Lavender is one of the most commonly known and widely used herbs and essential oils in the world. The name lavender comes from the Latin word, lavare, which means “to wash”, after the naturally fresh scent and therapeutic properties of the plant.
Lavender is an extremely versatile and lovely member of the mint family, and a great tool for those who practice natural health. Lavandula, is a disinfectant, deodorant, anti-inflammatory, sedative, and antiseptic, amongst other benefits, and can be used in herb form—or for stronger effect—as an essential oil.
Lavender is an absolutely beautiful and fragrant, perennial plant. It makes a great addition to any garden. For those with yard gardens looking for attractive plants to satisfy neighbors and HOAs, lavender is a great choice for adding to your garden landscape.1)https://www.gardensall.com/gardens-not-allowed-hoa-homeowners-associations-and-yard-gardens/2)https://www.gardensall.com/extra-income-from-gardening-heres-a-business-idea-ready-to-bloom/
As long as you know a few things about how to grow it, you can enjoy a summer of purple flowers for up to 20 years!
Lavender is a perennial that can last up to 20 years!
Where Does Lavender Grow?
Most Lavender grows well in USDA zones 5-8, but importantly, one needs to know that this plant does not like to be wet! This means certain areas that are more humid, may not yield a good crop and it must be planted in an area that gets all day sun.
Lavender likes an alkaline soil with good drainage. It often works well in rock gardens and walkways. Make sure to give it space as well. This will allow for the air to flow around it and for it to grow larger every year. Some plants get up to 5 feet wide, so plant with that in mind.
When planting Lavender, a soil-bone meal mix works well. Many people will put a layer of sand or even oyster shells on top of the soil to regulate temperature and to reflect the sun back to the plant. There are over 30 different varieties of Lavender, so the type will determine when flowers will bloom. The grosso variety of lavender blooms mainly in July and is a more fragrant bud. While the common lavender can bloom from June to October, but will not have as much scent.
For fresh bouquets, cut flowers when approximately 50% of the buds are open.
Fresh Cut Lavender Flowers
If you desire a fresh bouquet, cut the flowers when about half of the buds are open. They will continue to develop in the vase.
Dried Lavender Flowers
If you will be drying the herb, cut the plant when about 3/4 of the buds have bloomed. Then, tie the stems together and hang it upside down in a dry space for a week or two. You will want the dried bouquets if you desire to make Lavender Oil.
Uses for Lavender Extract
Which do you want to grow? Edible lavender for culinary uses, medicinal or cosmetic lavender? Many gardeners and essential oil enthusiasts grow both. That’s the logical choice if you love and use lavender, especially if you’re growing for profit. The growing conditions are similar but uses, growing and harvesting seasons are expanded with more varieties, which is especially beneficial if you’re growing for profit or market gardening.
Lavender is part of the mint family and can be used in herb form, or for stronger effect, as an essential oil. For cooking, the lavandula angustifolia variety is the most common, and we’ve included a lavender extract recipe further below.
Other varieties of the best culinary lavender of the genus lavandula, and the species, angustifolia, include these lavender varieties:
A great way to use lavender for cooking and drinking is to make an extract. Just like vanilla or lemon, the extract is flavorful and can easily be added to many recipes.
Unless you like eating perfume, the common lavender or English variety of the lavandula angustifolia, is the best culinary lavender because it has the least amount of fragrance.
Lavandin lavender, (Lavandula x intermedia), is a cross between Lavandula angustifolia, and Lavandula latifolia. Lavandins have been cultivated for the highest quality oil and fragrance.3)http://www.sunset.com/garden/flowers-plants/delicious-lavender
The Most fragrant lavenders—Lavandula x intermedia—include:
Lavender Essential Oil Uses
An essential oil is a potent extract of a plant. It is by name the life force of the plant in which it comes from and it has many therapeutic uses.
An essential oil is the life force of the plant.
Most of the time, these oils are steam distilled or cold pressed from the herb, fruit, root or bark. Lavender essential oil is absolutely one of the most versatile and safest essential oils.
Some of the most popular therapeutic properties of lavender is antiseptic, astringent and antibacterial. This is good to use on cuts or scrapes to help inhibit the growth of microorganisms and calm the skin. Lavender is also an insecticide, so it can be used to help keep bugs away. The anti-inflammatory properties of lavender make it beneficial for sore muscles, joints and even eczema. It’s also great for cleaning. Because of its deodorant and antiviral properties, it can help kill germs and freshen the space.
Lavender is also incredibly gentle. It is one of the few essential oils that is considered safe for babies and the elderly. However, please keep in mind, that the oil is still potent. When using Lavender oil, always use a “carrier” oil with it, such as grapeseed, almond or fractionated coconut oil, and never ingest the oil. About 3 drops of essential oil per teaspoon of carrier oil is sufficient and effective.
Lavender Oil for Stress
Two other great properties of lavender is that it is a nervine and a sedative. What this means is that it can be a helpful natural remedy for stress. There is a reason that the blissful scent of lavender can make you feel at ease. Studies have shown that smelling the herb or oil can, not only promote relaxation, but also reduce depression, lower heart rates and battle anxiety. Lavender can also help you sleep. It has been shown to help people fall asleep faster and remain in a deep sleep state of being for longer periods. To get these benefits, simply add a few drops of lavender oil to a diffuser in your room at bedtime or add some to Epsom salts and soak in a long warm bath.
