True Lavender (or common lavender)
Application cutanée, massage
Voie respiratoire, diffusion
We cannot mention the name of true lavender (Lavandula angustifola ssp. angustifola (syn. lavendula vera, L. officinalis), without thinking about immense exquisitely blue fields.
Rare are the words that have such an evocative power as this shrub of fifty to seventy centimetres of the Lamiaceae family, which loves air, space, light and heat.
Celebrated since antiquity, lavender was one of the numerous "nards" (fragrant herbs) of the Greeks. It was used to clean and perfume the thermal baths, an institution that was appreciated in the Roman world but which was easily foul smelling. The term "lavender" appears in the Middle Ages, derived from the Latin verb lavare (wash). Its use was associated with fighting diseases because for a long time it was thought that bad smells propagated diseases. It was one of the simples cultivated in monastery gardens. Its use in perfumery mainly started in the 19th century. True lavender is one of the major aromatherapy plants: it does not just have a pleasant fragrance, it also provides an extremely multivalent and effective essential oil. Today, while maintaining the summer harvest of former years on difficult fields between a thousand and fifteen hundred metres in altitude, we cultivate hybrid species: the harvest is still carried out using a sickle after the morning dew.
Cultivation and production
There are about four thousand hectares of first grade lavender cultivated in the four producer departments in the South of France. However, hybrid lavenders occupy much greater surfaces. Out of its initial natural area in the Mediterranean basin, lavender has also been cultivated since a few years in Bulgaria, Ukraine and even Canada. Grasse, the capital of the perfume industry, is the cradle of lavender, as this industry consumes great quantities. However, only the essential oil from the production of true lavender on a specific zone benefits from the controlled origin label (AOC). (See page 105).
This pale yellow essential oil exudes a delicate fragrance which faithful to its etymology "lavare" evokes a "clean smell". From the earliest times it could only have a great success, especially in cosmetics, where it is the base of numerous perfumes, including the famous "Jicky" by Guerlain (1889).
Extraction and yield
Essential oil of true lavender is extracted from the flowering tops of the plant by steam distillation. This must take the time required for the "passage", i.e. sixty to a hundred minutes. No less than a hundred kilograms of true lavender flowers are required to obtain five hundred to eight hundred millilitres of essential oil, i.e. a yield of 0.5% to 0.8%.
The main chemical components of this precious essential oil are linalyl acetate and linalool.
Lavender can treat insomnia, irritability, anxiety attacks and various manifestations due to stress. It is also used as a muscle relaxant. Furthermore, it is an ally against skin problems in particular acne, eczema and psoriasis. An antiseptic that prevents infections, and an anti-parasite that also repels lice.
Hybrid lavender (Lavandula x intermedia), French lavender (Lavandula stoechas).
Excerpts from the book « Aromatherapia – Tout sur les huiles essentielles », by Isabelle Pacchioni. Aroma Thera Editions.