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Lavender flowers
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Lavandula

39 species, including some hybrids:
Lavandula angustifolia (Common or True lavender)
Lavandula antineae
Lavandula aristibracteata
Lavandula atriplicifolia
Lavandula bipinnata
Lavandula bramwellii
Lavandula buchii
Lavandula canariensis
Lavandula citriodora
Lavandula coronopifolia
Lavandula dentata (French lavender)
Lavandula dhofarensis
Lavandula erythraeae
Lavandula galgalloensis
Lavandula gibsonii
Lavandula hasikensis
Lavandula lanata
Lavandula latifolia Portuguese or Spike lavender
Lavandula macra
Lavandula mairei
Lavandula maroccana
Lavandula minutolii
Lavandula multifida (Fernleaf lavender, Egyptian lavender)
Lavandula nimmoi
Lavandula pedunculata
Lavandula pinnata (Fernleaf lavender)
Lavandula pubescens
Lavandula qishnensis
Lavandula rejdalii
Lavandula rotundifolia
Lavandula saharica
Lavandula samhanensis
Lavandula setifera
Lavandula somaliensis
Lavandula sublepidota
Lavandula subnuda
Lavandula stoechas (Spanish lavender)
Lavandula tenuisecta
Lavandula viridis
Lavandula x allardii
Lavandula x chaytorae
Lavandula x christiana
Lavandula x ginginsii
Lavandula x heterophylla
Lavandula x intermedia (Dutch lavender)

The lavenders (Lavandula) are a genus of 39 species of flowering plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae, native to the Mediterranean region south to tropical Africa and to the southeast regions of India. The genus includes annuals, herbaceous plants, subshrubs, and small shrubs. The native range extends across the Canary Islands, North and East Africa, Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, Arabia and India. Because the cultivated forms are planted in gardens worldwide, they are occasionally found growing wild as garden escapees, well beyond their natural range. However, since lavender cross-pollinates easily, there are countless variations within the species. The color of the flowers of some forms has come to be called lavender.



The leaves are entire in some species (in which case they tend to be long and narrow). In other species they are pinnately toothed, or pinnate, sometimes multiple pinnate and dissected. Flowers are borne in whorls, held on spikes rising above the foliage. Flowers may be blue, violet or lilac. The calyx is tubular, with five lobes. The corolla is often asymmetric.[1]

Nomenclature and taxonomy


The most common "true" species in cultivation is the common lavender Lavandula angustifolia (formerly L. officinalis). A wide range of cultivars can be found. Other commonly grown ornamental species are L. stoechas, L. dentata, and L. multifida.

Lavandula x intermedia or "Lavendin" is the most cultivated species for commercial use, since its flowers are bigger and the plants are easier to harvest, but Lavendin oil is regarded to be of a lower quality.[2]


Lavenders are widely grown in gardens. Flower spikes are used for dried flower arrangements. The fragrant, pale purple flowers and flower buds are used in potpourris. Dried and sealed in pouches, they are placed among stored items of clothing to give a fresh fragrance and to deter moths.

Culinary use

Flowers also yield abundant nectar from which bees make a high-quality honey. Monofloral honey is produced primarily around the Mediterranean, and is marketed worldwide as a premium product. Flowers can be candied and are sometimes used as cake decorations. Lavender flavors baked goods and desserts (it pairs especially well with chocolate), as well as used to make "lavender sugar".[3] Lavender flowers are occasionally blended with black, green, or herbal tea, adding a fresh, relaxing scent and flavour.

Though it has many other traditional uses in southern France, lavender is not used in traditional southern French cooking.[4] In the 1970s, an herb blend called herbes de Provence and usually including lavender was invented by spice wholesalers,[5] and lavender has more recently become popular in cookery.

