In a less romantic vein, lavender is also referred to by the Greek philosophers. Renown for their lavish devotion to scent, the early Romans had many uses for lavender, concerning bathing, hygiene, insect repellant, and fragrant perfume. Some attribute lavender’s name, from ‘lavare’ meaning ‘to wash’. The Romans are responsible for bringing lavender to England where it was adopted as a native daughter.
Lavender, appropriately purple, royal and loyal became an esteemed favorite of Queen Elizabeth I who had lavender in the garden, in her tea, to ward off migraines, and as her personal scent. This accounts for why English Lavender has so many varieties, upwards of at least seven types. But it was Queen Victoria, apparently more femme than historians have given her matronly credit for, was one of lavender’s most devoted fans. Lavender teas and waters were so adored, Victoria, as queens are wont to do, had her own lavender purveyor. That England has a plethora of lavender farms and companies such as Woods of England, Yardley and Bromley, boost decades of quality lavender trademark products is not surprising. Enjoy Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility and you are sure to see scenes of lavender gathering and hanging (to dry it out).
The British were quick to adapt it to sachets, teas, sleep pillows, soaps, and laundry waters. No doubt, for a century of two, accessible lavender was the Chanel 5 of everyone from tavern wench to coquettish gentry. According to Luca Turin, in his book, Perfume, the best lavender is from the monks on Caldey Island, South Wales.
The French of course, are known for their lavender fields of Provence,
the area surrounding Grasse, the world’s finest perfume center and for
that, we can again thank the Romans for bringing their favorite traveling
Without doubt, lavender has a dual persona. It is both the aromatherapist’s
darling – a wunderkind of medicinal benefits, house-cleaning attributes,
disinfectant, herbal calmer and natural sleep aid. It is a go-to essential oil
in countless men’s colognes and women’s perfumes, as well as body lotions,
salves, shampoos and fragrant candles. It is rare that an essential oil or any
fragrance is associated with elements as utilitarian (it was said to ward off the
Plague) as it is a messenger of romance or holistic healing. If you consider
how enduring, world-traveled plant it is and how affable what a world-traveler it is.
What makes lavender so appealing, even in these days where the fragrance
market is booming with choices, both natural and lab inspired (and I do mean
inspired in terms of brilliance as well as original), is that it continues to bloom
and do what it is known for. It is still the go-to scent for uplifting the home
ambience, importing serenity in a whiff. Lavender is also used in cooking in
baking and teas – as the recipes I’ve created here exemplify. It’s delicate,
slightly floral/acidic flavor is a nice touch in Earl Grey tea, or in vinaigrettes
or in scones.
You can tuck lavender springs under your pillow or buy dry-but-fragrant lavender
buds/flowers and put them in a fabric pouch of ‘sleep pillow’. I put rose buds,
chamomile flowers and lavender in vintage handkerchiefs, tie with a gross grain
ribbon and these are gifts of what I call “Traffic Tamers’. One inhalation, while in
traffic or a tense moment, and all is well. Two ingredients in lavender essential oil: linalyl acetate
and linalool- are sedative – and are mild, naturally (in a good way) narcotic, and can help induce sleep. (But do avoid lavender as a sleep aid in the first trimester of pregnancy)
Firstly though, always find a good and reliable source of supply. Purchase only dried lavender that is wafting a heady bouquet. Smell it first! Inferior lavender, improperly harvested and dried will product cosmetically correct springs of lavender, suitable for craft projects perhaps but for sheer largesse of fragrance – which is what it’s all about – you have to start with fragrant lavender – not just the right look.
Essential Oils, Tinctures and Lavender Water -
Crafting and Lavender Laundry Days….
