Everyone knows the pleasant smell and beautiful purple flowers of this plant.
We can find it in candles, soaps, perfumes or scented bags.
But lavender is not only beautiful and fragrant, but also medicinal.
What ailments can it help us with?
How to include it in the menu?
How to make lavender sugar or honey?
Follow the trail of this herb with us.
What is lavender?
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is the best-known representative of the lavender genus, which consists of approximately forty species. Similar to mint, sage and other medicinal herbs, it belongs to the family of sedum plants.
This plant has a very wide range of uses, from pharmacy and healing to cosmetics and gastronomy. It originally grew mainly in the Mediterranean region, but nowadays lavender farms are also widespread in other regions of the northern hemisphere, the most famous of which are located in Provence, France.
The word lavender comes from the Latin root “lavare”, which literally means “to wash”. The earliest records of the use of lavender come from ancient Egypt, where its oil was used in mummification. In later times, lavender became a popular bath ingredient, especially in the area of ancient Persia, Greece and Rome.
Types of lavender
The best-known and most commonly cultivated types of lavender include:
- Medical lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – in addition to this name, you can also meet the names narrow-leaved lavender, English lavender or true lavender. It is mainly used for its medicinal effects and also in cooking. It can bloom purple, pink or white.
- Broad-leaved lavender (Levandula latifilia) – has a more pronounced scent, it is mainly used for the production of perfumes.
- Provençal lavender (Lavandula intermedia) – was created by crossing medical and broad-leaved lavender, thanks to which it has a higher content of aromatic oils, but it is not suitable for consumption. Sometimes this species is also called lavandin or middle lavender.
How to recognize real lavender?
Considering that not all species are suitable for consumption, it is important to be able to recognize medicinal lavender well and not to confuse it with, for example, middle lavender.
The easiest distinguishing sign of medicinal lavender is that it has only one inflorescence on the stem, while the middle lavender has several. Flowers arranged on stalked spikes are shorter in true lavender.
While the flowers of the middle lavender have a typical purple color, the medicinal lavender can bloom not only purple, but also pink or white. Last but not least, the scent of true lavender is less pronounced than that of medium lavender due to the lower content of essential oils.
What does lavender taste like?
The initial sensory impression of this plant is a sharp floral taste and aroma with subtle notes of herbs, earthiness and mint. Different varieties can have additional fruity or woody undertones, making it a complex culinary herb. The flavor of lavender combines well with other herbs such as oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage and sage.
Medicinal effects of lavender
This herb has been used since ancient times to alleviate symptoms and as a supportive agent for many ailments. In addition to essential oils, it also contains a number of other diverse plant substances and compounds. What problems can this plant help us with?
- Insomnia – lavender is often recommended for people suffering from insomnia or other sleep disorders. In addition to pillows stuffed with flowers, aromatherapy, inhaling essential lavender oil, can also be used in connection with insomnia.
- Anxiety and stress – this herb can also provide relief to people suffering from anxiety. Lavender aromatherapy can also reportedly help reduce anxiety related to the side effects of chemotherapy or anxiety about going to the dentist.
- Hair loss – topical application of lavender oil can help treat a condition called alopecia, which causes a person to lose large amounts of hair. The study also found that lavender oil successfully stimulated hair growth.
- Headaches and migraines – the calming effects of lavender also help with headaches and migraines.
- Depression – effects on depression are not as well documented as effects on anxiety, but research is promising. For example, lavender aromatherapy has been found to prevent postpartum stress and depression.
- Digestion – studies suggest that consumption in tea form can help with digestive problems such as vomiting, nausea or gas.
- Skin problems – this plant contains two anti-inflammatory compounds that help with a variety of skin problems such as eczema, dermatitis, and psoriasis. Thanks to its ability to destroy bacteria, it is a gentle way of treating acne, lavender oil is also effective in the fight against fungal infections.
- Burns and wound healing – plant has long been used as a traditional remedy for burns. According to studies, its antimicrobial activity also helps prevent post-burn infections, increases the speed of wound healing and promotes collagen growth.
- Blood pressure and heart rate – chronic hypertension puts a strain on the heart that increases the risk of health complications such as stroke and heart attack. According to studies, inhalation of lavender oil has a positive effect on lowering blood pressure and heart rate.
- Menopause – hot flashes are one of the frequent symptoms of menopause, lavender aromatherapy contributes to reducing their occurrence and intensity.
Adverse effects of lavender
Consuming lavender in amounts typically used in beverages, foods, or supplements is generally considered safe. Because it slightly depresses the central nervous system, doctors usually recommend that patients stop taking it at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.