Lavender lends a floral and slightly sweet flavor to most dishes, and is sometimes paired with sheep's-milk and goat's-milk cheeses. For most cooking applications the dried buds (also referred to as flowers) are used, though some chefs experiment with the leaves as well. Only the buds contain the essential oil of lavender, which is where the scent and flavour of lavender are best derived.

The French are also known for their lavender syrup, most commonly made from an extract of lavender. In the United States, both French lavender syrup and dried lavender buds make lavender scones and marshmallows.

Medicinal use

Lavender is used extensively in herbalism and aromatherapy.

English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) yields an essential oil with sweet overtones, and can be used in balms, salves, perfumes, cosmetics, and topical applications. Lavandin, Lavandula x intermedia (also known as Dutch lavender), yields a similar essential oil, but with higher levels of terpenes including camphor, which add a sharper overtone to the fragrance. Mexican lavender, Lavandula stoechas is not used medicinally, but mainly for landscaping.

Essential oil of lavender has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. It was used in hospitals during WWI to disinfect floors and walls. These extracts are also used as fragrances for bath products.

According to folk wisdom, lavender has many uses. Infusions of lavender soothe and heal insect bites. Bunches of lavender repel insects. If applied to the temples, lavender oil soothes headaches. In pillows, lavender seeds and flowers aid sleep and relaxation. An infusion of three flowerheads added to a cup of boiling water soothes and relaxes at bedtime. Lavender oil (or extract of Lavender) heals acne when used diluted 1:10 with water, rosewater, or witch hazel; it also treats skin burns and inflammatory conditions.

Health precautions

Scientific evidence supports the effectiveness of some of these remedies, especially anti-inflammatory effects, but they should be used with caution since lavender oil can also be a powerful allergen.

Avoid ingesting lavender during pregnancy and breastfeeding.[6].

Topically, lavender oil is cytotoxic. It increases photosensitivity as well. Lavender oil is cytotoxic to human skin cells in vitro (endothelial cells and fibroblasts) at a concentration of 0.25%. Linalool, a component of lavender oil, may be its active component.[7] Aqueous extracts reduced mitotic index, but induced chromosomal aberrations and mitotic aberrations in comparison with control, significantly. Aqueous extracts induced breaks, stickiness, pole deviations and micronuclei. These effects were related to extract concentrations.[8]

Two essential oils, lavender and tea tree oil, contribute to gynaecomastia, an abnormal breast tissue growth in prepubescent boys. The use of shampoo and similar products, containing lavender and tea tree oils, in three boys resulted in this condition.[9] Professor Ieuan Hughes, a child hormone specialist at the University of Cambridge claims "... these oils can mimic oestrogens" and "people should be a little bit careful about using these products".[10][11].

Other uses

Lavender is also used extensively as herbal filler inside sachets used to freshen linens. Dried lavender flowers have become recently popular for wedding confetti.


The ancient Greeks called the lavender herb nardus, after the Syrian city of Naarda. It was also commonly called nard.[12]

Lavender was one of the holy herbs used in the biblical Temple to prepare the holy essence, and nard is mentioned in the Song of Solomon (4,14)

nard and saffron,[13]
calamus and cinnamon,
with every kind of incense tree,
with myrrh and aloes,
and all the finest spices.[14]

During Roman times, flowers were sold for 100 denarii per pound, which was about the same as a month's wages for a farm laborer, or fifty haircuts from the local barber. Lavender was commonly used in Roman baths to scent the water, and it was thought to restore the skin.[citation needed] Its late Latin name was lavandārius, from lavanda (things to be washed), from the verb lavāre (to wash).[15] When the Roman Empire conquered southern Britain, the Romans introduced lavender.[citation needed] The Greeks discovered early on that lavender if crushed and treated correctly would release a relaxing fume when burned.


