Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Lavender Summary

Lovender

Wrapping up the lavender theme of this month... We've got aquantied with lavender's history chemical structure and how it translates into lavender's olfactory characteristics and therapeutic properties. We virtually visited a lavender farm where we learned how lavender is cultivated, harvested, extracted and distilled the many uses of lavender - culinary, medicinal, body care, skincare, in the home, and of course its uniquely versatile role in perfume composition.

To further explore the topic of lavender, read more posted that are tagged with "lavender".
In previous years, I've also discussed the Povencal Protest against the European legislations restricting lavender use. And in Lavender Season, you'll join me to the farmer's market where local lavender farmers sell their harvest every August.

I'v had my fare share of adventures composing with lavender - making an all-natural Fougère with it, blending it with jasmine, violet, liquorice, basil... And aside from old favourites (Jicky, Brin de Réglisse...) I haven't even gotten around yet to review any of my newly discovered favourite lavender perfumes. So perhaps some of this theme will spill over to September, until we get adjusted to the Canadian school year (which does not start till after Labour Day!).

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Monday, August 31, 2015

Lavender Beauty

#Lavender beauty

LAVENDER IN SKINCARE AND COSMETICS 
Lavender oil has skin-regenerative properties that make it especially appealing for use in cosmetics and body products. It not only cleanses the skin, protects it from bacteria, fungi and microbes - but also helps to prevent scaring, which makes it ideal for acne-prone skin.

It's important to note that most skin conditions are an expression of deeper things that are going on in the organism's life... Stress of daily life included, but also tension (read: deeper, unresolved emotional issues - most of which are unconscious or subconscious). It's interesting to note that often people who have problems such as eczema or acne refer to their skin when experiencing a bad flare-up episode as "angry skin". So if at all possible - taking a mental note of what might be going on in our lives emotionally (and not just what we ate, drank or did to our skin directly) when we first experienced a breakout, and finding ways to express those emotions - might help to resole the issue, and make the skin problems also go away.

Essential oils work not only on the physical, cellular and molecular level in our body (lavender, for example, reducing tension and promoting peaceful, calm emotions). So incorporating these in your self-care works holistically, also supporting you emotionally and assisting the nervous system, not just the skin it touches. When you're applying a lavender-scented mask, bathing in lavender, or hydrating your face with lavender floral water - you're also helping your mind to be more at peace with whatever life might have thrown at you that day.

Here are a few ideas for how to incorporate lavender and its products into your skin care and beauty regime:

Cleansing: 

Lavender, Honey & Yoghurt Mask
This is a gentle, non-drying mask for acne-prone skin, as the antibiotic components in both lavender and honey help to kill off the bacteria that tents to intensify the severity of the breakouts. The friendly Lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria in yoghurt will also help kick those breakouts off the face of the earth, while also adding nutrients to your skin from the milk's fat. Use full milk, thick Greek style yoghurt for best results.
2 Tbs full-fat plain Greek yoghurt, with no additives (avoid those with thickeners such as cornstarch, pectin, etc.)
1 tsp raw honey
1 tsp crushed lavender buds
1 drop lavender essential oil

Apply to your face and leave on for 5 minutes. Pat gently with a warm, wet cloth to remove the mask. Follow with a toner and a moisturizer. You can enjoy this mask 1-2 times a week.

Lavender Hydrosol 
Finding a good Lavender Hydrosols are far and few. Some are not made from true lavender but from Lavandin (L. latifolia), so investigate before you place your order. I had a lavender hydrosol many years ago that I suspect was one of those. It had more camphoreous and coumarin type of scent, and just did not feel vibrant enough. Also, there are two types of hydrofoils: those which are by-products of the distillation process, and only contain the water left off after the oil has been collected. And then there are hydrosols that were made exactly for that purpose, and have all the oils within them still. The latter have a fuller spectrum of the plant's therapeutic and beautifying benefits.

Important note: Hydrosols are a perishable product, and no matter which type of hydrosol is in question, it should be used up within 6 months, and preferably kept in the refrigerator (especially if you're living in a warm climate).

Benefits of full-spectrum lavender hydrosol (according to artisan distiller Dabney Rose herself): "slightly astringent toner for oily skin, but gentle enough for all skin types...other than face, I have used it for after too much sun to take the heat out of the skin, for First Aid spray on cuts and scrapes; it really helps take the edge off the pain (especially for children), and is safe for babies."