Both are available on my Etsy store.
Editor’s Note: We especially like that Sarah creates her herbal remedies by hand using her aromatherapy training and also the clever and creative names she has given her products. In our family, we’ve benefit many times over from herbal remedies.
How to Make Lavender Oil
The true way to make lavender essential oil is to steam distill it, similar to making alcohol. A steam distiller will heat up and create a separation of volatile essential oil which is fat soluble and a hydrosol which is water soluble. The Lavender essential oil will be a small amount, but it will be strong and full of therapeutic properties. The hydrosol or lavender water is milder and gentler. Hydrosols are great for use on babies, pets and delicate skin.
If you do not have a steam distiller, but are feeling creative, you can make a Lavender infusion. This is made the same way as the extract (mentioned above), but you use oil instead of vodka. After a few weeks of the Lavender soaking in the oil of your choice, strain it into a clean glass jar and use it in your favorite skin care recipes or use it on its own.
Where to Buy Essential Oils
If you do not have the time and energy to create your own essential oils, you may want to purchase them for use instead. Knowing who to trust when it comes to oils is a tough one. There are many big name companies out there claiming theirs are the best, but who is to really know how to source a good quality essential oil. The FDA does not regulate essential oils. But it is important to know that there are some great groups out there who can be your advocate when it comes to aromatherapy. NAHA.org is one of those. The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy is a member based non-profit devoted to safety and education. They are a great source for all things relating to oils.
Organic and wildcrafted essential oils are great things to look for when purchasing. There are also several pieces of information the company should provide. These are: common name, Latin name, country of origin, part of plant extracted, how its grown and its chemotype. Often times, a company will also provide a GC/MS report. This is a test that holds essential oils to a standard.
Essential oils are not cheap! If you see a very inexpensive oil, it is likely that it is not a pure oil. Trust your nose, if it smells fake, it probably is. And if it looks greasy, it has probably been cut with a carrier oil.
Essential Oil Diffusers
A simple and refreshing way to enjoy the benefits of lavender is with an essential oil diffuser. We especially like the humidifier versions for moistening air dried by heater and air conditioners. You can moisten the air while creating a relaxing and pleasing stress free environment that turns your home into a sanctuary with just a few drops of essential oil
Create a peaceful oasis at home with essential oil and a humidifying diffuser.
You can alternate with other essential oils to change the mood or boost health and healing by changing out the essential oil to fit your need, such as eucalyptus during cold and flu:
Lavender Lotion Recipe
Using Lavender essential oil in recipes can be very easy. Here is a simple lotion that can calm your skin and your mind.
- 2/3 Cup Unrefined Coconut Oil
- 2 Tbsp Beeswax
- 10 drops Lavender Essential Oil
- 1 Vitamin E capsule/dropper
Use a double boiler or place a glass measuring cup in a saucepan that is filled with water. Put beeswax and coconut oil together in cup. Once melted, stir in Lavender oil and Vitamin E. Use a hand mixer to fluff up the lotion a bit, then place in a container with a lid. Use as needed for soothing skin and soul.
Edible Lavender Recipes
Lavender Extract Recipe
Lavender extract is very easy to make. Simply add:
- 1/2 cup of dried Lavender buds to a glass jar,
- cover flowers with vodka
- seal the jar and place in a warm place out of direct sunlight for 2-3 weeks shaking occasionally.
Once ready, strain into another glass container for storage. At this point, it’s ready to be added to all kinds of dishes. You can use it in cookies, cakes, chocolates, lemonade, and ice cream. Or, be daring, and use it in your favorite alcoholic drink. Lavender margaritas, mojitos or martinis can be real crowd pleasers.
Lavender Lemon Cookie Recipe
Cooking with your Lavandula Angustifolia can be fun and tasty! Baking is even better. Here is a great Lavender Lemon Shortbread Cookie Recipe.
- 1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar
- Zest of 1 Lemon
- 2 1/2 Tbsp Dried Lavender Buds
- 2 sticks of Butter (room temp)
- 1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
- 2 1/4 Cups Flour
- 1/4 Tsp Salt
- Decorative Sugar
Add powdered sugar, lemon zest and 2 T Lavender to a food processor and pulse until ground and combined. Empty into a mixing bowl and add butter and vanilla, cream together. Add flour and salt, mix until incorporated. Empty out onto a floured counter or wax paper. Form into a log, wrap tightly, then place in the fridge for 4-5 hours or overnight. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375. Unwrap cookie log and slice into 1/4 inch thick slices with a sharp cold knife. Take the other 1/2 Tbsp of Lavender and add it to the decorative sugar. Roll the edges of the cookie in the sugar mix and place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes, do not overcook. Let cool then enjoy!
There’s so much that can be said about the amazing lavender family that we’re just getting warmed up. But we’ve made this a more concise sampling of information to help you get going in growing this wonderful, multipurpose plant.
If you have any interest in growing for profit, or perhaps you already are, we’d love to have you join a thriving Facebook group of growers and aspiring growers at Planting for Retirement on Facebook.
grow and heal in style with lavender!
Written by Sarah Ingram of eSCENTials Aroma and Muddy Boots Acres. Sarah is a Certified Aromatherapist and Natural Health Consultant. She is a busy mom of two boys with a love of all things natural, baking cookies and sleeping in on the weekends.
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