Lavender has been a popular plant since at least ancient times, under various names and for various uses.
Egyptians used it for embalming and cosmetics. The Greeks referred to it as nardus, and Greek philosopher Theophrastus wrote about it in a book concerning the healing powers of certain scents. Romans turned to lavender for its healing and medicinal properties. Arabia is said to be where some varieties of the plant were first domesticated. The people of India called it spikenard after the shape of the flowers.
There are 39 species of lavender, which is actually part of the mint family. It is grown in various countries around the world, but the mecca for the purple wonder is Provence. The French government saw the cultivation of lavender as a way to keep people from leaving in the area prior to World War I, so many orchards and fields were cleared to make way for their new crop. I see it as their sneaky way to make me really, really want to go to Provence and roll around their hills. With a bottle of wine. And some cheese.
Lavender is one of my all time favorites, and I usually try to keep a good soy candle or clippings nearby while I work. Today, lavender is still in high demand, with more benefits than ever. Try some of these on for size:
- Learn about types of lavender and care – With so many varieties, are you growing Spanish? French? English? Will it even grow well where you live? Thanks to this article, I now know that I just cut my stems off too early. Crap.
- Visit a local lavender farm – With the dry weather out here in California, we have a number of farms. Don’t be discouraged, though – There are growers all over the US and internationally. Check this list to find one near you and plan a trip. Many will offer tours and pick-your-own dates during the harvesting season.
- Get crafty with lavender – There are a ton of things to do with lavender, from making soaps and hair products to home decorations and air fresheners. This is a nice little list to get you started.
- The Lavender Cookbook – These plants smell and look so good that I often want to stick my face in one and start noshing. Luckily, you actually can eat it (though maybe not how I just described.). Using it in recipes is a fairly new practice, and some say it can be an acquired taste, but this book by Sharon Shipley will show you how to stick it in drinks, baked goods, meat dishes, and more.
- Use essential oils – Lavender essential oil has been used for centuries as an antiseptic, for skin care, respiratory issues, aches, pains, and emotional harmony. This guide will show you how to put those drops to good use and what kind to look out for.