FANCY LATIN NAME: Lavandula angustifolia
WHERE IT COMES FROM: Lavender is native to the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean, but is now grown all over Europe, Australia, and the USA. Lavandula angustifolia is considered "true lavender, and has a sweet, pure scent with very little camphor. Spike lavender, which grows at lower altitudes, has a camphorous odor, and is sometimes used to adulterate the more expensive true lavender essential oil. (Osmia does not use spike lavender, in case you're curious.) We grow some of our own, organic lavender (pictured above) in the Colorado mountains, at about 7000 feet. We also use organic lavender essential oil from France and Bulgaria.
AROMATHERAPY USES: Lavender essential oil is most effective in alleviating anxiety, headaches, and insomnia. Recent studies have shown that lavender essential oil can be therapeutic before surgery, decreasing anxiety during IV placement, and increasing patient satisfaction scores.
SKINCARE USES: Lavender essential oil, lavender-infused oil, and lavender hydrosol are all widely used in skincare products. Lavender is one of the few essential oils that can be applied directly to the skin without dilution. It is non-irritating and can be soothing to skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. It has also proven useful in treating primary alopecia (hair loss) when applied to the scalp daily. Some studies have shown that it increases collagen synthesis, which may help with skin healing, and may contribute to healthy skin texture and tone. Lavender flowers can be used to make an infused oil when combined with a cold-pressed oil like olive oil: after several weeks or months, the flowers are strained out, leaving behind the scent and anti-inflammatory constituents of the plant. (We make our own lavender-infused oil, and use it in some of the products listed in the chart below.)
THINGS TO KNOW: Lavender is a great essential oil to keep in the kitchen for treating burns and bug bites. It is anti-inflammatory, and has some pain relieving properties, mostly due to a component of the oil called linalool. If you apply it immediately after a burn or a bite, you should experience significantly less pain and swelling, as it has an anti-histamine effect. (As an added benefit, it will make you feel all mushy and warm in your soul, which distracts you from whatever painful thing just happened.)
RANDOM SNIPPETS: The name lavender comes from the latin verb "lavare", meaning "to wash". Lavender oil has been used for centuries to scent bed and bath linens - Marie Antoinette allegedly used it in her decorating. Lavender has been used since medieval times to ward off illness (it does have antibacterial properties) and cover odor (they didn't shower much back then). It is part of the mint family, and the flowers are edible in small to moderate quantities. Try adding a few flowers to your tea before bedtime!
SOME OSMIA PRODUCTS WITH LAVENDER: