Love That Lavender!

Reader Contribution by Lyssa Mckenry
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Sniffff! Take a moment from your hectic day, and recall the distinctive fragrance of lavender. See, you are already feeling calmer! When I smell lavender, it makes me feel like I’m in a serene meadow without a care in the world, even if the world is falling down around me. Because of the fresh smell, this herb has a wide variety of uses in your home and makes a great addition to your oil collection, garden, or recipes.

Many people that use essential oils claim lavender is the quintessential oil. If you could only have one oil, make it lavender, they say. This could be because lavender oil is so versatile. Here are some great applications:

1. Relaxation — Put a few drops on your pillow at night to help you sleep. (I’m usually not awake long enough to smell it … I guess that means it works!) Or you could put a few drops on your feet, temples, or wrists for a calming effect. If work is stressful, use a diffuser in your office with lavender oil. I’ve got mine running right now!

2. Skin — It reduces swelling and itching, is good for bee stings, and is good for burns and cuts. Lavender keeps bacteria down and reduces pain. If you have eczema, try mixing it with an oil to reduce symptoms. Honestly, any kind of skin problem, put some lavender on it!

3. Nausea — Lavender helps to calm the stomach; place on the tip of your tongue or behind ears.

Now that I have convinced you that life without lavender is impossible, let’s talk about growing it! What color is your thumb? Never mind, lavender is a great plant for folks that tend to … Well, have a black thumb (gasp!). Once established, a lavender plant is low-maintenance and drought tolerant, so don’t worry about forgetting to water it every day. Lavender likes hot, sunny locations with well-drained soil. This is a great mounding plant, so make sure you build up the soil around it for good drainage. There are several different varieties of lavender that have different colors from dark purple to blue. So pick some up from your local nursery, and put it in the ground!

Once your lavender is growing well, you may want to harvest some to use around the house. The best time to harvest the flowers and stems is in the spring right after it has bloomed. Take a handful and use a sharp knife to cut the green stems at the bottom of the plant. Do not cut the woody part of the plant; this can damage the plant. The best time of day to harvest your lavender is in the morning after the dew has dried. If you harvest early enough, the plant will most likely produce enough for a second cutting before autumn. After harvesting, take the lavender inside and hang it upside down in bunches to dry for using in soap making, candle making, and cooking.

Now that you have harvested your lavender, let’s try it out in the kitchen. When first using lavender in your recipes, start with a small amount and gradually increase, because too much lavender will make the food bitter. A little goes a long way! Another good tip is that you need about one-third less of dried versus fresh lavender, since the dried form is much more potent. If you would like to try a new variation to an old recipe, try substituting lavender for rosemary. If you find that lavender has an overwhelming flavor, try using it as a garnish on cakes and ice cream. Again, there are so many uses; keep trying it out to see what fits your style the best.

May your day be peaceful and serene!

Photo by Adobe Stock/Laszlo

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