I've used up all that lovely hydrosol as a facial toner. I find that floral water are a wonderful way to hydrate the skin, either on their own or to layer facial oil overtop. The added moisture and gentle dosage of healing and beautifying properties in the floral water nourish the skin; while the facial oil seals that moisture and adds nutrient of its own. I usually do that only in the evening (I'm quite low maintenance when it comes to skin care; but if your skin needs more nourishment - a morning spritz of hydrosol will start your day with a reviving yet gentle scent.  You can either pat it dry with a soft towel, or just let it air dry. Layer with a lighter moisturizer, cream or facial serum if your skin is particularly dry or has other problems.

You can also combine lavender hydrosol with other hydrosols for a synergistic effect. For example, in her book "The Aromatherapy Companion", Victoria H. Edwards recommends blending equal parts of lavender, chamomile and artemisia arborescens hydrosols for sensitive skin; for acne equal parts hydrosols of llavender, thyme and orange flower; and for oily skin a blend of equal parts lavender, lemon verbena and artemisia hydrosols. These can be either sprayed on the face or applied with a cotton pad. Another interesting preparation by is of half a cucumber ground in a blender with 1/2 oz lavender hydrosol, 1 oz witch hazel and 2 drops rosemary oil, strained in a coffee filter and kept refrigerated. This is a perishable blend, which I would think needs to be used up within 2 weeks.

Lavender & Vinegar Astringent Toner *
Preparing your own lavender toner is easy, affordable and effective. Natural apple cider vinegar has many benefits especially for oil or problematic skin (i.e.: blackheads or acne prone).
1 oz lavender floral water or orange floral water
1 oz spring water or filtered tap water
2 oz apple cider vinegar
2 drops lavender oil
1 drop neroli

Note: If you can't find lavender hydrosol, you may substitute a lavender infusion for it. Steep 1 tsp of dried lavender buds (Lavandula angustifolia) in boiling water for 5 minutes. Strain and bring to room temperature. Add the other ingredients. Let sit in a covered jar for 24 hours. Filter through an unbleached paper coffee filter, and rebottle in a sterilized airtight bottle.
Apply with a cotton ball or cotton pad to tone your face, and follow with a moisturizer or customized face oil.

Nourishment & Treatment:

Individual breakout can be "zapped" by dipping a q-tip in neat lavender oil and dabbing gently each zit, making sure they stay intact and allow them to heal on their oil. Lavender oil will help speed up this process.

Lavender & Frankincense Face Oil (for oily to normal skin) ** 
15 mL (or 1 Tbs) non-comedogenic (non-clogging) carrier oil such as Sunflower, Argan, Rose hip or Hemp seed oils - or a combination of those
1 capsule Vitamin E
5 drops Lavender oil
1 drop Frankincense oil
2 drops Carrot Seed oil

Lip Care:
Lavender makes an excellent additive to lip balms, and helps to improve the condition of dry, chapped lips.
Here's a delicious recipe with added yumminess and nutrients from cocoa butter and honey.

4 Tbs. almond oil
2.5 Tbs. coconut oil
2 Tbs. beeswax
1.5 Tbs. cocoa butter
1 tsp. honey
1 capsule vitamin E
Up to 40 drops flavouring essential oil, i.e.: 20 drops of lavender and 20 drops of geranium essential oils; or 20 drops of lavender and 20 drops of peppermint. 

Melt the beeswax, cocoa butter and coconut oil in bain marie. add the almond oil and honey. Add the essential oils and pour into little jars or tubes.

Hair Care:
Lavender is renown for its anti-dandruff benefits. While most commercial anti-dandruff shampoos only make the dandruff stick to your scalp, and create a dependency on their product - making your own home remedies is going to at least reduce the symptoms, if not resolve the problem once and for all.

Dandruff, like so many other unpleasant skin conditions are more than likely the result of stress and tension (read: unresolved emotional issues), and possibly some elements that are lacking in the diet - including vitamin D if you're living in a place where natural sunlight is scarce, or other essential fatty acids (for example: including more flaxseeds in your diet might help).

Adding lavender (and other oils that work with it synergistically to eliminate dandruff) to your shampoo, scalp treatment oils or vinegar rinse. Aside from lavender, Valerie Anne Worwood (The Compelete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy) recommends the following essential oils to treat dandrfuff: rosemary, lemon, lime, birch, basil, thyme, allspice, cypress, eucalyptus peppermint, sage and carrot seed. Evening primrose, borage and jojoba oils are good base oils to support that, from you which you can blend an oil and massage into the scalp and leave over night.

Anti-Dandruff Shampoo Substitute 
4oz "Soap stew" or unscented liquid Castile soap. **
18 drops Rosemary
10 drops Lavender
8 drops Sage

Anti-Dandruff Vinegar Rinse
1 Tbs unfiltered and unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
5 drops Lavender oil
5 drops Thyme ct. linalool 
3 drops Sage
5 drops Rosemary
Rinse your hair after shampooing with

Anti-Dandruff Overnight Treatment
Dip your fingertips into a mixture of 15 drops each evening primrose and jojoba oils, to which 3 drops of cypress and 5 drops of lavender have been added. Massage into the scalp before retiring.

Safety and Precaution
Recently, lavender has been under scrutiny by self-proclaimed expert Paula Begoun on the so-called "Cosmetic Dictionary". Incidentally, her website is dedicated to selling her own line of unscented skincare, so she's clearly not a fragrance lover. Now I'm all for keeping my skincare as pure as could be, but why punish yourself with a scentless world if some of the oils are actually greatly beneficial for the skin?
If you share her fanatics of anti-fragrance, knock yourself out. However, if you have a more pragmatic approach, read Robert Tisserand's response, which I find not only reasonable but also reassuring. Even the entirely anti-fragrance lobbyists Skin Deep seem to find lavender harmless.


* Adapted from Valerie Anne Worwood's The Compelete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy, p. 124.

** Adapted from Valerie Anne Worwood's The Compelete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy, pp. 130-131. This chapter has a thorough series of treatments for acne.

*** Use a liquid Castile soap or "soap stew" from boiling castile soap flakes OR soapwort in water.
Adapted from Valerie Anne Worwood's The Compelete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy, pp. 164-165


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Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Perfumer's Purple

Lavender Soliflores

LAVENDER'S PERFUMERY USES & APPLICATIONS
Lavender on the perfumer's palette provides for a range of purplish-blue hues, metaphorically speaking, of course. The oil itself is clear; and the absolute literally is a turquoise colour.

Lavender Toilette Waters
The earliest application of lavender in perfume is in the classic Lavender Waters - which the English perfected. Many historic recipes can be found for these type of eaux. Another sub-category of which is the lavender-amber waters, which include, in addition to lavender, either amber or ambergris.

Eaux de Cologne
Another important historic use of lavender oils is in the Eaux de Cologne type of fragrances. Here both lavender and lavandin are used extensively. Lavender imparts a softer, more floral nuance, where as lavandin gives a more herbaceous edge, often in synergy with rosemary or mint. Lavender can be found in countless classic eau de clone formulations, such as 4711, Guerlain's Eau de Cologne Impériale (1853) and Eau du Coq (1894) etc. Florida Waters are a New World interpretation of the Eau de Cologne in which lavender takes a more prominent role, and also includes lime, cloves and cassia bark. 


Lavender Soliflores & Gems
Lavender soliflores are a richer, more developed and rounded version of the lavender waters; or simply a more concentrated form. Classic examples are: Yardley's English Lavender (1873), Lavande Velours (Guerlain), Floris' Lavender, etc. Then there are some more sophisticated, layered and exciting renditions such as Jicky (Guerlain), the liquorice-velvety Brin de Réglisse (Hermes), my own Lovender (part of The Language of Flowers soliflore collection) and let's not forget the underrated, wonderfully vanillic Caron's Pour Une Homme.

Fougère
The first use of synthetic aroma chemicals was marked by the creation of Fougère Royal, a concoction that used for the first time a laboratory-made coumarin. But coumarin is only one of four key components that are crucial for creating fragrances of this genre, the other three being oakmoss, linalool and lavender. One could argue that the bare bones of Fougère place lavender in an even more important place, if you strip it down to an even more simple accord of oakmoss-and-lavender, since the other two components (coumarin and linalool) naturally occur in lavender.
Other famous members of this family are Azzaro, Grey Flannel, Brut, Canoe, Amber & Lavender Cologne (Jo Malone's), Jazz (YSL), Xeryus Rouge (Givenchy), etc.

