Lovely Lavender

| 6/24/2014 1:05:00 PM

Acorn and ThistleA dear friend of mine inherited an extensive garden when she and her husband purchased their new home.  I’ve been enjoying seeing her photos and helping to identify some of the plants she wasn’t sure about. It came up during one such conversation that she also has quite a bit of lavender, but isn’t sure what to do with it.

I could go on for days about how much I love lavender. Its distinctive scent and easy- going nature has made it a favorite not only for centuries, but the whole world over: the name lavender itself comes from the Medieval Latin word “lavare” which means to wash. Medicinally, it has been used for ages to soothe everything from anxiety and headaches, to burns and other skin conditions.


Lavender does vary in fragrance, somewhat, depending on the species. For our purposes here, I’m talking about Lavandula officinalis or Lavandula angustifolia; both being Old English types that are highly fragrant.  Feel free to use whichever lavender you like best, but take care to use only untreated plants (lavender or otherwise) for any culinary or skin care applications. The leaves and flowers can be used fresh or dried; keep in mind that the flavors/scent of the dried herb are more concentrated than the fresh, and can be quite potent.

A word about allergies: lavender allergies are uncommon, but not unheard of. Test for a reaction before using lavender by rubbing a single leaf on the skin inside the fold of the elbow. Wait 24 hours; if any redness or rash appears, do not use it.

Here are some of my favorite uses for lavender; while this is by no means an exhaustive list, it is a good introduction to using this wonderful plant, for those less experienced: