Lavender is native to the Mediterranean, North Africa and areas of the Middle East where it grows in the wild. It is a heavily branched short shrub with woody branches and evergreen-like leaves shoots. The oil in lavender’s small, usually violet flowers gives the herb a fragrant scent. The flowers are arranged spikes above the foliage at the ends of the stems. There are many varieties of lavender due to extensive cultivation and hybridization.
Lavender is named after the Latin root word lavare, which means “to wash.” It was probably given this name because it was frequently used in baths, particularly in the baths of Ancient Rome. During the Middle ages lavender was associated with love and it was believed to be both an aphrodisiac and, conversely, a sprinkle of lavender water on the head was thought to keep one chaste. Lavenedr has been used until WWI as a disenfectant. Today,lavender is grown throughout southern Europe, Australia, and the United States where it is used in perfumes, aromatheray and cooking.
IN YOUR GARDEN
To grow lavender succussfully you need good drainage. Lavender prefers a sunny, loosely compacted, well draining soil with a pH of 6.5 and 7.5. When planting in a garden make sure the ground is cleared of weeds, and there is ample space from other plants. Small Lavender plants do not compete well with aggressive plants (particularly weeds). If you are planting in humid areas it is best to do so in a pot or raised bed, always leave plenty of room between plants for air circulation as lavenders prefer dry weather. Lavender is extremely drought resistant but it grows larger and produces more blooms with regular watering so allow time for the soil to dry out between soakings. Lavender is best planted in the spring after the last frost. It takes three years to reach full size and plants should be pruned every year after blooming (not the same as harvesting). To prune cut back past the flower stem to about a third of the gray-leaved stems. Do not prune back past the leaves into the woody stem as the plant may die.
Gardening tip: Lavender repels moles, flies, mosquitoes, and deer do not care for it. Lavender planted nearby roses, annuals, vegetables or other “deer candy” will deter them.
Try planting lavender in pots, but be sure to repot every spring into a larger container with fresh soil. It is best to grow lavender from a cutting or established plant, rather than by seed (so go out and buy a plant, rather than try to start from scratch)
The first obstacle is finding the seeds. Even though Spanish, Yellow, and other species Lavenders can be started from seeds, it is usually only the Lavandula angustifolias–Hidcote, Vera, and Munstead– that are available as seeds.
The second drawback is what we call ‘ low and slow’ germination. Lavender seeds have a short shelf life, and therefore the germination rate (how many seeds out of 100 come up) is usually pretty low. They can also take a long time to sprout (two weeks or more) and this invites fungus to the seed tray, often causing the seed to rot before it can sprout. Seeds benefit from light, so cover lightly when sowing. The germination temperature should be around 70 degrees and spring seeding is more successful than fall seeding. Those seeds that do sprout will take one to three months before they have enough roots and top growth to allow successful transplanting. Adding fertilizer to the sterile medium used in the seed tray can help the little plants get off to a better start, but it can also invite fungus in cool, humid situations.
The third disadvantage is the time it takes for the seedlings to get to a good size. After they are transplanted into small pots, the plants will be about three inches tall and have a single stem. It will take another three months or more to make a plant substantial enough to transplant to a larger pot or to the garden.
The fourth inconvenience is the difference factor. Because little care has been taken over the years to insure that the seeds have not crossed with each other, the plants will be varying shades of color. They might also vary some in height and width. This was the surprise our customer had. The perfect hedge of Hidcote Lavender she had dreamed about and worked so hard to grow the plants for turned out to be more like a cottage garden: still beautiful, but irregular in form and color.
And, lastly, the most popular Lavenders (the Lavandula x intermedias; sometimes called Lavandins), either do not make seeds or the seeds are sterile, so you will never see a seed packet of these.
Lavender is best harvested when the color of the flowers are bright and vivid. Cut the flower stems on a dry day during the morning, before it gets hot out (the oils and esters that cause lavender to smell good are released by the heat of the sun) but after the dew dries. Some Lavenders hold their buds better than others. Most lavenders bloom for 4-6 weeks, depending on the variety. Flowers are best harvested early in their bloom cycle as they become fragile as time passes.
