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Lavender Story

"Mercury owns the herb and it carries his effects very potently!" (Culpepper, 1652)

One of the most popular medicinal herbs, lavender, also known as lavendula, has been cultivated for centuries. It is a powerful and potent herb and derives its name from the Latin, lavare, meaning to wash. As early as the first century A.D. the Greek naturalist, Dioscorides, praised the medicinal attributes of lavender.

The Romans added lavender to their bath water because of its fragrance, but superstitiously believed that the deadly viper, the asp, made its nest in the plant thus making it harder to obtain and more valuable!

In European folk medicine, it is prescribed as an antiseptic and antibacterial agent for healing wounds and treating worms in children and because of lavender's insecticidal properties, it was strewn over the floors in castles as a disinfectant and deoderant during the middle ages.

In Arabic medicinal tradition, lavender is used as an expectorant and antispasmodic, the essential oil, when massaged into the temples, being of ‘especially good use for all greifes and paines of the head and brain,’ (circa. 1640).

Victorian women used the scent of lavender to recover from 'swoons' caused by their constricting corsets and its branches to beat just washed clothing. An allusion to this ‘lay out in lavender’, first meant to give someone a physical beating, knocking them down or even unconscious!  The phrase evolved over time to mean only a scolding or chastisement.  For example, in a debate, one might say, “I’ll lay him out in lavender!”  Doesn’t sound very threatening, does it?

This electron-micrograph of a lavender leaf shows the fine hairs (trichome cells) on the surface of the leaf. These cells protect the plant from drying out and other glandular cells produce the lavender oil.