Your Home and Lavender
For lavender essential oil, do find excellent, quality pure, essential lavender oil (and there are countless wonderful aromatherapy/essential oil places online). You can also opt, (and this again, is for craft projects such as soap, potpourri and candles) for a more tempered or blended scent, in which case, you might be drawn to blends or both natural and artificial fragrance oil lavender. Essential lavender oil is the purest form, then there are lavender tinctures, which is an alcoholic extraction with the solvent left in as a dilutant, or lavender water, which is distilled water and lavender essence – and perfect for using in your iron to steam press linens with or even rinsing hair after shampooing. Actually, lavender water is one of the earliest commercial ‘perfumes, born of the apothecary trade in Europe and the New World.
Or, toss a lavender bag or sachet (use a cloth handkerchief, tied up or fillable, paper tea sachets available at tea/coffee supply sites, and will with lavender) in your dryer. You can use such a home-grown lavender bag about 20-30 times. As the fragrance fades, top it off with a few drops of lavender oil. You can also make a cleaning mixture of water, with a touch of lavender and tea-tree oil and have a fragrant, natural cleaner/disinfectant. Or simmer lavender oil and flowers in a pot on the stove for a pervasive lavender scent in the home. (This is better in the evening when lavender is welcome; don’t do this when you are making a garlicky roast or Hungarian stew!). Touch (cold) light bulbs with a few drops of lavender oil and as the bulbs warm (when lights are on); you will be rewarded with lavender after glow. I even use a touch of lavender in my car – putting the oil, on a cotton ball, at various ‘pulse’ points of my car interior. You can also line drawers with paper drawer liner, drizzle some drops of lavender oil and scatter lavender flowers – let it dry/set up a bit and then stack on your clothes in your lavender scented mini ‘boudoir’ drawer. As a writer/author, I never send out a print proposal that doesn’t also include some lavender buds in it – why not use lavender in your correspondence as well, or in wedding invitations?
If you like lavender only a little instead of a whole lot but still want its benefits, feel free to combine it with other scents. I mix apple fragrance oil, a touch of oak moss with lavender as a home scent and/or men’s cologne. Or Lavender with Rose oil – and bergamot is another way to go; same is true for mandarin (either in fragrance oil or mandarin essential oil) mixed with lavender. The orange tones down the flowery lavender and you get a whole new perfume and experience. But the full medicinal properties and benefits of lavender are only with the domain of pure lavender essential oil.
One final note: when you cook or bake with lavender, make sure you are using not only premium product but that it is chemical and pesticide free (which is why finding a reliable source such as www.PurpleHaze.com lavender is essential or sleuthing our organica culinary lavender).
Purple Haze Lavender
Suppliers of the most amazing lavender products and information ever and are the most
responsive lavender company online. Everything you need and need to know about lavender
including their famous Lavender vinaigrette, lavender sugar, fresh plants, Grosso and Royal
Velvet lavender (darker purple, a sweeter, more floral bouquet then Grosso, which is slightly
more lemony and the more classic, pure lavender we think of most often, and is more accessible)
Caldey Island Lavender
According to Luca Turin, in his recent book, Perfumes, the Guide, Viking 2008, Caldey Island in
South Wales, is home to the best lavender and lavender products.
The Body Shop
International skin care with a nice line of oils for fragrance burner (and they also sell my favorite
brass oil burner), which includes a Lavender Essential Oil as well as Lavender Fragrance oil. www.TheBodyShop.com
Makers of one of the best lavender shea butter hand cream and a wonderful lavender body lotion – and one of the finest lavender incenses on the market. www.Loccitane.com
One of the oldest and most traditional of lavender products, including talc, soap, eau de toilette, and Spa lavender products.