See also


  1. ^ L. H. Bailey, Manual of Cultivated Plants 
  2. ^ National Non-Food Crops Centre. "Lavender". Retrieved on 2009-04-23.
  3. ^ [1] Purple Haze Lavender Farm - Cooking with Lavender
  4. ^ It does not appear at all in the best-known compendium of Provencal cooking, J.-B. Reboul's Cuisinière Provençale (1910)
  5. ^ Francis Laget, "From its Birthplace in Egypt to Marseilles, an Ancient Trade: ‘Drugs and Spices’" Diogenes 52:131 (2005) abstractdoi:10.1177/0392192105055941
  6. ^ Lavender: Precautions, Center for Integrative Medicine
  7. ^ "Cytotoxicity of lavender oil and its major components to human skin cells" Prashar A, Locke IC, Evans CS
  8. ^ "Cytotoxic and genotoxic effects of Lavandula stoechas aqueous extracts" Celik TA (Celik, Tulay Askin), Aslanturk OS (Aslanturk, Ozlem Sultan)
  9. ^ N. Engl. J. Med. 356(5):479-85 (2007) Prepubertal gynecomastia linked to lavender and tea tree oils. PMID 17267908
  10. ^ "Oils make male breasts develop". BBC News. February 1, 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-09. 
  11. ^ "Bad Shampoo for Boys?". Washington Post. 2004-07-04. Retrieved 2007-03-20. 
  12. ^ The origin of most of these quotes comes from Dr. William Thomas Fernie, in his book "Herbal Simples" (Bristol Pub., 1895. ASIN: B0014W4WNE). A digital copy of the book can be read online. 'By the Greeks the name Nardus is given to Lavender, from Naarda, a city of Syria near the Euphrates, and many persons call the plant "Nard." St. Mark mentions this as Spikenard, a thing of great value. In Pliny's time, blossoms of the Nardus sold for a hundred Roman denarii (or L.3 2s. 6d.) the pound. This Lavender or Nardus was called Asarum by the Romans, because it was not used in garlands or chaplets. It was formerly believed that the asp, a dangerous kind of viper, made Lavender its habitual place of abode, so that the plant had to be approached with great caution.'
  13. ^ "Song of Solomon". Bible Gateway.;&version=31. 
  14. ^ The assumption of the history of Lavender, originating from Naarda, along with the facts about the price in Roman time, are quoted widely throuout the web (over 350 entries in a google search) calling the city Naarda, Nerdus or Nardus. The Bible has many mentions of a fragrant plant called "Nard" and an ancient Jewish Mishna recited daily in Jewish prayers, refers to "Shibolet Nard" (Hebrew for "Nard Spike") as one of the herbs used for making the holy essence at the biblical Temple. Dr. Fernie is the first known to link "Nard" with the city of Nerdus - Naarda, one of the major cities of Jewish study and origin of the Talmud, during the years 150-1100 a.d. Since Naarda or Nehar-D'Ah - river of Ah - was on a canal between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, it could never have been a Syrian city, but rather in present day Iraq, somewhere in the Baghdad area. Dr Fernie refers widely to Jewish studies, probably quoted from a former botanist Robert Turner.
  15. ^ "Lavender", Oxford English Dictionary (second ed.), 1989 

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

LAVENDER, botanically Lavandula, a genus of the natural order Labiatae distinguished by an ovate tubular calyx, a twolipped corolla, of which the upper lip has two and the lower three lobes, and four stamens bent downwards.