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Lavender Chemistry

Lavender distillation

CHEMICAL CONSTITUENTS of LAVENDER
Some 300 molecules were discovered in true lavender's essential oil, that are responsible for its fine, complex yet clear aroma - most of which are trace elements. The major constituents are (the ones in bold are the most dominant/famous ones):
Linool
Linalyl acetate (up to 40%) 
Lavandulol *
Lavandulyl acetate *
Cineole
Coumarin
Camphor
1-octen-3-yl acetate
Tricyclene  
alpha-Pinene  
alpha-Thujene  
Camphene  
beta-Pinene  
Sabinene  
gamma-Terpinene  
Myrcene  
alpha-Terpinene  
5-Methyl-3-heptanone  
Limonene  
Eucalyptol  
delta-3-Carene  
(E)-beta-Ocimene  
Octan-3-one  
para-Cymene  
Terpinolene  
Hexyl-isobutyrate  
Neo-allo-ocimene  
3-Acetoxy-octene  
Hexyl-butyrate  
cis-Linalool oxide  
Vinyl amyl carbinol  
trans-Linalool oxide  
Camphor
Dihydrolinalool  
(E)-Caryophyllene  
Terpinen-4-ol  
(E)-beta-Farnesene  
alpha-Terpineol  
Borneol  
Neryl acetate  
Geranyl acetate  
Nerol  
Geraniol  
Caryophyllene oxide  
alpha-Humulene  
Hexyl acetate  
alpha-Santalene

As we can see, it mostly contains terpenes, terpene alcohols and esters, and a few alcohols. According to Jeanne Rose "esters are soothing, calming, and fungicidal"; and linalool is an "antibacterial, believes discomfort, diuretic, tones without irritating, stimulates the immune system, sedating"; the latter actions similarly described as initiated by the terpene alcohols as well as toning (The Aromatherapy Book, pp. 158-160).

* Both lavandulol and lavandulyl acetate are insect pheromones, which might explain the abundance of bees observed around lavender shrubs.

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Lavender Nuances - Olfactory Profiling

Lavender Harvest & Steam Distillation Festival at Sacred Mountain Farm

LAVENDER VARIETIES
Lavender is a native of the Mediterranean basin first and foremost, but has such a flexible and hardy constitution, that it is now cultivated all over the world. Of particular interest is English lavender, which develops unique characteristics (sweet and warm) despite the lesser amount of sunshine than ideal that it receives than in its native Provence; and I've sampled some exceptionally beautiful lavenders grown in relatively mountainous areas in India (Kasmir) and also from Tasmania (Australia). And even the Canadian ones I've experienced, despite its relatively low yield, is lovely when grown with tender care in small organic farms. Whichever is the case, sample your lavender first before you cast an opinion based only on the stamps on its passport.

Not only the type of lavender grown, but also where it has grown and under what conditions - the resulting aroma profile would be noticeably different. The following are brief impressions of several specimens I've studied and worked with. Most of them (unless otherwise specified) are from Lavandula angustifolia. Lavender that was grown in higher altitudes develops a much finer aroma due to a higher concentration of esters. But that is not the one and only reason for the superiority of high-altitude lavender: in high altitudes, water's boiling point is only 93 celsius, which means that less components get ruined in the process, and the more of the delicate esters also remain in the finished oil!

The reason esters are so desirable? They form among the most pleasant-smelling (functional) group of molecules. Among the esters you'll find many fruity nuances, but not nearly in-your-face as the fruity aldehydes. Most of the esters found in lavender oil are terpene esters: Linalyl acetate, geranyl acetate, octene-3-yl acetate, lavandulyl acetate (which is an insect pheromone, and might explain why the bees love lavender so much!) and neryl acetate. I detect a hint of pear in the high-altitude lavenders I've smelled, which must come from the latter (it is described as a floral, rosy, sweet, soapy, fruity, dewy with orange blossom and pear-like notes).

The effects of terroir and the particular hybrid or type of lavender selected for distillation, as well as the method of distillation makes a difference in the finished raw materials. This could be either very subtle (as the difference between the same species, L. angustifolia, in various countries or elevations) or extremely different (as we'll see when comparing lavender that was steam distilled versus solvent extraction).

The following are my own impressions from specimens that are in my collection:

Lavender Hydrosol
Artisan distillation by Dabney Rose. Curiously, it was distilled from the Mailette variety, while immersed with an amethyst crystal. It has a pure, clean aroma and the coumarin content is noticeable. I use it as a facial toner, but high quality lavender hydrosol could also be used in small amounts in eau de colognes as well.

