“… The Mother essential oil, Lavender is full of patience & constancy; tireless & even-tempered; calms & listens; discreet & virtuous. She looks after everyone with equal love. A supporter constantly concerned with people and consumed by love for them. Lavender stimulates the conscious mind and stabilizes the emotions & spirit…” (Mailhebiau, 1995).
Lavendula angustafolia, officionalis or vera (True, English or Female Lavender) is basis for comparison of all the other types. True Lavender is native to a small area in the French Alps and the Pyrenees in southern France, northeast Spain, Switzerland and northern Italy.It grows wild at altitudes of 2,296 - 3,609 feet. They are dwarf shrubs giving a very small yield of volatile oil. There are only two archtypical varieties: L. angustafoliadelphenensis, which thrives on the hot, dry side of the mountain and L. angustafoliafragrans, which thrives on the cool, moist side of the mountain. From this dichotomy, the cultivars (clones) such as Malhorn, Maliette and Hidcote etc. are derived (Mailhebiau).
I have searched for, but have never found the essential oil from either of these two archetypical varieties. Perhaps this delicacy sadly lost to a by-gone era—perhaps the Lavenders that Saint Hildegard of Bingen lovingly wrote about in her botanical texts and used so much to heal. What amass now are Lavender oils from the cultivars and chemotypes of these two archetypical varieties. Their aromas are distinguished by being entirely free of camphor-- humble, pleasant and true. There are also oils produced from completely different species of Lavender and oils from hybrid varieties.
Chinese herbal theory sheds light on why True Lavender is a universal healer. It is balanced in yin/ cooling and calming constituents and yang/ warming, stimulating constituents. It sits more-or-less at the crossroads of being polar/moist/ hydrophillic and non-polar/dry/ lipophillic. It is very unique oil in these regards and is perhaps the universal healer because it is a universal balancer. Nature’s Gift Essential Oils offers that True Lavender is good at all things, but not exceptional at any one thing in particular.
Lavendula latifolia (Male or Spike Lavender) This species grows naturally at low altitudes around the northern Mediterranean shore of Spain and Italy. It also grows in England, US, Japan and Tasmania. It gives a large yield of oil with a strong camphorous and medicinal note thus is used mainly to deters fleas & moths and for scenting sundries according to Valnet. It is strongly anti-infectious and expectorant due to 38% oxide (cineole) content. It is warming and penetrating, well used to reduce pain and improve mobility in stiff arthritic joints (Buckle 2006 cites Von Frohlich 1968). It is also used for sinusitis.
Lavendula angustafolia x Intermedia (Lavendin, Lavender hybrida, Lavender longifolia) Two main species, L. latifolia x L. angustifolia intermingle at mid-altitudes giving-birth to this hybrid. Hybrids are sterile but stronger growing than either of their parents alone. Lavendin grows at medium altitudes in southern France. It gives a very large yield of volatile oil. France produces tons of this plant per year. Commercial cultivation and harvest is automated and fast. The essential oil is all-purpose, but best used as a respiratory antiseptic due to 31-60% alcohols. It is immunostimulant, antiviral and stimulating due to its 5 -11% ketone content. Some find it calming (Buckle 1993). The plant is so rugged, prolific and cheap to cultivate that the essential oil is used to extend True Lavender oil, with the untrained nose unable to tell the difference. A skilled nose smells the camphor. The Lavendin growing in my garden, including one that produces white blooms, are tall, lush, drought tolerant and bloom all summer if deadheaded.
Lavendula stoechas (French Lavender, Lavender Cotton) is a hybrid. It has a fat flower that resembles a dark-purple bumblebee. It flowers early and performs better than True Lavender in hot yet humid climes. It smells piney-clean and almost entirely camphorous. A very high ketone content (45-50%) gives it a low therapeutic margin; potentially neurotoxic in excess. Therefore the oil is only used medicinally with skill and clear intent. It is not to be used with epileptics, children, and the elderly. Ketones are mucolytic to the respiratory system and highly cicatrizant to the skin. According to Scholes, it is best used topically to speed wound healing at no more than 1% in a blend. At this high dilution it potentiates any blend 10-fold. Its distinct aroma both warns of its potential toxicity and advertises its medicinal worth. This striking hybrid grew fairly well in my New Mexican garden one year but was not an annual.
Lavendula angustifolia ct Linalool. This is a chemotype of True Lavender, characterized by having high linalool content. This monoterpene alcohol makes the essential oil more warming than cooling. The aroma is heavy with somewhat medicinal overtones. Monoterpene-alcohols are actually very gentle soothing antiseptics to irritated, sensitive skin, even when applied neat (undiluted). Despite its warmth the oil benefits burns: chemical, thermal and sunburns. The use of Lavender essential oil for burns is legendary, originating with Rene Gattefosse, the father of modern aromatherapy. He found that this lavender oil stopped the hold of gangrene after a severe burn. I’ve found that a decoction of any lavender plant (dried or fresh flowers & leaves) works like a charm as a compress to stanch the suppuration, heat, and pain of first to second-degree burns. Even the discomforts associated with a cosmetic facial peel. The oil is also said to benefit eczema, dermatitis and acne.
Lavender Highland is cloned and cultivated True Lavender, characterized by a high content of linalyl acetate-- an ester. Lavenders grown at high altitude contain more esters than those grown at lower altitude. The higher the altitude above 2000 feet, the more esters the plant makes. Esters are anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, sedating and anti-candida. When using this lavender for vaginal yeast infection- shown to only inhibit yeast sporilation within minutes- a synergy of oils might be best. Buckle cites a study showing that a Lavender EO produced analgesic affect comparable to a narcotic analgesic. I indeed find this lavender EO excellent in a blend for severe menstrual cramps with excess heart heat and irritability. The dysmenorrhea that makes a woman need narcotics and sedatives. Nature’s Gift uses this lavender in their acne and anti-rosacea blends.
The aroma of the EO has cool, light, sharp, green overtones--like fresh air—and isfit for the finest perfumes. The Hidocte cultivar is the gem of my garden growing happily at 7000 ft. A bite of a sprig from this plant induces a calm, which surpasses that from a whiff of the essential oil.
Lavender Savage or wild Lavender essential oil deserves a very honorable mention. Here we are almost full circle to the archetypical Lavenders introduced at the beginning. You may have to look hard to find it or wait long for it to be in stock. Nature’s Gift occasionally has some. Wild crafted highland Lavender is said to be superior in spiritual power. According to the Doctrine-of-Signatures, high altitude wild-crafted herbals have high energetic vibration. Such oils are best used in very high- even homeobotanical dilution for this purpose. It is inevitably the energy of this Lavender that gives Lavender in general the characterology that Maihebiaeu offers- the seemingly elusive healing power of a Saint.
Lavender is so complex in how she expresses herself. If you want to harness her healing power, you will have to be species, chemotype and maybe even cultivar specific. Above all else, you will have to be scrupulous as to her quality. Lavender is so true to herself that she will not tolerate the betrayal of mediocrity.
* Check your sources for cautions & considerations, and route & dosing before using EOs. Especially during pregancy; on small children & infants; the elderly & weak; and those with epilepsy & neuro-muscular diseases.
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