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Lavender - Nature's Aromatic Elixir

Delicate purple blossoms with an aroma that is familiar to most. Lavender has been cherished for centuries for its myriad of remarkable properties from inducing relaxation to skin healing.

Now is the time to plant your lavender. It all depends on location and climate but here in SW London, May is an excellent time as the last frosts have gone and the soil is warming up. Spring also gives the plants good time to grow and establish before the summer heat arrives.

Lavender thrives in full sun and well drained soil so choose a location in the garden that gets 6-8 hours of sunlight each day and good drainage.

You can of course do container planting as you have more control with the growing environment but Spring in general is still the best time.

Here are the most popular species.

Lavandula angustifolia -  English and French lavender. Also known as ‘True lavender’ One of the most commonly grown. Hidcote and Munstead are the most popular choices producing rich purple long stemmed flowers. In aromatherapy True Lavender is safe for use in pregnancy (blended at a lower dilution) and safe for children.

Lavandula stoechas - Spanish lavender. Also known as butterfly lavender. The flowers are often described as looking like bunny ears. Unlike True lavender the essential oil comes with cautions. It has high levels of camphor which is dangerous for anyone suffering with epilepsy and not safe in pregnancy nor for use with children. Its an excellent oil for tummy cramps, for those suffering with arthritis and joint pain.

Lavandula x intermedia - This is called Lavandin and is a hybrid species that results from crossing Lavandula angustifolia with Lavandula Latifolia which is a Portuguese lavender. Lavandin has a stronger fragrance than English lavender with larger flower spikes. Grosso and Provence are popular varieties. Like stoechas it contains camphor which comes in lower levels but still unsafe in pregnancy and epilepsy. In aromatherapy it has rubefacient properties therefore its excellent for treating muscular aches and pains and also for respiratory problems such as coughs, colds, and bronchitis.

Lavender is the panacea of essential oils, from promoting restful sleep, soothing the senses, uplifting our spirits, reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, skin irritations, muscular aches, reducing headaches and a lot more! Inhalation can lower cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress, reducing tension and agitation.

Restless nights and insomnia can be helped with the tranquil soothing aroma allowing for a peaceful night. It can be diffused in the bedroom and applied to pillows. A couple of drops placed on a tissue is comforting whilst you try to get to sleep.

The essential oil (only the safe true lavender) can actually be applied neat to the skin to help heal blemishes and a fabulous healing aid for burns and cuts and grazes. For use as a massage oil and for use in the bath it can be diluted into a carrier oil such as sweet almond or for anyone who has nut allergies then grape seed oil works well.

Lavender is antibacterial, anti inflammatory, a natural anti histamine, antimicrobial, a natural anti depressant, a natural sedative, antiseptic, analgesic and antispasmodic.

However, most people think that lavender essential oil is safe.  If you purchase True lavender with the botanical name on the bottle ‘Lavandula angustifolia’ then yes but sadly there are many blends sold that are a mixture of the lavender varieties and therefore unsafe. Please buy from a reputable source stating the latin name.

As always please consult a professional Aromatherapist if in doubt. Essential oils are powerful and need to be treated with respect.