The aroma of lavender has wafted through human history. It was used in ancient Egyptian perfumes and incense, and strewn over the stone floors of medieval castles as a disinfectant and deodorant. Today lavender essential oil is a component of many aromatherapy blends.
Lavender's unique aroma is herbaceous and fresh, yet sweet, subtle and floral: a perfect balance of relaxing and uplifting characteristics. In fact, according to aromatherapists, the balancing attribute is lavender's most prevalently described aromatherapy benefit.
Lavender essential oil contains up to 40% linalyl acetate and 30% linalol. Linalol is a terpene alcohol that is non-toxic to the human organism, yet naturally germicidal. Linalyl acetate has a pleasant, sweet fruity-floral aroma. The combination of antimicrobial and sweetness is the key to lavender's effectiveness in cosmetic and aromatherapy preparations.
Lavender essential oil is steam distilled from the flowering tops of Lavendula officinalis, also known botanically as Lavendula angustifolia and Lavendula vera. The lavender plant is native to the rocky slopes that front the Mediterranean Sea. Centuries of cultivation in the Grasse region of southern France have produced some of the most highly developed forms of lavender plant and arguably the finest lavender essential oil in the world. Other oil producing countries include Tasmania, Spain, Italy, England and China.
Lavender essential oil is fresh and flowery-sweet with a fleeting light fruity tone, gradually becoming more floral-herbaceous and balsamic-woody but maintaining its sweetness and pleasantness. The oil is not very tenacious. When it dries out it leaves behind a faint, sweet-herbaceous aroma. Good lavender oil isn't overly sharp, herbaceous, penetrating or camphoraceous.
Lavender Balancing Aromatherapy Blend
Lavender is one of the most adaptable essential oils for creating aromatherapy blends or fragrances. It adapts well to rich floral oils like rose otto or strong herbaceous oils like camphoraceous rosemary. The aromatherapy benefits of lavender are equally adaptable. A rich, sedative floral blend can be made more refreshing and uplifting, an invigorating, herbaceous more soothing by adding lavender.
Some species closely related to lavender produce essential oils of use to the aromatherapist. The lavadin plant (Lavendula hybrida) is the hybrid offspring of Lavendula officinalis and Lavendula latifolia. Lavandin oil is fresh, sweet-herbaceous and camphoraceous. In aromatherapy blends it is uplifting, gently clarifying and refreshing. Lavendula spica, known as spike lavender, produces an essential oil that is camphoraceous, dry-woody and rosemary like. Spike lavender oil is gently invigorating clarifying and uplifting.
Lavender essential oil's unique floral-herbaceous aroma and relatively safe and gentle aromatherapeutic action make it one of the most important aromatherapy essential oils. Its adaptability to blending and moderate price make it especially useful for the beginning aromatherapist.