Lavender grown in high elevation (France)
Herbaceous, a little like rosemary. A hint of rose-geranium. Slightly musty undertones. You can kinda smell it had hard time growing on the Alps... Smells like a very short, struggling plant. Dry down: hints of musk & wood base.

Lavender Maillette (France)
A cultivar of L. angustifolia Dray, clean, floral, woody. Sweet, hint of bery. Crystalline. Clean, clear, almost rosewoody. Has a higher content of linalyl acetate than any other lavender cultivar.

Wild Lavender (France) - Lavandula angustifolia 
Opens sweet and soft and floral, almost rosy even. Dries down into a sweet and grassy, airy lavender.

Lavender Oil (Tasmania, Australia)
Berry, myrrh-like, soft, green yet spicy-herbaceous. Light yet warm & comex. A little like sage/clary sage?

Lavender Super (Bulgaria)
Heavy, dirty, earhty. Herbaceouse, very fern-like. Slightly wine-like. Clean-herbaceous undertones.

Lavender Kashmir
Velvety, suede, smooth, powdery, potent, powerful but soft. Slightly herbaceous, hardly medicinal. Floral, powdery like scented leather gloves. Woody, slightly musty undertones.

Lavender Jerusalem
Wild lavender from the mountains surrounding Jerusalem that I had many years ago and ran out of. A little more camphoreous and herbaceous than the others reviewed so far. It might have been lavandin, but the labeling (in Hebrew) did not have the scientific name, unfortunately.

Lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia)
A hybrid which was created in the 1950s, and therefore does not produce seed but requires slips to reproduce. Lavandin is a cross between "Spike Lavender" or "Aspic" as it's known in French (L. latifolia) and "True Lavender" (L. angustifolia), this variety has a very similar appearance to true lavender, except that it has longer, slightly winding flowering tops. It has a tremendously higher yield at 2-2.5% per hectare (compare to L. angustifolia at 1% per hectare). While this is a blessing for the farmers and distillers, from a perfumer's point of view lavandin is inferior to lavender. The higher yield is due not only to the longer flowering tops, but also to a higher content of components such as cineole and camphor. Lavandin in general is less complex and more rustic than lavender. Comparing to the highly resourceful lavender - lavandin is relatively useless in aromatherapy and for healing purposes; but has been enthusiastically embraced by functional perfumers, who use it primarily in soaps, candles and household cleaning products due to its low-cost appeal and less delicate constituents. Lavandin also makes wonderful sachets that repel insects such as moth from ruining natural fibres.

Lavandin Grosso (Lavandula x intermedia)
What is referred to by some as "French Lavender" is really lavandin - a cross between true lavender (L. anguvstifolia) and spike lavender (L. latifolia). It is what is most commonly used to stuff sachets that are used to scent linens and keep moth away from wool and silk. Perhaps that is why when I first encountered lavandin oil in Grasse, France - it smelled more like lavender to me on blind tests than the true lavender oil did.
Lavandin gross is one variety of lavandin with an earthy, more camphoreous character than that of true lavender.

Lavandin Super (Lavandula x intermedia)
Lavandin super has a more bright aroma than the grosso, and also more delicate almost fruity nuances - I'm guessing from a higher ester content. But smell it again, this time after you've smelled fine high-altitude French lavender - and it smells rather aggressive and herbaceous in comparison.

Lavender Absolute (Lavandula angustifolia) - France
Musty turquoise colour liquid. Penetrating. Musty, airy, etheral. Ambery base. Musty/musky yet clean & sweet, a little lemony even?

Lavender Absolute (Lavandula angustifolia) - Bulgaria
Dark green, almost opaque colour. Strong coumarin presence. Very similar to the real, living plant.

Lavender Concrete 
Olive green paste. Even more realistically plant-like than the absolute. It is wonderful is créme parfums. It reminds me a bit of lavender tea (either in a blend with other herbs or in a Lavender Earl Gray). 

