The ancient Greeks called the lavender herb nardus, after the Syrian city of Naarda. It was also commonly called nard.
During Roman times, flowers were sold for 100 denarii per pound, which was about the same as a month's wages for a farm labourer, or fifty haircuts from the local barber. Lavender was commonly used in Roman baths to scent the water, and it was thought to restore the skin. When the Roman Empire conquered southern Britain, the Romans introduced lavender.
During the height of the Plague, glove makers at Grasse would scent their leathers with lavender oil, and this was claimed to ward off the Plague. This story could have some validity as the Plague was transmitted by fleas, which lavender is known to repel.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy, a soccer player for Real Madrid, advocates the use of Lavender, and has been said to coat his boots in it prior to sleep.
In England lavender farms are springing up to meet a growing demand and on a sunny day, it could be Provence but the sight of lavender stretching out as far as the eye can see is becoming increasingly common in England. No longer the preserve of ancient aunts, lavender is now a sought-after ingredient in aromatherapy and herbal medicine, where it is used for both its antiseptic and calming properties.
Last month, a school in Hereford gave lavender-laced tissues to nervous GCSE candidates, and it is also becoming popular in cooking where it is used as a distinctive flavouring in scones, cakes and ice cream.
Lavender has become so important that there is even a spectacular celebration of lavender and herbs at The English Lavender Festival held in July each year. At this festival there isa large display of lavender and herb plants for sale together with border perennials and biennials.
Nigel Goodwill, The English Lavender Festival organiser says "Lavender is such a wonderful plant that we decided it was time to celebrate its properties with a dedicated national festival for all the family."The most common species in cultivation is the Common Lavender Lavandula angustifolia.
Lavenders are widely grown in gardens. Flower spikes are used for dried flower arrangements. The fragrant, pale purple flowers and flower buds are used in potpourris. Dried and sealed in pouches, they are placed among stored items of clothing to give a fresh fragrance and as a deterrent to moths. The plant is also grown commercially for extraction of lavender oil from the flowers. This oil is used as an antiseptic and for aromatherapy.
Lavender flowers yield abundant nectar which yields a high quality honey for beekeepers. French chefs in and around Provence have been incorporating this herb into their cuisine for many centuries. Lavender lends a floral, slightly sweet and elegant flavour to most dishes. It is the buds however that contain the essential oil of lavender, which is where both the scent and flavour of lavender are best derived.
Lavender needs little introduction to people as its scent is already hugely popular and well loved. At Regent House this traditional Lavender fragrance ranks amongst our top 5 sellers and is available in a wide range of products including simmering granules, fragrance oils, room sprays, ironing oil and fragrant stones. In the aromatherapy range Regent House has essential oil, massage oil, massage cream, rollerballs and a CD relaxation pack which aids sleep. All of the products sell excellently in garden centres and gift shops and recently Regent House has launched a floor standing display full of just Lavender products.
QUICK GUIDE TO LAVENDER USES
Lavender is known for its powerful but gentle relaxing, de-stressing, antiseptic and uplifting properties.
It is good for:
The urinary system: problems like cystitis.
The circulatory system: palpitations and high blood pressure.
The respiratory system: throat infections, influenza, bronchitis and whooping cough.
The nervous system and emotions: it calms a variety of nervous disorders including excitability, insomnia, migraine and nervous tension. As well as panic attacks, hysteria and depression. It has a steadying influence on the psyche, helping indecisiveness and emotional conflict as well as aiding in strengthening the conscious mind.
The muscular system: helps muscular and rheumatic aches and pains.
The reproductive system: useful in treating scanty menstruation and leucorrhoea.