Lavender. What does one have to say about lavender that hasn’t been said, promoted, and/or passed along already? I love lavender, of course, but I’ll admit that it is not at the top of the list for me anymore. It’s still a go to for many things, but, over the years as I’ve learned more and more about other herbs and essential oils, it has become something I use blended with other oils rather than by itself.
This is one herb that I have started from seed with great success. I have grown it in a multitude of different growing situations, from direct sunlight to full shade, well-drained soil to a bit more moist. Too moist will rot the roots. Though there are many different strains and types of lavender, I have only grown one variety, my husband’s favorite: Munstead aka English Lavender.
Did you know that there are over 39 different lavender species with over 400 different varieties?! Though most of the lavender seen growing in yards and gardens, and promoted on tv, are differing shades of purple, lavender can come in whites, pinks, red, yellow, and spring green. I’ll admit that there is a part of me that would like to grow a few plants in each color just to see the collage, and, perhaps, I will.
Other than being beautiful in the garden or flower bed or in borders, lavender has quite a few uses. The lavender plant is used in baking, gourmet cooking, in lotions, tea, tinctures, and, of course, there is the essential oil. I almost always have lavender essential oil on hand and I tend to be a bit of a snob when it comes to selecting which lavender oil to buy. If I don’t immediately feel the calming, centering effects of the oil after one whiff, if I get distracted by an undertone I’m more focused on trying to identify, I won’t buy it. Luckily, I know of some great oil vendors relatively close to me.
Lavender has many health benefits. Have a tough cold? Place a few drops of lavender essential oil in an oil burner, diffuser, or apply directly to the skin at the neck, chest and shoulders to help ease breathing and nasal congestion. The stimulating properties of lavender with help with the elimination of phlegm and its antibacterial properties will help with healing respiratory infections.
This herb is another one classified as being a potent bug repellent. The benefits of this are two-fold: apply a little to exposed skin to aid in keeping mosquitos away and, on the off-chance you do get bitten, the anti-inflammatory properties of the oil will aid in reducing the skin irritation from the bite. I use lavender essential oil, along with cedar wood, lemongrass, tea tree, and eucalyptus essential oils, in a spray that I mix for the dogs to help them repel fleas and they smell amazing. I also use this oil blend in their shampoo.
Lavender also helps with insomnia, anxiety, depression, muscle aches, acne, hair loss, protection against lice, strengthening the immune system, improving blood circulation, as well as many other things, including wrinkles! Lavender aids in the healing process of wounds and helps with healing from sunburns. (NEVER ingest the essential oil.)
In the kitchen, lavender has a vast array of potential uses. The flowers and leaves of the plant are used, fresh or dried, though should be used in moderation as it can over-take a dish rather easily, leaving you with something perfume-tasting. Of course, fresh is more pungent than dried. How you use it in your cooking or baking is up to you. You can season meat, flavor breads, add a unique hint to drinks…use your imagination and see how it works best in your kitchen.