Spike Lavender (Lavandula spicata)
"Spike lavnder (spica) is warm and dry, and its warmth is healthy. Whoever cooks spike lavender with wine, or if the person does now have wine, then with honey and water, and drinks it lukewarm often, soothes the pain in his or her liver and lungs, and makes his or her thinking and mind pure". 
(Hildegard von Bingen, "Physica"). In her entry on galangal in the same book (spelled galingale) she prescribes a remedy for palsy made of pulverized galangal, nutmeg, spike lavender, githerut (gith, AKA nigella or black cumin), lovage, female fern and saxifrage. I do not have any essential oil from spike lavender - and it is not much in use nowadays as lavender is far superior to it, and lavandin, its hybrid with spike lavender, has a much greater commercial success. 

Seville Lavender (Lavandula stoechas subspp. luisieri) - Spain
I have a L. stoechas bush in my garden, and it has an intensely animals, almost goat-like aroma, recalling herding on the Mediterranean hills. The flowers of this species also look very different than other lavenders - rather than a stem with many little tiny buds, they look more like a spikelet of wheat, with a purple flame of petals at the top.
The absolute I have smells like a non-lavender lavender. Raspberry, hay, almost like osmanthus and linden blossom. Sweet is not the right word but sour isn't either. Fruity in an odd, fascinating way. Dark like a herbal witch brew - over steeped rosemary and sage. Resinous and sweet, a little like fir absolute.

Seville Lavender (Lavandula stoechas)

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Lavender, The Healer

Senanque Abbey
Since ancient times, alchemists sought after the Philosopher's Stone and the Elixir of Life (to achieve immortality), and Panacea, the universal remedy that will treat all ailments and ensure that this eternal life is well-lived. As you'll discover in this article, lavender embodies that cure-all potential, if only utilized with skill, knowledge and respect to the plant.

This ancient medicine plant was mentioned in the writings of the great Greek physicians Dioscorides (also a botanist), Galen and Pliny. In the 13th and 14th Centuries, lavender has become one of the most popular herbs grown in the monastery gardens all over Europe. It is one of the key components of many Aqua Mirabillis formulae, including the classic Eau de Cologne (the basic accord for which contains petitgrain, neroli, lavender and/or lavandin, bergamot, lemon, orange and additional citrus oils, herbs and fixatives of choice), Chartreuse (which was originally a remedy; the ingredients remain a trade secret - but I suspect also contain lavender, chamomile and honey), and later on in the New World - the new interpretation of the cologne formula called Agua Florida - AKA Florida Water - with lavender, lime, cloves and cassia added to the original Eau de Cologne accord.

Un après-midi sous le soleil

AROMATHERAPY USES 
"Lavender constrains many evil things, and evil spirits are driven by it".  - Hildegard of Bingen 

A few years ago, lavender oil prove to be a true friend to me. It was the peak of the summer, and I had to take an emergency flight to Israel to care for my then very ill mother. The experience was traumatizing, as to be expected. Add to that being eaten alive by the Israeli mosquitoes and attack of any bug imaginable (they've always liked me there in the countryside...) was the icing on the cake. Every night I smeared my limbs with neat lavender oil, sprinkled a protective circle of lavender oil around my bed, and a few more drops of both lavender and Roman chamomile on my pillow. That helped to keep both the insomnia, nightmares and bugs away for the most part. But whatever bites I did get were not too much of a big deal, because I would just dab more lavender oil on them when I woke up, and that prevents them from developing into an all-day misery, with scabs and all. It made the rather horrid time of my life (even though my trip lasted only two weeks) just a tiny bit more bearable. And for that, Lavender dear, I am forever grateful.

AROMATHERAPY USES 
Lavender is as close to panacea as we'll ever get: No other aromatherapeutic oil is as flexible and useful as lavender. It is used to treat myriads of conditions including physical ailments fighting infections and wounds (it is a natural antibiotic and antiseptic) and mental and emotional challenges such as insomnia, stress, anxiety and depression. Keep lavender on hand to treat ailments pertaining to skin, digestion, hormones, nerves, emotions, mood, and as a general first aid and household weapon to repel insects at bay and keep it clean and fragrant.

According to aromatherapist and author Julia Lawless (Aromatherapy and the Mind), small doses of airborne lavender oil have successfully improved the lives of patients in hospital in England; both improving their overall emotional well-being, reducing anxiety, helping patients find restful sleep, as well as preventing the spread of disease. And it was even used in hospitals for massaging patients. It is also utilized by midwives to calm and reassure the mother to be and ease her labouring process.

Lavender makes a wonderful travel companion for the many hurdles and discomforts that can come your way - from insect bites and sunstroke to insomnia. Below are but a few of the key qualities that can be harnessed for maintaining our well-being.