Pick fresh flowers with fullest color as close as possible to when you want to use them. Stem flowers should be put in a glass of water in a cool place. When using fresh lavender in recipes, or medicinally, remember that lavender is about 3 times more potent dry than fresh, and you will need to adjust the amount accordingly.
To dry, gather in small bunches then tie and hang in a dark dry place or dry individually by spreading them on a screen and drying out of the sun. Once dry, the buds can be stripped. If lavender is to be used in an arrangement, it can be arranged fresh and then dried.
1 cup fresh or 1/2 cup dried lavender flowers and leaves 2 teaspoons lemon zest 2 cups raw apple cider vinegar
Place the lavender and lemon zest into a clean quart-size canning jar and pour in the unheated vinegar. Cover the top with plastic wrap, then screw on the lid and store in a dark, cool place for two to four weeks. Shake daily. Strain the vinegar, bottle.
3 cups of distilled water
3 ounces vodka
15-30 drops essential oil of lavender
Sterilize a glass container by placing it in boiling water for 3 minutes. Allow to cool.
Pour the distilled water and vodka in to the glass, using a funnel if needed..
Add the lavender oil and stir. This will remain good for about 12 months.
Lavender is used medicinally for many things. It is effective for treating stress headaches, and as a relaxing and soothing agent wether taken medicinally or thru aromatherapy, it is well used to promote natural sleep. In combination, lavender can be combined with Rosemary, Kola or Skullcap to halp relieve minor depression. Additionally lavender oil may be used expernally to help ease the rheumatism, and lavender oil can be used as a disinfectant. It can help reduce acne (put several drops in with rosewater, or witch hazel) and it has been also used in the treatment of skin burns and inflammatory conditions.
The following are recommended adult doses for lavender:
dosages from http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/lavender-000260.htm
Internal use: Tea: 1 – 2 tsp whole herb per cup of hot water. Steep for 10 – 15 minutes and drink, 1-3 times a day.
Tincture (1:4): 20 – 40 drops, 3 times a day
Inhalation: 2 – 4 drops in 2 – 3 cups of boiling water. Inhale vapors for headache, depression, or insomnia.
Topical external application: lavender oil is one of the few oils that can be safely applied undiluted. For ease of application, add 1 – 4 drops per tablespoon of base oil (such as almond or olive oil).
Allergic reactions are uncommon, but known to occur. Though side effects are rare, nausea/vomiting, headache, and chills have been reported as a result of inhalation and/or absorption of lavender oil.
Lavender should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women. Lavender should not be given orally to children.
*lavender essential oil, however, is generally considered safe after the first trimester…it is often used in henna tattooing for pregnant women*
There are no known scientific reports of interactions between lavender and conventional medications. However, due to the relaxing qualities of lavender, this herb could potentially enhance the effects of central nervous system depressants, including narcotics (such as morphine or oxycodone) for pain and sedative and anti-anxiety agents (such as lorazepam, diazepam, and alprazolam). Talk to your health care provider before using lavender with these and other sedating medications.
*Volatile oil, containing linalyl acetate, with linalool, lavandulyl acetate, borneol, camphor, limonene, cadinene, caryophyllene, 4-butanolide, 5-pentyl-5-pentanolide.
*Coumarins; Umbelliferone, herniarin, coumarin, dihydrocoumarin.
*Miscellaneous: triterpenes e.g. ursolic acid, flavonoids e.g. luteolin.
Lavender may be used topically in diluted concentrations to treat skin infections and injuries, such as minor cuts and scrapes. Lavender oil is great added to a carrier oil for infant massage. Lavander can also be used as aromatherapy for children.
Sunflower oil has been indicated in several studies for use in neonatal massage, to improve the health of preemie babies. Try infusing lavender into sunflower oil for healthy (and relaxing) baby massage!!
Warning: A small study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007, however, concluded that lavender and tea oils in some shampoos, soaps, and lotions may cause gynecomastia, breast development in a male, in boys. http://www.urotoday.com/427/browse_categories/pediatric_urology/brief_report_prepubertal_gynecomastia_linked_to_lavender_and_tea_tree_oils.html
rebuttal to this report… http://www.naturalingredient.org/Articles/Gynecomastia.pdf
IN THE KITCHEN
When useing fresh blooms be sure to thoroughly rinse them. You can pat dry, or try a salad spinner. Store between moist paper towels in the refrigerator for short periods of time.