Woods of Windsor
Kiehl's is one of America’s oldest apothecaries and they have morphed into a line of the best in skin and body products. They sometimes offer a Lavender hand and body lotion as well as bath products. www.kiehls.com
Well Naturally Products
A source of supply for potpourri products and essential and fragrant oils including lavender oil. www.wellnaturally.com
New Directions Australia
Australian based but world wide, this company offers craft supplies (other botanicals for potpourri), essential and fragrance oils. One of my favorite sources of supply. http://essentialoils-and-aromatherapy.com
Sweet Grass Farm
One of my favorite scent companies, they offer all manner of lavender laundry products. Check their Home Care part of their site for cleaning and laundry products with lavender in them. www.sweetgrassonline.com
This premier British perfumer recently launched an exceptional line of Lavandula candles, lotions and eau toilettes. What’s nice about this particular approach is that Lavandula has a base of pure lavender, but uplifted with notes of basil, lily of the valley, vanilla, clary sage and a few other choices essences. www.penhaligons.co.uk
Recipes and Potions for the Home
Lavender Sleep Pillow or Traffic Tamer, Lavender Bouquet Potpourri, Lavender Earl Grey Tea, Lavender Tea Scones
Lavender Fields Potpourri
A Marcy Goldman, Passion for Scent original recipe ©
Oris Root has a subtle fragrance of its own but is mostly a natural preservative of the other scents in the bouquet.
If you have other florals or botanicals you prefer, you can experiment and toss them in. For more spice, add a
touch of cloves or cinnamon but then leave out the pine and rosemary. This is a sweet but fresh, pretty-hued
and romantic mix. You can make mini ones as gifts of wedding favors.
1 cup English lavender, preferably a mixture of Grosso and Royal Velvet
1/2 cup Delphinium blossoms
1 cup fragrant rose petals
1 tablespoon dried rosemary or rosemary needles (from a garden plant)
1 tablespoon pine needles
2 tablespoons orris root powder
Zest of one large orange, dried on a sheet a few hours
2 tablespoons sweet grass
3-4 drops rose essential oil or quality fragrance oil
4-6 drops lavender essential oil, quality fragrance oil or a blend
Toss all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl. Let stand out in a pretty ceramic
bowl or put in a muslin bag, tie it with a ribbon and hang in a closet.
Lavender Sleep Pillow and/or Traffic Tamer
I use vintage linen dinner napkins, to wrap up this bundle of sleepy-time herbs
and florals. Just leave it somewhere near your pillow. A mini version of this can be
kept in your care. Inhale in case of traffic!
1 cup lavender buds
1 cup dried chamomile flowers
Few drops lavender, rose, bergamot essential oil
Toss in a non reactive bowl and dispense into a muslin bag or linen
handkerchief or table napkin. Seal with ribbons or ties. I also use tea
infusers – those stainless steel little thingies (they come in various
shapes or simply egg shaped ball, with holes all through, to seep tea
or in this case, allow scent to waft through, and are on little chains.
Simply fill with some of this lavender blend and stow in a little bag.
Lavender Earl Grey Tea
A lovely bit of lavender hospitality….
1/2 cup English breakfast tea leaves
½ cup Orange pekoe tea leaves
1/3 cup Earl Grey tea leaves
1-2 tablespoons dried lavender
Toss in a bowl; store in a tea tin and brew, as per regular black tea.
This is nice if you find lilac coloured, linen to make tea bags from.
Lavender Vanilla Cream Heart Scones
Buttery cream scones with traces of lavender – adding a subtle lemony touch and pretty
in purple spin. Offer with lavender infused honey or softened, sweetened cream cheese.
½ cup unsalted butter
2 cups all purpose flour
1-2 tablespoons dried lavender
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
½- 1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 425 F. Arrange oven rack to upper third position.
Stack two baking sheets together and line top one with parchment paper.
Cut the butter into the flour, and then stir in the lavender, sugar, salt, and
baking powder. Make a well in the center and stir in vanilla, cream and
egg to make a soft dough.
Knead gently on a floured board. Pat into an oval and cut into small hearts (or circles).
Place on baking sheet. Brush tops with butter and put a few lavender flowers on top.
bake until done, and nicely browned, about 15-17 minutes.
Makes 8-10 – depending on size, small or larger
Marcy Goldman 2008 ©