When you think of lavender, maybe you think of those small pillow sachets filled with dried lavender flower seeds. This popular scent keeps drawers and closets from smelling musty. Or…do you just think lavender, the scent? It’s a favorite for many.

Well, it’s not just a scent. Lavender is a powerhouse herb that is useful for so much more. Everyone should have it in their home and garden!

I’ve just returned from New Zealand, and one of my favorite experiences was visiting a lavender farm. Upon arrival, an immediate feeling of tranquility and awe overcame me in the presence of thousands of these plants. It inspired me to share a few facts about this powerful herb…

Lavender’s history alone distinguishes it from other herbs. It has been documented for over 2500 years. It’s use in a variety of forms, has been recorded by Egyptians, Phoenicians, Ancient Grecians, Romans, in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, and across continents here and abroad, for a very long time.

The term “lavender” is translated from the Latin “lavare”, meaning “to wash.” Romans used it as perfume, a scent for bath water, an insect repellent, and to flavor foods.

In the Bible, it is referred to as “spikenard”, meaning “genuine and pure”. Lavender was the ointment used to anoint Jesus, by his mother, before his death, because it was a valuable fragrance used for special occasions. During Medieval and Renaissance Europe, it was thrown on the floor of castles to deodorize and disinfect. People grew lavender in their gardens because they believed it warded off disease.

Lavender played a critical role in the 17th century, during the Great Plague. It was customary to tie lavender to both wrists to ward off ‘Black Death’. Even the thieves during this time were using lavender in a special potion called “Four Thieves Vinegar”. They washed themselves with it after stealing from corpses diseased by the plague, for protection from the disease.

They were on to something, because we now know that fleas carried the disease. Lavender, an effective insect repellent, was likely responsible for saving many lives and helping to stop the spread of the deadly virus.

The Shakers, a religious group of English Quakers, were the ones who used lavender as a commodity in the U.S. and Canada. They grew it in their gardens, made medicines and various other products.

Lavender is ubiquitous today, used as a scent in a variety of cleaning, health, and beauty products. In addition to it’s ability to cleanse and deodorize, it is truly a versatile herbal medicine. It’s proven medicinal properties make it useful as an antiviral, antifungal, antioxidant, analgesic, antibacterial, antidepressant, anti-anxiety, and as a carminative (for gas and bloating). An herbalist can teach you how to use lavender in a salve, a tincture, a gel, or a tea, or even just in the form of an essential oil, as an everyday home remedy. As an essential oil, use it to treat 1st and 2nd degree burns. Lavender essential oil can treat athlete’s foot, cuts, cankers sores and insect bites without diluting it.

It can be used to treat gas, nausea, digestive issues, and intestinal viruses. It’s used to address stagnant depression, mild anxiety, and is well known as an herb to improve sleep quality. Lavender has also been effectively used in pain relief for migraine headaches, sprains, joint pain, toothaches, and burns. It can be used to promote menstruation, treat acne, and can be part of a cancer fighting protocol. Lavender can be used both topically and internally and is a wonderful culinary herb.

Practically speaking, it should be in every home …but, probably the best reason to grow it is because it looks so beautiful in the garden, and it attracts bees! I’m looking forward to sharing some very specific information about how to use lavender in the home. Look for a workshop soon!

Works Cited

"The History of Lavender." The History of Lavender. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.

"LAVENDER: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings - WebMD." WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2016.

Winston, David. "Class Notes - Lavender." N.p., n.d. Web.