The safe use of the oil depends on the sensitivity of the skin. Some people experience an allergic skin reaction after applying lavender oil.
Lavender in the kitchen
This herb goes well with a wide range of sweet and savory dishes. Ingredients with which it is often combined include, for example, strawberries, blueberries, pears, lemon, orange, honey or chocolate.
Last but not least, together with rosemary, oregano, basil and thyme, it is part of the Provençal spice mix. In addition to France, lavender is also used in Italian and Spanish cuisine.
Both fresh and dried flowers can be used in the kitchen . After drying, lavender is stronger and more concentrated, so it is necessary to use it in smaller quantities. A third the amount of fresh lavender is usually recommended.
- In the summer months, a variety of homemade lemonades are very refreshing. Try lavender lemonade with lemon slices.
- Another use of this herb in the hot summer is to make homemade ice cream . In this case, lavender is best combined with vanilla and fruit flavors.
- In French cuisine, dried lavender is often used in the preparation of crème brûlée . This delicious creamy dessert can be prepared in many ways.
- The preparation of lavender honey is very simple. Mix one tablespoon of dried lavender flowers with a glass of honey. Place the jar in a warm place, but out of direct sunlight. Turn the jar every day to mix the honey and flowers. Leave to infuse for 2-4 weeks. Then strain the flowers.
- Another variant is lavender sugar, which you can add to drinks, baked goods and whipped cream. One tablespoon of dried lavender is enough for two cups of sugar. Blend the dried lavender with the sugar in a blender and store in an airtight container. You can easily use lavender sugar in muffin recipes, for example.
- The slightly bitter taste and pleasant aroma make lavender also a popular ingredient in the preparation of fruit salads , it goes especially well with citrus fruits and berries.
- Herb butter often goes well with meat and vegetables. Just mix the chopped lavender with other herbs and a piece of butter in a pan, then mix the mixture and add a small amount of salt.
- Last but not least, lavender can be used together with other herbs in recipes for meat marinades , in which you load various types of meat before grilling.
Preparation of lavender tea is very simple, just pour one tablespoon of dried lavender flower buds into 250 milliliters of bitter water. Before brewing, it is recommended to rub the flowers lightly in your hand or crush them. Then let the tea steep for approximately 10-15 minutes, preferably under the lid. In addition to dried lavender, tea can also be prepared from fresh flowers.
Lavender tea calms the nerves, leads to better sleep, supports digestion and improves skin health. In addition to drinking, the resulting lavender decoction can also be used locally, as a hair rinse, lotion or it can be added to the bath.
Lavender syrup is a simple way to use lavender in the preparation of a number of drinks and dishes. Its production consists of infusing lavender flowers in boiled water together with lemon slices for 24 hours.
Then add the sugar to the mixture and bring the mixture to a boil to dissolve the sugar. After straining, pour into bottles and store in the cold. You can use the syrup to prepare lemonades, to flavor tea and coffee. Last but not least, it can also be used in baking to prepare a glaze for sweets or other desserts
Although lavender originally comes from the warm and dry regions of the Mediterranean, in recent years its cultivation has become very popular in our conditions as well. We will meet her in gardens, balconies and terraces, just choose a place with enough sun.
The plant thrives in well-drained soil, which is recommended to be lightened with gravel. If you plant it near roses, it will serve as a natural aphid repellent.
Water the lavender seedling regularly until it takes root, then limit the watering, the plant prefers dryness. Removing spent flowers during the season will encourage new flowers, a more pronounced haircut is recommended once a year.
When and how to cut lavender?
Harvest time depends on what you want to use it for later. Generally, the plant blooms from about mid-June to August. In the case of decorations, it is recommended to harvest it before it fully blooms, the plant will last better.
For use in the kitchen, it is possible to harvest it in full bloom, its aroma and taste will be more intense. Lavender is most often harvested with part of the stem. Harvesting is done simply with scissors.
How to dry lavender?
Dried lavender is not only a beautiful fragrant decoration, but also has many other uses. If you do not want it to lose its beautiful color, it is recommended to dry it in a dark room or at least in a place where there is no direct sunlight.
- Hanging drying – arrange the cut lavender in a bundle and tie the ends with a rubber band or string. Hang the bunches of flowers upside down in a dry and warm place until they are completely dry.
- Drying in the oven – place the lavender on a tray and dry in an oven preheated to 35°C for approximately 10 minutes. Once the flowers are completely tender, remove them and let them cool completely before storing.
- Drying in a dryer – another option is to dry lavender in an electric dryer.
- Flat drying – place the cut lavender in a single layer on newspaper, the floor or a worktop so that air can reach it well.