Lavender is probably one of the most well-known essential oils – and plants – in aromatherapy practice. Most beginners to aromatherapy know a little bit about lavender before they study essential oils in-depth. However, although many people are familiar with the fragrance of lavender, there is more than one type of lavender essential oil and, consequently, more than one species of lavender used for essential oil. This article will discuss true lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), lavender stoechas (Lavandula stoechas), spike lavender (Lavandula latifolia), and lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia).
The Different Types of Lavender Used Historically
True lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) has been a common ancient folk remedy for centuries. The ancient Greeks used lavender for constipation and throat infections. Herbalists in Europe used lavender water for head lice. Lavender is often said “to comfort the stomach and the soul.”
Another historical type of lavender is lavender stoechas (Lavandula stoechas). The ancient Romans used lavender stoechas as a perfume in their baths. Until the middle of the 18th Century, lavender stoechas was used for medicinal purposes in England; the French and the Spanish used lavender stoechas to dress wounds.
According to the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, spike lavender (Lavandula latifolia) was traditionally used for headaches, rheumatic pain, colic, and dyspepsia. English herbalist, Nicholas Culpeper, recommended spike lavender for fainting, malady, and cramps.
Lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia) is the newcomer to the world of lavender and it has little historical use. The reason for this is that lavandin is a hybrid plant that was created in the early 1900’s by crossing true lavender with spike lavender.
True Lavender Essential Oil
True lavender only grows above 2,000 ft. The plant is native to the Mediterranean region (particularly France and Spain). True lavender has small purple-blue flowers and a forceful aroma.
True lavender essential oil is predominately composed of esters and is a gentle oil that can be used with babies, children, and the elderly (although cautions may apply; consult a certified aromatherapist for further advice). It is a balancing oil with anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and antiseptic properties. Use true lavender oil for muscle pain, burns, insomnia, and headaches. Diffuse true lavender essential oil in a diffuser at bed time to help with sleep problems.
Lavender Stoechas Essential Oil
Lavender stoechas is the one species of lavender that is easier to distinguish from the other lavenders. It is short, spiky, and less showy than true lavender. It grows on sand and crystalline rocks on the European coastline, particularly in France. Lavender stoechas has purple-blue flowers.
Lavender stoechas essential oil contains 70% ketones, an active chemical component that is described as hazardous. If possible, choose another species of lavender essential oil for diffusing in preference to lavender stoechas.
Spike Lavender Essential Oil
Spike Lavender grows at a lower altitude than true lavender. It is an inexpensive oil to produce because it produces a high yield with every crop. Spike lavender is grown predominately in France and Spain for aromatherapy use. It has gray-blue flowers with leaves that are broader and rougher than true lavender.
Spike lavender essential oil has a similar use in aromatherapy as true lavender essential oil. However, it has a high percentage of oxides, making it a more stimulating oil than true lavender. Use spike lavender essential oil with caution in a diffuser to avoid creating too much stimulation in the atmosphere.
Lavandin Essential Oil
Lavandin grows at a lower altitude than true lavender and it is, in fact, the “lavender” that most people see when touring the lavender fields of Provence in France. Lavandin has blue or gray-blue flowers. Lavandin can be produced in greater quantities than true lavender and it is used a lot in the perfume industry for this reason. Use lavandin essential oil in an aromatherapy diffuser for the same benefits as lavender essential oil. However, be aware that it has a sharper aroma than lavender and it is more penetrating – making it a good choice to diffuse for colds, flu, asthma, bronchitis, and coughs.
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