the use of lavender as a perfume for bath water that has very ancient origins. A light infusion is an excellent degreaser for the hair while the oil applied by massaging the scalp, seems to promote regrowth. The light infusion can be prepared by macerating about 5 g of dried flowers in 1 dl of water while for the oil the same quantity is macerated in 1 dl of olive oil.
To prepare an astringent tonic it is recommended to make a mixture of three quarters of lavender flowers and a quarter of iris root powder, let it rest for about 20 days in apple cider vinegar, and then filter it.
In addition to cosmetic and therapeutic uses, lavender is also used in the kitchen.
Lavender can be used as an aroma for wine to be served fresh. The lavender-flavored wine is prepared by letting 6 g of dried flowers macerate in a bottle of white wine for a day, after which it is filtered and about 10 g of sugar previously boiled in a cup of water and a glass of brandy are added.
Alternatively, lavender flowers can be added to jams, tea, our desserts and there are those who even make lavender risotto. There are mixtures of Provencal herbs on the market that always contain both flowers and lavender leaves mixed with other Mediterranean herbs and can be used perfect for flavoring fresh cheeses, vegetables, salads, grilled meats and the first creamed meats.

Guido Bissanti

Warning: The information shown is not medical advice and may not be accurate. The contents are for illustrative purposes only and do not replace medical advice.

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