The plant to which the name of lavender is commonly applied, Lavandula vera, is a native of the mountainous districts of the countries bordering on the western half of the Mediterranean, extending from the eastern coast of Spain to Calabria and northern Africa, growing in some places at a height of 4500 ft. above the sea-level, and preferring stony declivities in open sunny situations. It is cultivated in the open air as far north as Norway and Livonia. Lavender forms an evergreen undershrub about 2 ft. high, with greyish-green hoary linear leaves, rolled under at the edges when young; the branches are erect and give a bushy appearance to the plant. The flowers are borne on a terminal spike at the summit of a long naked stalk, the spike being composed of 6 - io dense clusters in the axils of small, brownish, rhomboidal, tapering, opposite bracts, the clusters being more widely separated towards the base of the spike. The calyx is tubular, contracted towards the mouth, marked with 13 ribs and 5-toothed, the posterior tooth being the largest. The corolla is of a pale violet colour, but darker on its inner surface, tubular, two-lipped, the upper lip with two and the lower with three lobes. Both corolla and calyx are covered with stellate hairs, amongst which are imbedded shining oil glands to which the fragrance of the plant is due. The leaves and flowers of lavender are said to have been used by the ancients to perfume their baths; hence the Med. Lat. name Lavandula or Lavendula is supposed to have been derived from lavare, to wash. This derivation is considered doubtful and a connexion has been suggested with Lat. livere, to be of a bluish, pale or livid colour.

Although L. Stoechas was well known to the ancients, no allusion unquestionably referring to L. vera has been found in the writings of classical authors, the earliest mention of the latter plant being in the 12th century by the abbess Hildegard, who lived near Bingen on the Rhine. Under the name of llafant or llafantly it was known to the Welsh physicians as a medicine in the 13th century. The dried flowers have long been used in England, the United States and other countries for perfuming linen, and the characteristic cry of " Lavender! sweet lavender!" was still to be heard in London streets at the beginning of the 10th century. In England lavender is cultivated chiefly for the distillation of its essential oil, of which it yields on an average 12% when freed from the stalks, but in the south of Europe the flowers form an object of trade, being exported to the Barbary states, Turkey and America.

In Great Britain lavender is grown in the parishes of Mitcham, Carshalton and Beddington in Surrey, and in Hertfordshire in the parish of Hitchin. The most suitable soil seems to be a sandy loam with a calcareous substratum, and the most favourable position a sunny slope in localities elevated above the level of fogs, where the plant is not in danger of early frost and is freely exposed to air and light. At Hitchin lavender is said to have been grown as early as 1568, but as a commercial speculation its cultivation dates back only to 1823. The plants at present in cultivation do not produce seed, and the propagation is always made by slips or by dividing the roots. The latter plan has only been followed since 1860, when a large number of lavender plants were killed by a severe frost. Since that date the plants have been subject to the attack of a fungus, in consequence of which the price of the oil has been considerably enhanced.

The flowers are collected in the beginning of August, and taken direct to the still. The yield of oil depends in great measure upon the weather. After a wet and dull June and July the yield is sometimes only half as much as when the weather has been bright and sunshiny. From 12 to 30 lb of oil per acre is the average amount obtained. The oil contained in the stem has a more rank odour and is less volatile than that of the flowers; consequently the portion that distils over of ter the first hour and a half is collected separately.

The finest oil is obtained by the distillation of the flowers, without the stalks, but the labour spent upon this adds about Jos. per lb to the expense of the oil, and the same end is practically attained by fractional distillation. The oil mellows by keeping three years, after R which it deterior- ??,?"A l t; f? i / 14U ates unless mixed with alcohol; it is also improved by redistillation. Oil of lavender is distilled from the wild plants in Piedmont and the South of France, especially in the villages about Mont Ventoux near Avignon, and in those some leagues west of Montpellier. The best French oil realizes scarcely one-sixth of the price of the English oil. Cheaper varieties are made by distilling the entire plant.

Oil of lavender is a mobile liquid having a specific gravity from o 85 to o 89. Its chief constituents are linalool acetate, which also occurs in oil of bergamot, and linalool, C,oH, 7 OH, an alcohol derived by oxidation from myrcene, C,oH,s, which is one of the terpenes. The dose is a-3 minims. The British pharmacopeia contains a spiritus lavandulae, dose 5-20 minims: and a compound tincture, dose z-J drachm. This is contained in liquor arsenicalis, and its characteristic odour may thus be of great practical importance, medico-legally and otherwise. The pharmacology of oil of lavender is simply that of an exceptionally pleasant and mild volatile oil. It is largely used as a carminative and as a colouring and flavouring agent. Its adulteration with alcohol may be detected by chloride of calcium dissolving in it and forming a separate layer of liquid at the bottom of the vessel. Glycerine acts in the same way. If it contain turpentine it will not dissolve in three volumes of alcohol, in which quantity the pure oil is perfectly soluble.