Tip:Do not add too much lavender to your recipe—it will make it bitter and tast like perfume…
Lavender is generally used in sweeter recipes though they can be used in savory recipes in place of rosemary. Lavender flowers can be candied to be used as cake decoration. The flowers can be put in sugar and sealed tightly for a couple of weeks then the sugar can be substituted for ordinary sugar for a cake, buns or custards. Lavender goes well with fennel, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and sage and is an ingredient in Herbs de Provenance.
Recipe for Herbs de Provenance
3 tablespoons oregano leaves
3 tablespoons thyme leaves
1 teaspoon basil leaves
1 teaspoon sage leaves
3 tablespoons savory
2 tablespoons lavender flowers
1 teaspoon rosemary
Lavender works great in dried flower arrangements, it is easiest to arrange the stems while they are fresh. Stand flowers and stems in a dry vase and the fresh flowers will become a dry arrangement. Or use fresh lavender in small groups as an accent for a fresh herbal wreath, depending on what other herbs you use, you can dry it in that manner. Flowers and flower buds are great in potpourris. The dried flowers and buds can be put in cloth bags or dresh lavender can be made into a “lavender bottle” and among stored items of clothing to give a fresh fragrance and as a deterrent to moths. Bunches of lavender, or lavender oil are also said to ward off insects, particularly fleas.
Lavender is one of the safest and most widely used oils in aromatherapy. Lavender’s is used to calm uncontrolled emotions, remove indecisiveness and emotional conflict, and help to bring the feelings under conscious control. It brings a sense of rationality to the conscious mind. It can be used to calm a variety of nervous disorders including seasonal depression, excitability, nervous tension, panic, and hysteria. It promotes a relaxation and sleep. When Lavender is inhaled, serotonin is released, producing a calming influence in the body. Lavender will influence your psyche and work on the tissues and organs of your body.
AROUND THE HOUSE
Use lavender incense or candles (lavender/sage is a great candle combo) around your home. Put lavender sachets in drawers, closets, etc… Lavender essential oil can be used in diffusers, or potpourri, etc throughout the home or office. Put a couple of drops of oil onto a cotton ball and place in your vacuum cleaner bag, place a couple of drops of oil onto a cotton ball and swab the light bulbs, or sprinkle a couple of drops of lavender oil onto your pillows (especially in a baby or child’s room). Add a few drops to a drier sheet when you dry your clothes or add a few drops to the rinse cycle. Lavender water can also be used in houshold cleaning (I mist my furniture with a mixture of lavender and mint essential oil added to water—cheaper than febreeze).
Lavender had a variety of cosmetic uses. Lavender essential oil, added to witch hazel or white vinegar is great for oily complections and hair. In some cases of alopecia, massages with lavender have been shown to improve hair regrowth. Lavender water is a fantastic makeup remover and facial tonic. Supposedly, lavender oil added to a carrier oil and massaged into a scarred area over several weeks can help lessen the appearance of the scar.
Lavender, the Herb of Air,
My friend when I am in despair.
I ask Earth’s blessing to bestow,
As I tend and watch you grow.
Strong roots and dainty stems,
Bring joy to life when pleasure dims.
Wee green bud with purple top,
All your uses never stop.
From morning’s dew to afternoon,
From ray of stars and midnight’s moon.
Mother Earth watch over thee,
As I my will, So Mote it Be.
– M.L. Benton
Goddess: Iduna, Flora
Power: Love, Protection, Sleep, Chastity, Longevity, Purification,
Happiness, Peace, Clarity
Lavender (as herb or essential oil) may be used in as an ingredient or substitute for magick spells and formulas related to Mercury matters (overcoming addiction, breaking bad habits, communication, divination, eloquence, intelligence, mental powers, psychic powers, self-improvement, study, travel, and wisdom). It is said that lavender can be used in rituals to invoke Saturn and Hecate.