With all that being said, it can never be stressed enough that proper use of essential oils is paramount to their effective and safe outcome. Keep in mind that each drop of lavender represents many flowering tops: if we recall, to produce just 1 lb of oil, between 110 to 150 lb of fresh plant matter is required. To give you a more concrete idea: an acre of lavender can produce between 12-20 lb (5.44 - 9.07 kg) of oil (which, with lavender's specific gravity ranging from 0.870-0.898) translates to at least  6.25-7.89 L depending on how good was the harvest that year). Every time you're using up a 5 mL bottle of lavender, envision you've consumed an entire row of blooming lavender bushes, and be grateful for it!

KEY CHARACTERISITCS OF LAVENDER OIL
According to the Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, lavender acts as:
Analgesic, antibiotic, anticonvulsive, antidepressat, antirheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitoxic (detoxifier), carminative, cholagogue, choleretic, cicatrisant, cordial, cytophylactic, deodorant, diuretic, emmenagogue, hypotensive, insecticide, nervine, parasiticide, rubefacient, sedative, stimulant, sudorific, tonic, vermifuge, vulnerary.

FIRST AID
Lavender should be included in any first aid kit: use it to treat burns, wounds, cuts and bites. It reduces the pain in those uncomfortable instances, and also promotes faster healing and reduces scarring.

It also repels insects, and smells much better than citronella but is just as effective in keeping blood-thirsty mosquitos away. When hiking, camping or traveling - there is no better companion than lavender!

Lavender is one of the few oils that can be worn neat on the skin (without requiring dilution) - which is how it should be applied when treating burns, cuts and insect bites. Please note that this method should not be misused to prevent unwanted reactions or side effects. 

Lavender harvest

SKIN  
Lavender oil can be used to treat many unpleasant skin conditions, including: acne, eczema, psoriasis, dandruff, inflammation, sunburn (dilute 1 drop of lavender in a tablespoon of aloe vera gel and apply to affected area), and as mentioned earlier - burns, cuts and wounds.

Lavender oil's restorative properties can be also harnessed for skin care and beauty products, to treat oily and acne-prone skin. Lavender hydrosol makes an excellent facial tonic.

Lavender is also a natural deodorant (try making your own, with baking soda and lavender oil!) and is also popular in talcum powders for the feet and the body. It can be used to treat athlete's foot, and is one of the most favourite additions to foot baths or foot creams, usually along with cooling peppermint.

HYGENE
Because of its antiseptic properties, lavender is a popular addition to soap bars and shower gels. It is also popular in talcum powders for the feet and the body and is an excellent deodorant.

INSECT/PARASITE REPELLENT 
Use lavender to prevent lice infections (especially good in synergy with rosemary), to keep mosquitoes and other bugs away, ringworms, etc. 

DIGESTIVE SYSTEM
Like many other members of the mint family, lavender helps to alleviate nausea and treat abdominal cramps, colic, gas, etc.

HORMONAL REGULATION
Lavender can support women's PMS symptoms, especially when blended synergistically with clary sage. On the flip side: there has been a bit of a controversy a few years ago about whether lavender caused breast development in boys. I haven't found literature that is entirely reliable about this issue, so it could be that these was just anecdotal incidents.
If someone is in risk as a result of increased estrogen activities, it would be advisable to consult a doctor before exposing oneself to this oil (and perhaps also tea tree oil).

NERVOUS SYSTEM
Lavender's reputation precedes it as a cure for headache and migraines. Applying the oil neat on the temples can help alleviate headaches. A foot bath with a few drops of lavender will reduce fatigue, and lavender sprigs placed inside the hat were supposed to prevent sunstroke.

Lavender has a positive effect on the mind in emotional situations such as shock, depression and anxiety and helps to get a good night's rest. It helps to reduce blood pressure, sciatica and vertigo.  All the more reason to bring it on in hospital and clinical environments, if you ask me... 

EMOTIONAL  
Lavender has both reviving and calming qualities. It's almost as if it knows what the person who takes it needs of it - soothing or stimulation!
In her book, The Fragrant Mind, Valerie Ann Worwood describes the "lavender personality" as a perfect balance between feminine and masculine: both nurturing, gentle and powerful. Indeed, lavender's power comes from having a perfectly balanced makeup of elements that like a mother perfectly perceptive to her infant's needs - seem to almost psychically tune into the patient's needs and give them exactly what's missing to promote their well-being. It does so gently but effectively.

