Ah, lavender — is there anything better than its soothing aroma? Come on, you know you love it. And you’re not alone. This purple flower is one of the world’s most recognizable herbs.
Lavender has a deep, rich history reaching back to the ancient Egyptians. Mainly it was used it for embalming and cosmetics. They also traded the plant to the Greeks, who truly stepped up the lavender game.
Dioscorides, a Greek physician, was among the first to record its medicinal use. In A.D. 77, he noted that it alleviated indigestion, headaches and sore throats. Later, it was used to clean wounds and treat burns. Romans also recognized the herb’s healing benefits and began taking it along on military campaigns.
When the Great Plague hit London in 1665, residents first assumed it was caused by poisonous vapors. Lavender oil was used by residents as a means to prevent the disease from spreading. They also tied sprigs of it around their wrists. Of course, they later learned they were very, very wrong. Nonetheless, lavender remained in use to cover the smell of decomposing bodies and, ironically enough, the perfume industry was born.
During her reign, Queen Victoria became a sort of original trendsetter for the herb’s popularity. She had a great affinity for the plant and employed it to wash the royal household’s linens, furniture and flooring. Demand for lavender grew so much during the Victorian Era that it began to be commercially farmed.
Lavender’s popularity endures, and with good reason. It may not cure the plague, but it packs a wonderful scent and flavor, plus a number of health benefits. Today people enjoy lavender in cooking and a wide variety of products – body scrubs, hand creams, bath salts, massage oils and more. Note that when purchasing such products, make sure they’re made with actual lavender, rather than synthetics.
Evidence has shown that lavender aromatherapy calms the nervous system, supporting relaxation and peaceful sleep (coinciding with the folk-remedy claim that lavender placed in a pillowcase could promote good rest). Some researchers believe lavender triggers regions of the brain that influence physical, emotional and mental health. A few studies have even suggested it can relieve agitation in dementia sufferers.
Lavender contains polyphenols, a type of antioxidant, which can help stymie bad gut bacteria, aid digestion and reduce bloating. It is often added to Greek yogurt, and its leaves are commonly found in Herbes de Provence seasoning blends.
It’s easy to incorporate lavender into your home experiences — check out Lavender Two Ways for fun recipes.