RECIPES AND SPELLS
3 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
9-10 stem heads of fresh lavender flowers
(or 2 tablespoons of dried lavender)
Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
If using fresh lavender:
With thumb and forefinger, pull the flowers from the stems (discarding stems). If using dried lavender you won’t need this step.
Combine lavender flowers and sugar in a food processor and pulverize completely, about 1 minute. Bring the water to a boil, remove pan from heat and add the sugar/lavender mixture, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cover with a lid and let cool for at least 30 minutes. Strain out flowers through a sieve, pressing flowers to get out any remaining liquid. Add the lemon juice and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, then freeze in sorbet or ice cream mixer.
(From Fabulous Herb & Flower Sorbets by Jim Long, 2002)
Lavender Bath Bomb
1 cup baking soda
1/3 cup citric acid
1/4 tsp borax
witch hazel in a mister
6 drops lavender essential oil
1/2 tsp dried, powered lavender flowers
molds (soap molds, plastic easter eggs, muffin pan, egg carton, etc)
In a large mixing bowl, mix baking soda and borax plus powdered herbs or flowers, sift 2-3 times. Spray with witch hazel; mix well–repeat until mix is consistency of wet sand and retains it’s shape if squeezed in. Add citric acid and essential oil and mix. Spray or wipe mold lightly with cooking oil. Pack firmly with your mix. Let set five-10 minutes and gently remove from mold. Let air dry 24 hours before wrapping or packaging, store moisture free.
Lavender and Honey Marinade for Fish, Poultry or Pork
Salt and cayenne pepper to taste
juice of two lemons
1 T culinary lavender
1/4 cup honey
pinch of cloves and fennel
Mix all marinade ingredients together and pour over the fish, poultry or pork of choice, covering both sides. Refrigerate overnight. Grill the next day, basting often, until golden brown. For 4 servings.
Chocolate Lavender Truffles
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon dried lavender florets
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
Grate chocolate. Bring cream and lavender to a simmer for one minute, then strain. Add cream to chocolate and stir to melt. Mix well. Chill at least 3 hours. Roll into 1 inch balls, then roll in cocoa. Makes 25 truffles. Lovely as an after dinner treat with coffee!
Self Blessing Ritual Bath
Best done at new moon, or when needed as cleansing/connecting with diety ritual. Perform the ritual in a bath, free from distractions. If you wish to cast a circle, etc, do so prior to drawing the bath, but after you have all the stuff you will need.
I hate rituals with everything step by step…because what works for someone else doesn’t always work for me—so this is just the bare minimum…construct your own ritual, this is just an idea to start from, since I have the tendency to write down the basics of what I like when I find something, and then run with it as the occasion premits/demands…
You will need the following:
1 cup Salt
1/2 cup Epsom Salt
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup dried lavender flowers
5-10 drops of lavender oil
Bless me, Mother for I am Thy child.
Blessed Be my eyes, that I may see Thy path.
Blessed Be my nose, that I may breathe Thy essence.
Blessed Be my mouth, that I may speak of Thee.
Blessed Be my heart, that I remain faithful as thy child.
Blessed Be my loins, which bring forth the Life of humanity as Thou hast brought forth all creation.
Blessed Be my feet, that I may walk in Thy ways.
Lavender Wands/Lavender Bottles
How to make Lavender Bottles:
Gather about 13 or 14 lavender flower stems and allow them to wilt for a while, until flexible. Tie in a bunch, with a 12″ length of thin string or twine fastened just below the flower heads, as shown in photo at far left.
Take one end of the string and wind it clockwise around the lavender flowers, ending at the top. Take the other end of the string and wind it counterclockwise, ending at the top. You will only need to go around the flowers two or three times. Tie both ends of the string together and trim remaining ends. See photo at left for details.
To finish, bend each stem up and over the flower heads. Try to get the stems fairly evenly spaced to create a “basket” effect. Tie the stems together just past the end of the flower heads with string or narrow ribbon, finishing with a small bow, as shown in picture on the right. Cut stems evenly and hang to let the completed lavender bottle dry out completely.
