Lavender History & Uses
Lavender's history is a colorful as the plant itself!
It is believed to originate from the Mediterranean, Middle East and India and has been in documented use for over 3,000 years.
Lavender derives its name from the Latin ‘lavare’ meaning ‘to wash”. The Romans used Lavender to scent their baths, beds, clothes and even hair. They also discovered its medicinal properties.
Lavender was one of the holy herbs used to prepare the Holy Essence and Nard, or ‘spikenard’ is mentioned in the bible in the ‘Song of Solomon’ among other places.
In ancient times lavender was used for mummification and fragrance for perfumes by the Egyptians, Phoenicians, and peoples of Arabia.
When the tomb of Tutankhamen (King Tut) was discovered in 1923, jars containing the fragrance of lavender were found after remaining enclosed for 3000 years!
These were used only by the royal families and high priests in cosmetics, massage oils, and medicinal purposes.
Romans used lavender oils for bathing, cooking, air fragrance, and recognized lavender for its healing, antiseptic qualities, and for its usefulness in deterring insects.
According to Dioscorides, a Greek military physician under the Roman Emperor, Nero: Lavender, when taken internally relieved indigestion, headaches and sore throats. External uses of lavender were used to clean wounds and burns or treat skin diseases.
Roman soldiers took lavender on military encounters to dress war wounds. Lavender was also strewn on the floor to sweeten the air, and fumigate sick rooms.
Lavender is grown commercially for extraction of its oil from its flowers and to some degree from its foliage, which is obtained through a distillation process.
The oil is used as a disinfectant, an antiseptic, an anti-inflammatory and for aromatherapy. An infusion of Lavender is claimed to soothe and heal insect bites, sunburn and small cuts, burns and inflammatory conditions and even acne.
Lavender oils are also used for internal medical conditions, among others indigestion and heartburn.
Lavender oil is said to soothe headaches, migraines and motion sickness when applied to the temples. It is frequently used as an aid to sleep and relaxation.
Dried Lavender flowers are used extensively as fragrant herbal filler inside sachets - to freshen linens, closets and drawers.
Dried lavender flowers have also become popular for use at weddings as decoration, gifts and as confetti for tossing over the newlyweds.
As a member of the mint family, Lavender is used in the preparation of food either by itself or as an ingredient of Herbs de Province – an herb combination which captures the flavors of the south of France.
Lavender delivers a floral, slightly sweet flavor to salads, soups, meat and seafood dishes, desserts, cheeses, baked goods and confectionery.
For most cooking applications it is the dried flowers that are used although the leaves may also be used. Only the buds or flowers contain the essential oil of Lavender which is where the scent and flavor are best derived.