As an herb, lavender has been in documented use for over
2,500 years. In ancient times lavender was used for mummification
and perfume by the Egyptians, Phoenicians, and peoples of Arabia.
lavender oils for bathing, cooking, and scenting the air, and
they most likely gave it the Latin root from which we derive the modern name (either lavare--to
wash, or livendula--livid or bluish). The flower's soothing "tonic" qualities, the insect-repellent
effects of the strong scent, and the use of the dried plant in
smoking mixtures also added to the value of the herb in ancient times..
mentioned often in the Bible, not by the name lavender but rather
by the name used at that time--spikenard (from the Greek name for lavender, naardus, after the Syrian city Naarda). In the gospel of Luke
the writer reports: "Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard,
very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet
with her hair; and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment."
Christian reference to lavender involves how it got its scent.
The plant is believed to have been taken from the Garden of Eden
by Adam and Eve. However, the powerful perfume came later. According
to legend, the clothing of baby Jesus bestowed the scent when Mother Mary laid them upon a bush to
dry. This may explain why the
plant is also regarded as a holy safeguard against evil. In many
Christian houses, a cross of lavender was hung over the door for
domesticated by the Arabians, lavender spread across Europe from
Greece. Around 600 BC, lavender may have come from the Greek Hyeres
Islands into France and is now common in France, Spain, Italy
and England. The 'English' lavender varieties were not locally
developed in England but rather introduced in the 1600s, right
around the time the first lavender plants were making their way
to the Americas. In Medieval and Renaissance Europe, the washing
women were known as "lavenders" and they used lavender to scent
drawers and dried the laundry on lavender bushes. Also during
this time, lavender was grown in so-called "infirmarian's gardens" in monasteries,
along with many other medicinal herbs. According
to the German nun Hildegard of Bingen, who lived from 1098-1179,
lavender "water,"--a decoction of vodka, gin, or brandy mixed with
lavender--is great for migraine headaches.
Its holy reputation may have increased during the Great Plague in London in the 17th century, when it was
suggested that a bunch of lavender fastened to each wrist would
protect the wearer against the deadly disease. Furthermore, grave-robbers
were known to wash in Four Thieves Vinegar, which contained lavender,
after doing their dirty work; they rarely contracted the disease.
In 16th-century France, lavender was also used to resist infection.
For example, glove-makers, who were licensed to perfume their
wares with lavender, escaped cholera at that time.
European royal history is also filled with stories of lavender use. Charles VI of France
demanded lavender-filled pillows wherever he went. Queen Elizabeth
I of England required lavender conserve at the royal table. She
also wanted fresh lavender flowers available every day of the
year, a daunting task for a gardener if you consider the climate
of England. Louis XIV also loved lavender and bathed in water
scented with it. Queen Victoria used a lavender deodorant, and both
Elizabeth I and II used products from the famous lavender
company, Yardley and Co. of London.
a unique fragrance produced by the combination of 180 different
constituents and is widely used in the perfume industry to add
a top or middle note to commercial products. In the world of professional
sniffers, it has a green, hay-like sweetness and gives "fruity
aspects" to perfumes and other scented products. Lavender is widely grown in England for commercial use, and the Provence region
of France is renowned as a world leader in growing and producing
In the United
States and Canada, the Shakers were the first to grow lavender commercially.
A strict sect of English Quakers who most likely had little use
for lavender's amorous qualities (they were celibate), they developed
herb farms upon their arrival from England. They produced their
own herbs and medicines and sold them to the "outside world."
Later a New York advertising firm picked them up and sold the
simple products worldwide.
As an herbal
medicine, lavender is widely utilized. For soothing,
relaxing qualities few herbs can be claimed as effective. Constituents
of the oils found in lavender can treat hyperactiviety; insomnia;
flatulence; bacteria, fungus, and microbial activity on gums, airborne
molds, and (in mixture with pine, thyme, mint, rosemary, clove,
and cinnamon oils) Staphyloccus bacteria. Lavender may even be useful against impotence. In a study
of men, the scent of pumpkin and lavender rated as the scent found
love are an ancient match. In an apocryphal book of the Bible,
we again hear of the use of lavender. Here the story tells us
that Judith anointed herself with perfumes including lavender
before seducing Holofernes, the enemy commander. This allowed
her to murder him and thus save the City of Jerusalem. The overwhelming
power of this seductive scent was also used by Cleopatra to seduce
Julius Cesaer and Mark Antony. The Queen of Sheba offered spikenard
with frankincense and myrrh to King Solomon
By Tudor times, lavender brew was being sipped by maidens on St. Lukes
day to divine the identity of their true loves. They'd chant, "St. Luke, St.
Luke, be kind to me. In my dreams, let me my true love see." Lavender in the pillows of alpine girls brought
hope of romance, while lavender under the bed of newlyweds ensured
passion. Finally, a famous nursery rhyme called "Lavender Blue, Dilly
Dilly" was written in 1680 and talks of "Whilst you and I, diddle,
diddle…keep the bed warm." Lavender-inspired loving strikes again!
by Elen Spector Platt and Lavender: Practical Inspirations by Tess Evelegh)