Lavender flowers were formerly considered good for " all disorders of the head and nerves "; a spirit prepared with them was known under the name of palsy drops.

Lavender water consists of a solution of the volatile oil in spirit Lavender (Lavandula vera) 4 nat. size.

1. Flower, side view.

2. Flower, front view.

3. Calyx opened and spread flat.

4. Corolla opened and spread flat.

5. Pistil.

of wine with the addition of the essences of musk, rose, bergamot and ambergris, but is very rarely prepared by distillation of the flowers with spirit.

In the climate of New York lavender is scarcely hardy, but in the vicinity of Philadelphia considerable quantities are grown for the market. In American gardens sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) is frequently called lavender.

Lavandula Spica, a species which differs from L. vera chiefly in its smaller size, more crowded leaves and linear bracts, is also used for the distillation of an essential oil, which is known in England as oil of spike and in France under the name of essence d'aspic. It is used in painting on porcelain and in veterinary medicine. The oil as met with in commerce is less fragrant than that of L. vera- probably because the whole plant is distilled, for the flowers of the two species are scarcely distinguishable in fragrance. L. Spica does not extend so far north, nor ascend the mountains beyond 2000 ft. It cannot be cultivated in Britain except in sheltered situations. A nearly allied species, L. lanata, a native of Spain, with broader leaves, is also very fragrant, but does not appear to be distilled for oil.

Lavandula Stoechas, a species extending from the Canaries to Asia Minor, is distinguished from the above plants by its blackish purple flowers, and shortly stalked spikes crowned by conspicuous purplish sterile bracts. The flowers were official in the London pharmacopoeia as late as 1746. They are still used by the Arabs as an expectorant and antispasmodic. The Stoechades (now called the isles of Hyeres near Toulon) owed their name to the abundance of the plant growing there.

Other species of lavender are known, some of which extend as far east as to India. A few which differ from the above in having divided leaves, as L. dentata, L. abrotanoides, L. multifolia, L. pinnata and L. viridis, have been cultivated in greenhouses, &c., in England.

Sea lavender is a name applied in England to several species of Statice, a genus of littoral plants belonging to the order Plumba gineae. Lavender cotton is a species of the genus Santolina, small, yellow-flowered, evergreen undershrubs of the Composite order.

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Simple English

File:Single lavendar
Lavender flowers
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Lavandula
This article is about the plant. For the colour see Lavender (color).

Lavender is a type of plant found on almost all continents. It has a purplish colouring and it has a colour named after it, called lavendar as well. Its Latin and scientific name is Lavandula.


Lavenders used in gardens

Lavenders are very popular among gardeners. Sometimes their petals are dried and sealed in pouches for good scent, and sometimes put inside clothes to prevent moths, who can damage the clothes.

Lavenders in food

Lavenders are also used in cake decorating, because the flowers can become candied. Sometimes they are used in flavoring baked goods and chocolate desserts, and sometimes they use it to make a very delicious "lavender sugar". Lavender flowers are also used to make tea. The French make lavender syrup, which is used to make lavender scones and lavender marshmallows.


Lavenders are sometimes put in medicine, too, and sometimes to prevent infection - such as lavender oil, that was used in World War 1 to disinfect walls and floors of the hospital. As the folk wisdom says, lavender oil is also helpful to headaches when rubbed on your temple, and lavender tea helps you relax before bed time. Lavender also is very helpful when applied to insect bites.[1]

Other uses

Sometimes, dried petals of lavender are used to throw confetti at a wedding.


  1. Wikipedia original article, "Lavender"
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