Lavender is helpful in bringing a sense of peace of mind, serenity and calm; yet also can help to ward off mental fatigue. It reduces anxiety, and inspires sleep in a wandering mind of the insomniacs. 
But most importantly: it helps to self-regulation emotions, in situations such as mood swings, hysteria and bi-polar personalities, etc.

Visit our blog tomorrow for more lavender beauty tips and simple DIY applications. 


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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Lavender Lineage

Lavender Harvest Festival at Sacred Mountain Farm

ETYMOLOGY & NOMENCLATURE
The name lavender originates in the French word "Lavandre", which is a mutation of the Latin word "Lavare" - to wash. This refers to the ancient costume, popular since Roman times, to scatter sprigs of blooming lavender in the bath, which makes the cleansing deeper an more effective, and of course - the bathing experience both relaxing and fragrant.

TAXONOMY & BOTANICAL CLASSIFICATION
Lavender belongs to the Labiatae (AKA Lamiaceae) family, also referred to as the "Mint family", aludinig to the lip-like shape of the flowers.

There are several subgenus in the lavandula genus, and while the main group is native to the Maritimes-Alpes, there are also unique varieties that are native to Spain, North Africa, Arabia, Eritrea, Egypt, the Canary Islands and more:
Stoechas Mill.
Fabricia Adans.
Styphonia Medik.
Chaetostachys Benth.
Sabaudia Buscal. & Muschl.
Isinia Rech.f.

HISTORY
Lavender is native to the Mediterranean region. True lavender grows wild in southern France on the southern slopes of the Alpes, at 800m altitude and higher. Spike lavender (L. latifolia) is also a wild plant of that region, and grows in lower altitudes - from sea level and up to 600m altitude. Lavender must have travelled with the Roman conquerors all the way to the British Isles, where it has been very well received and has become an important part of the identity of British fragrance for many generations to come.

Lavender became a popular herb among the monasteries across Europe in the 13th and 14th Centuries, and used in many recipes for therapeutic alcoholic preparations called aqua mirabillis.
In her book Physica, the polymath abbess Hildegard von Bingen writes: "Lavender constrains many evil things, and evil spirits are driven by it". She describes its healing properties as stemming from combining the benefits of strength (of odour, I presume) and bitterness (which is how it tastes).

Lavender now grows all over the world, and is a popular fragrance in many preparations, and particularly for its aromatherapeutic properties. Its oil is used worldwide in skincare, soaps, home care products, and the buds and dried flowers make their way to many homes to impart a clean, relaxing scents to closets and shoe away wool-greedy moths in the forms of sachets, potpourri etc.

FOLKLORIC AND HERBAL TRADITIONS 
Lavender is a nostalgic scent to many, and usually brings fond memories. This may be because of its diverse therapeutic benefits; and also because it is so hardy and adaptable and can grown in many climates. Lavender is a popular garden herb and ornamental plant that attracts bees with its pheromone-like aromatic molecules.

Dried lavender buds are in use in many homes in potpourris and in sachets to scent linen and clothes, and for its varied functional uses (insect repellent, antiseptic, nerve tonic and with many other therapeutic properties), and is considered to be the closest thing to panacea - the cure-all remedy.

In her excellent book Aromatherapy and the Mind, renown aromatherapist and author Julia Lawless mentions that midwives would burn lavender over hot charcoals to ease a woman's labour; and mentions its association with the sorceress goddess Hecate. We've already mentioned its original use in Roman baths, but they were not the only ones - it was also used in the Turkish Hammams and Egyptian bath houses.

Lavender harvest
Lavender sprigs were placed inside hats to prevent sunstrokes; they were also believed to ward-off the "evil eye" and even prevent the plague by scattering their sprigs on the floor. Sprigs of lavender were also incorporated in the decoration of churches on special holidays. Sachets were sewn into the skirts of Elizabethan ladies. Lavender is curiously considered to be simultaneously an aphrodisiac, and an herb that promotes chastity and purity.

Lavender was also used to scent leather and in particular leather gloves, was placed in pillows of French royalty, a custom adopted fondly by many ordinary modern folks; and the oils is used effectively to scent hospital environments to promote patient's sense of well-being and prevent the spread of disease.

Tomorrow we'll discuss more of lavender healing properties and many therapeutic applications.


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