Friday’s Herbal – Lavender

Common Name: Lavender
Latin: Lavandula angustifolia

lavender shrub

Lavender makes me think of clean laundry and freshly ironed linens.  With reason, the name comes from the Latin word for “to wash”.  Throughout time this herb has been used for scenting bathwater, soaps, and perfumes, and for freshening stinky rooms or people.

Lavender is a brushy shrub, native to the Mediterranean region, and cultivated now all over the world.  It has grey-green lanceolate leaves and purple flower spikes on long stems.  The shrub will grow to about 3 feet tall and is hardy in US zones 5-8.

darning needle

This little guy likes the lavender as much as I do.  He just sat there while I picked a few stems.

In the Middle Ages, lavender was considered the herb of love.  It was supposed to be an aphrodisiac, but at the same time, a little splash on the forehead was thought to help one remain chaste.  Today, this aromatic herb has many uses around the house and beyond.  The leaves help to deter those pesky moths that like to attack your wool yarn and clothes.  Make a little sachet and toss it in your yarn basket; hang one in your closet and store another with your winter clothes and blankets.  Here is a recipe for lavender ironing water.

While lavender isn’t usually considered a medicinal herb, it does have a few historical uses; it is said to calm coughs, nerves and digestive systems.  Lavender is generally considered safe for consumption in moderation.  Use 1 teaspoon flowers to 1 pint of water to make a mild sedative tea.  In aromatherapy, lavender is used for relaxation.  Smelling lavender also helps relieve catarrh, or inflammation of the mucus membranes.  In the summer I keep a bottle of lavender essential oil in my purse; it works wonders for warding off mosquitoes.

Lavender also has cosmetic uses; it stimulates and cleanses the skin.  Lavender vinegar is good for oily complexions.  To treat eczema and psoriasis, add 2 drops of the essential oil to 1 cup of a carrier oil such as grapeseed, almond, or jojoba, and apply this directly to the skin.

You can even use lavender in your cooking.  Add 1/2 Tablespoon flowers to your favorite sugar cookie recipe.  Don’t go overboard here; you want just a little flavor and a few dots of purple in your cookies.  You can sprinkle a few flower buds in your salad, and for your next fancy ladies’ tea, you can serve lavender jelly;)

Lavender is most easily grown from nursery starts, but you can take 2-3″ cuttings from the summer side shoots of an existing mature plant. Place your plants 4-6 feet apart in the garden, in full sun and light, well drained soil.  Lavender also does well in pots on the patio.

lavender wand1

I think lavender must be one of the most fun herbs; there are just so many things you can do with it.  You can use it in dried flower crafts.  You can add the purple flowers and some essential oil to epsom or large flake sea salt to make your own bath salts.  Or you can make a lavender wand.  Gather up about 15 flower stalks.  Cut them as long as you can, at least 12″ or more.  Remove all of the leaves; hang on to these and make a sachet with them.

lavender wand 2

About 2 seconds into this project I remembered how extraordinarily fumble fingered I’ve been lately, but I pressed on anyway, with my several smashed fingers.  Gather all of your stalks together, keeping the flower heads about even.  Then tie a ribbon (at least two feet for the best results) around the stalk just beneath the flower heads.

lavender wand 3

Trim the ends even.  Hold the bunch upside down and gently fold each stem over the flowers.  Mine kept snapping, but it didn’t seem to matter in the end.  Take your ribbon and start weaving from the top, just a simple over and under weave, until you get to the bottom of the flower heads.  You’ll want to do a looser weave over the flowers, then when you get to the bottom tighten things up a bit.  Go a couple more rounds then take the ribbon and wrap in a tight spiral around the stems.  When you get to the bottom, go back up, wrapping the opposite direction. 

lavender wand 4

Tie it off and add a bow.  Ta Da!  This would be lovely in you linen closet, laying atop your sheets.

I’m off to the post office.  I donated my Pelican on Linen drawing to the HelpTheGulfCoast Etsy shop, and so he’s heading to Canada today to be in his new home. 

Hope you have a lovely weekend; see you Monday:)

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