Soothing Lavender

Soothing Lavender. I still remember the bags of dried lavender buds my mother was using to freshen and perfume our closets, and sometimes put under our pillows when we did not feel too well.

Lavender is the essence of South Europe, the borders of the Mediterranean Sea. The fragrant grass was already cultivated by the ancient Greeks for its medicinal and antibacterial benefits. They called it then “Nard”. Its modern name comes from the Romans who considered the plant as a wonder in freshening the laundry (from the Latin word “lavanda” – things to be washed).

Lavender is actually found in 39 species, all related to the mint family. Some are grown essentially for their high oil yield and their fragrant notes,  while many others are enjoyed in our sunny gardens and parks. Bulgaria is today the largest producer in the world.

Besides its use in pot-pourri, lavender honey and some seasoning in a few Mediterranean dishes, Lavender is today mainly distilled for its oil. I was always amazed by the quantity of essential oil a relatively small amount of flower buds can produce. It is one of the highest yielding essence and makes it best to start with for us amateur-distillers. It is a very exciting and enriching process I would recommend to all of you. I am using traditional copper alembic of 15L and 5L from Portugal, but smaller stills can be used to start with.

L'alambic provencal
An old copper alembic in Provence

Lavender oil is widely used in aromatherapy. It is a magic plant as its properties are almost endless. It is known as a remedy for aching muscles, acne, bugs & bacteria, burns, cuts & wounds, earache, eczema, fatigue, fevers, giddy spells, palpitations, headache, insomnia, long haul travel, menstrual cramps, moths & mosquitoes, sandflies, scabies, shingles, sinusitis, stress & anxiety and sunburn… I personally use it to heal minor wounds and scars on the skin and it was always very effective.

In perfumery, lavender is mainly a powerful top and heart note, with fresh, sweet and floral tones. It is the base of the “Fougère” types of perfumes,  distinguished by their herbal lavender top notes and oak moss base. You will find lavender oil in some proportion in most men fragrances and many ladies’ ones too. I recommend to try “Pour un Homme” de Caron which marries so well lavender and vanilla. For her, the “Aqua Allegoria Lavande Velours” de Guerlain. “Gris Clair” de Serge Lutens sits among my favorite lavenders, besides the rare but amazing “Musgo Real #4” of Claus Porto.

More simply, an infusion of a few lavender buds before to go to bed will pacify your mind and give you a wonderful sleep.

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