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Lavender Plant Uses

Lavender Plant Uses

Ahhh... a whiff from a bunch of those pale violet flowers takes your senses on a trip to olfactory ecstasy! Find out more about lavender plants' uses and benefits in the article below.
Ishani Chatterjee Shukla
...ladies fair, I bring to you
lavender with spikes of blue;
sweeter plant was never found
growing on our English ground.

That was Caryl Battersby acting minstrel to the beauty and fragrance of Lavender. Besides beauty and fragrance, this fragrant flowering plant is hailed for many other uses and benefits that mankind has been deriving since ages. Lavender plants' uses span across diverse areas such as cooking, medicine, beauty care and alternative medicine, aromatherapy, decoration, pot-pourri, pest control, wedding confetti, etc. to name a few. Before we proceed to the details of uses of the lavender plant, let us cast a brief glance at its origin, species and cultivation. Lavender plants belong to a genus of 39 species of flowering plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae. These plants are geographically distributed from Cape Verde, Canary Islands and Madeira across Africa, Arabia, the Mediterranean, South West Asia, Eastern India and Western Iran.

Though believed to have originated from Asia, the most diversified distribution of this plant can be found in the Western regions. The genus Lavandula includes growths such as annual plants, herbaceous plants, small shrubs and subshrubs. Lavenders grow best in dry or gravelly soils with full exposure to sunlight. Reflects in their happy-and-sunny image, doesn't it! Fertilizer is not a necessity for lavenders to grow but good air circulation is must because humidity can cause fungal infections to the roots, causing root rot. Organic mulches should be completely avoided; instead, use of pea gravel, decomposed granite or sand allows sufficient air to reach the roots, thereby avoiding trapping of moisture.

Lavender Plants' Uses

Cooking: When Lavender seeks its way to your kitchen, it is not just for brewing lavender tea! Lavenders are being increasingly used by fine dining restaurants to embellish and aromatize salads and cookies and are even used for meat preparations! However, it is important that you use food-grade lavender when cooking as this edible flower contains strong chemicals which can be cytotoxic if ingested in their raw forms. Lavender plants' uses found their way to the United States in the form of lavender syrups and dried lavender buds, which are used to make lavender scones and marshmallows. Lavender is sometimes paired with sheep's-milk or goat's-milk cheese to lend sweet aromatic undertones and flavor. Mostly, the dried buds are used for cooking, as the buds alone contain the lavender's essential oil which imparts the scent and the flavor to the preparations. A lavender salad dressing imparts an exotic aroma and adds contrasting color to the regular salad shades of greens and reds!

Decoration: Feast for the eyes and ambrosia for the nostrils, lavender flowers rank high as decorative items and are used by people to beautify their homes in a variety of ways! Lavenders can be made into intricate flower arrangements, wreaths, and scattered in pot-pourri. Simple dried plants hung around one's home makes the breeze naturally fragrant! Lavender can be incorporated into arts and crafts such as decorative display-only bathroom soaps, ornamental stationery, etc.

Aromatherapy and Relaxation: Lavender tea has been proven as being a great remedy for relaxing nerves and a wonderful natural anxiety treatment! Dispersing dried lavender petals around the bed and applying a few drops of lavender oil on pillows and bed sheet helps reduce sleep disorders and calms the nerves, acting as a sedative to induce deep slumber. Lighting scented lavender candles can be very conducive to relaxation and meditation, besides adding lavender petals to bath-water. Also, using lavender perfume keeps the nerves soothed throughout the day, and leaves you feeling fresh and positive!

Alternative Medicine: Lavender essential oil has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, which helps soothe insect bites and fungal infections. Application of lavender oil to the temples soothes headache. Lavender plants' uses extend to the treatment for various skin disorders, like acne and skin burns. When one part of lavender oil is diluted with water, rose-water or witch hazel, it cures acne. Application of lavender essential oil to the scalp helps soothe itchiness, dryness and dandruff.

Health and Cosmetic Products: Most popular reason for growing lavender plant and their use is due to their contribution towards the beauty care and cosmetics industry. Frequently used in hair rinses, lotions and skin creams, lavender is also an extremely popular fragrance used in perfumes, deodorants and soaps, as much for its scent as for its healing touch!

Pest Control: Sachets of dried lavenders put in drawers, closets and trunks act as insect repellents and keep away moths and insects and freshen linen. Bunches of lavender put near windows repel insects too.

Other uses: Lavender is used to prepare scented water. It is also popularly being used as wedding confetti these days. Lavender jellies can be used to make attractive and mouth-watering toppers for bagels. Some of the previously-unheard-of uses of lavender include lavender furniture polishes, lavender vinegar, lavender butter, lavender sugar, etc. to name a few!

That was about lavender uses. To match its diverse uses, lavender comes in an interesting array of types, the classification being on the basis of geographical origin and commercial labeling. Main types of lavender leaning on regional connection are as follows:-
  • English Lavender: With medium purple flowers, this variety of lavender will sweep you off your feet with its strong, bold fragrance. English lavender is a sturdy perennial plant which grows up to three feet long. English Lavender plants and their uses are ideally suited for culinary, cosmetic and medical purposes. Most gardeners often use smaller versions of English Lavender for edging purposes.
  • French Lavender: The French sense of taste has always been regarded as delicate and refined, be it for food, fashion or d├ęcor. Similarly, the French lavender speaks in undertones in matters of color and fragrance. Not very bright in color and not having a very individualistic fragrance, French lavender can be regarded as a symphony of subtle hues (not shades) of violet and a subdued floral essence (rather than fragrance)! For this reason, French lavender plants' uses are predominantly restricted to decorative purposes.
  • Spanish Lavender: The word Spanish brings thoughts of dashing Spaniards and vivid images of Bull Fights and Matadors to the mind! Anything Spanish is meant to have a flavor of boldness, pride, chivalry and passion associated with it! Likewise, as if to live up to its name, Spanish lavender flowers come in shades of deep purple (purple passion!?) and have upright petals shaped as pie-cones (proud). Quite contrary to the regular lavender growing conventions, these plants predominantly grow in humid climates of Northern Africa and the Mediterranean. Not much of a herd-follower, eh? Anyway, Spanish Lavenders grow about two feet tall and are a hit among bees, owing to their sweet, abundant nectar!
On the basis of commercial classification, lavender is of the following types:-
  • True Lavender: Primarily used for Aromatherapy for its relaxing, soothing and healing properties, True Lavender flowers are barrel-shaped with crooked stems and short, narrow leaves.
  • Spike Lavender: This variety of lavender yields the maximum amount of essential oil - more than any other lavender variety. Its essential oil smells like eucalyptus oil and is mostly used in the manufacture of disinfectants, insect repellents, deodorants, room freshening sprays and soaps.
  • Lavandin: This variety is a hybrid, brought about by a cross between True Lavender and Spike Lavender. Also known as Dutch Lavender, Lavandin flowers come in attractive and vibrant shades and fragrance. Lavandins are extensively used as decor and pot-pourri.
Quite a bouquet of floral info, isn't it? Well, I just couldn't help it! With so much to know about this amazing flower, I felt it would be unfair to just jot down lavender plants' uses without introducing the reader to some interesting extras on this violet dreamboat! Lavenders can be real life savers to patch up an emotionally tense situation! Late for that special date? Get your lady a bunch of lavenders; had a fight with your significant other in the morning? Treat him/her to a basket of lavenders in the evening! Mmmm... indulging in its fragrance and surrendering to its heady seduction are two of the sweetest sins you can commit!