How to use Lavender?
When I think of lavender, I think of soap. Specifically, the little, purple, seashell-shaped soaps that lived in my grandmother’s soap dish in the main bathroom of the house. Those delicate little soaps were intended to be there for show, not for use. They were so fancy and smelled so nice that I always wanted to break the rules and wash with them.
It is natural that the smell of lavender equates to a feeling of something delicate and clean, and it’s not just my grandmother’s doing, you know. The name “lavender” is believed to come from the Latin word, lavare, which means “to wash.” It’s been prized for centuries for many uses, for its scent, cleaning properties, food flavoring, and much, much more. (Here are a few more lavender usage tips from MomPrepares.com!)
Growing & Harvesting Lavender:
Um…so don’t look at me to be much help here. I’ve killed every single lavender plant that I’ve tried to grow. It’s quite frustrating! They’ll do well for a year or two and then poof – something happens and they just keel over dead in the summer or just never return in spring.
I want to eventually figure out what I’m doing wrong because lavender is a great plant to have around. Bees and other pollinators love the tall, bobbing flowers heads, and it also makes particularly delicious honey! I’ve also heard that it helps to keep deer away, but I haven’t put that to the test yet.
For the few seasons where I’ve managed to keep a lavender plant alive, I’ve enjoyed the experience of harvesting them. All you do is clip the long-stemmed flower from the base of the plant. It is best to harvest in the early afternoon, just after the dew is dried but before the sun really beats down on the plant and burns away some of the aromatic oils in the flowers.
To dry lavender, just tie a string around the base of the bundle and hang it upside down until it is dried. Otherwise, you can follow the instructions over at Better Hens & Gardens and make braided lavender wands!
You might notice that when you have lavender drying, there are no flies around. This is why little muslin bags of lavender are great to throw into closets, drawers, or even into cabinets to help keep pests at bay.
Incredible, Edible Lavender:
Lavender has been used as a condiment to flavor foods for centuries! Dishes and teas made of lavender flowers used to be served at dinners to ease the stomach.
The flavor of lavender can easily be overwhelming, so if you try to cook with lavender, take it easy and figure out how much you can handle. I’ve met quite a few folks who do not enjoy eating lavender-flavored foods but just as many who adore the delicate floral taste.
Here are a few recipes that you might enjoy:
Lemon Balm & Lavender Scones & Infused Sugar – Herbal Academy of New England
Wildflower Mead (including lavender!) – Grow Forage Cook Ferment
Lavender & Honey Gin Fizz – Little Fall Creek
Wildcraft Infusion: Calming Red Clover, Lavender, Lemon – YogurtHydro
Lavender’s Medicinal and Aromatherapy Uses and Lavender Truffles – Chestnut Herbs
Lavender Essential Oil:
I’m not a huge fan of essential oils, personally. They tend to be too strong for my love’s sensitive nose and too much for my sensitive skin, so I reserve their use for special occasions or specific indications. I do not encourage the use of essential oils internally at all, and especially in the case of lavender essential oil.
However, Lavender essential oil is one of the few bottles of EO that I tend to keep around. I take a whiff when I need to clear my head and feel a bit calmer. Hot baths or foot baths in my home often have a drop or two included in them just for the antiseptic properties as well as for pain relief. It’s also something worth adding to external washes for pets, as it helps to kill lice and other parasites.
Medicinal Lavender & Home Remedies:
Sweet lavender has aromatic, carminative and nervine properties – meaning it has an odor that is pleasant and clears the head, calms the stomach, and calms the nerves of the body.
An infusion of lavender (basically a strong tea) sweetened with honey is quite nice for stress headaches. If you don’t enjoy the flavor, you can use the infusion as a steam bath to breathe in or to splash on your face. Don’t drink the tea more than once or twice a day, as it can switch from being a carminative to a big old bellyache.
Lavender infused oil is fantastic as a muscle rub, or as a first step in making a lavender based salve. Hot compresses of lavender in bags, used as a poultice, will help to relieve pain in joints and muscles.
You can make a great gift by mixing up some Lavender Bath Salts! (recipe by Fabulous Farm Girl)
Put a pot of simmering water on the stove and add lavender flowers to perfume your home and contribute to a calming environment.
Lavender infused vinegar is great for a hair rinse or a toner for your face or skin. It helps with acne but can be drying, so use carefully.
Where to get Lavender products:
Purchase live plants, seeds, or dried bulk lavender from Richter’s Herbs:
There are many specific varieties of Lavender available from Richter’s Herbs, just type “Lavender” into their search and see what they have available!
Want some more information about lavender? There are great recipes and information at the Herbal Academy of New England!