Family: Lamiaceae (Labiatae), Lavandula species

Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984. Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.

Lavender is the name for any of several aromatic shrubs, including English lavender, Lavandula angustifolia Mill. subsp. angustifolia, and French lavender, Lavandula dentata L. English lavender, formerly classified as Lavandula delphinensis Jord ex Billot, Lavandula officinalis Chaix, Lavandula spica L., and Lavandula vera D.C., is native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean area. Cultivated extensively for perfume and ornamental purposes in several European countries, the plant reaches a height of about one meter, has linear, lanceolate leaves covered with a velvety pubescence, and develops blue or purple flowers. French lavender, also known as fringed lavender, and formerly classified as Lavandula delphinensis Hort., is native to Spain. Grown as a popular ornamental, plants have long, linear, toothed, tomentose leaves that are a gray color and flowers that are a purplish color.

The reported life zone of lavender is 7 to 211Cdeg;C with an annual precipitation of 0.3 to 1.3 meters and a soil pH of 5.8 to 8.3 (4.1-31). Lavender grows in well drained, dry, calcareous soils located in full sun. Plants can be directly seeded, but are usually transplanted from vegetative cuttings. Growth is slow, and it takes a few years for the crop to develop fully. Some varieties have been bred to display their terminal inflorescence high above the foliage to facilitate hand and mechanized harvesting. Established plantings can last as long as thirty years. Lavender oil is obtained by the immediate steam distillation or solvent extraction of flowers harvested at full bloom. The essential oil contains linalyl acetate, linalool, 1,8-cineole, camphor, -pinene, and many other volatile constituents (8.3-78, 14.1-8). The concrete and absolute are commercially available.

The leaves and flowers of lavender are used in regions where the plant is grown as a flavoring in salads, dressings, fruit desserts, jellies, and wines (14.1-23) . The plant and oil are used in herbal teas and as a flavoring mixed with black teas. Flowers and leaves are sometimes used in sachets, potpourris, and dried bouquets. The plant material is used to perfume linen and scent tobacco. The oil is used in perfumes, toilet water, and cosmetics. The plants are grown as ornamentals along garden borders, in rock gardens, and as potted outdoor plants. The plants are also grown near highways for beautification and stabilization of soil. Lavender plants are attractive to bees.

As a medicinal plant, the lavenders have traditionally been considered antispasmodics, carminatives, diuretics, nervines, stimulants, and tonics. They have been used as a folk remedy against colic and headaches. The essential oil of lavender is reported to have antiseptic, carminative, and spasmolytic activity (11.1-154). The leaves are considered to be an insect repellent (14.1-23).

Cultivated for perfumery and ornamental purposes, Spanish lavender, Lavandula stoechas L., also known as French lavender, has narrow tomentose leaves and purplish flowers. Spike or broad-leaved lavender, Lavandula latifolia Medic., has wide, gray-green tomentose leaves and is collected in the countryside of Spain for use in perfume. Lavandin, Lavandula hybrida Reverchon, is a hybrid of English and spike lavender and is reported to supply one of the most important essential oils in the fragrance industry (8.2-48). The plants produce a high yield of lower quality lavender oil, which is used in the less expensive perfumes, in scenting soaps, and in the adulteration of other higher-quality lavender oils (14.1-8).

English lavender is generally recognized as safe for human consumption as a natural flavoring, and spike lavender and lavandin are generally recognized as safe for use as natural plant extracts/ essential oils (21 CFR sections 182.10, 182.20 [1982]).

[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in full in the original reference].

Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Index

Last modified 6-Dec-1997