How to make Lavender Wands:
Gather 13 long stemmed lavender flower stems and allow them to wilt for a while, until flexible. Hold the stems together and stagger the flower heads a little to avoid bunching and to lengthen the flower bud shape. Tie a 40″ piece of 1/2″ ribbon just below the flower heads, leaving one end of the ribbon about 10 inches, and the other end about 30″ long, as shown in the photo at far left.
Note: Narrower ribbon, 1/4″ or smaller, could be used very effectively in this craft. If you do use narrower ribbon, just be aware that you will need a longer length to complete the weaving and make adjustments accordingly.
Fold the shorter length of ribbon up into the flowers, then fold all of the stems up and over the flowers as well, as shown in the photo at left.
Begin weaving the longer ribbon in a simple under and over pattern through the stems. You will need to keep the tension even, and to adjust the placement of the stems to keep them evenly spaced, especially on the first two rows of the weaving pattern.
Push in the loose ribbon end and any stray lavender buds as you work, increasing the tension as you get toward the end of the flowers to close in the wand.
When you have finished weaving, tie the two ribbon ends together to secure. You can now finish the lavender wand in a number of ways – you can simply tie a bow in the two ends of the ribbon and even off the stems, leaving them in a natural state. Or, if you have enough ribbon left, you can wind it around the stems in a spiral, bringing it back up to tie in a ribbon with the shorter ribbon end, as shown in our examples at right. Or you can tie the ribbon in a long loop for convenient hanging.
Once you have made one lavender wand, you can experiment…try weaving over and under two stems placed together, or varying the weave design. Try different widths and types of ribbon…regardless of the end result, you are sure to find a use for every lavender wand that you produce. Enjoy!
from http://www.allfreecrafts.com/nature/lavender-wands.shtml (the site has in progress pix, which makes it easier to visualize)
1/4 cup soft butter
2 Tbsp. sugar
3 cups flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 cup of milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°. Blend butter & sugar in a medium bowl. Then add in flour and baking powder until mixture is fine & crumbly. Whisk egg, milk, lemon juice & vanilla in a small bowl. Make a well in the flour mixture & using a fork, briefly mix in milk mixture to form a stiff dough. Do not over knead. Prepare a floured surface & roll out dough 1/2 inch thick in a rectangle shape.
1/4 cup soft butter
2 Tbsp. dried Lavender OR 4 Tbsp. fresh Lavender flowers
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. cinnamon powder
“Butter” rolled out dough, then sprinkle with Lavender, brown sugar & cinnamon. Starting at widest edge, tightly roll up dough into a “sausage shape”, sealing the far edge with a brush of milk. Pinch edges together. Cut evenly into 12 rounds. Bake for 20 minutes, check to see if they need 5 minutes more. Nicer on the softer side. Yes, eat warm!
Peppered Lavender Beef
1 (3- to 4-pound) beef tenderloin roast
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoons whole white peppercorns
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons dried culinary lavender flowers
Bring roast to room temperature before cooking. Trim the tenderloin of fat and silverskin. Note: Silverskin is a silvery-white connective tissue. It doesn’t dissolve when the tenderloin is cooked, so it needs to be trimmed away. If the silverskin is not trimmed off, it will cause the tenderloin to curl up into the shape of a quarter moon.
Pat the beef dry with paper towels. Lightly oil outside of roast.
In a small spice or coffee grinder, coarsely grind the black peppercorns, white peppercorns, fennel seeds, thyme, and lavender flowers; rub mixture all over the meat. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight (preferably).
Preheat oven to 425°F. Unwrap roast and place onto a rack in a shallow baking pan, tucking the thin end under to make it as thick as the rest of the roast. Place roast onto a rack in a shallow baking pan, tucking the thin end under to make it as thick as the rest of the roast. Roast for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F and continue to roast until the internal temperature reaches desired temperature on a meat thermometer (see below).
Rare – 120°F
Medium Rare – 125°F
Medium – 130°F
Remove from oven and transfer onto a cutting board; let stand 15 minutes before carving (meat temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees after it is removed from the oven). Transfer onto a serving platter and serve immediately with any accumulated juices.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Lavender: The Grower’s Guide
By Virginia McNaughton