Lavender; More and varied uses!
We have already looked at the versdaility of this genus and even some of the ways it can be used in cooking. It has been used over the centuries as a food, medicine and a talisman. However there were also many sensible and practical applications of Lavender products. Mostly it has been used as a perfume either on the body or in the home. It has properties as an insect repellant and as such can be used in clothes chests and cupboards to keep moths and silverfish at bay, with the added bonus of leaving a delightful lingering scent on the clothes themselves. Simlilarly it can be scattered in the bed clothes to deter bed bugs and fleas.
It is through these latter uses that most westerners come in touch wit7h lavender for the first time. It is an interesting side aspect of aromas in way they can instantly return us to a time in the past. How often have we smelt something and suddenly we are remebering a scene from many years ago. They also have the ability of reflecting our moods when we first smelt the aroma. Lavender fragranc e is usually associated with postive and happy times. Perhaps this is why we always like it.
Another surprising use was mixing it with ground charcoal to form toothpaste. Somehow I think it would be a difficult job to get the kids to brush their teeth with that mixture. As for white teeth, I can’t see the phrase ‘whiter than white’ accompanying toothpaste made from charcoal. It was also mixed with tobacco to give a pleasing fragrance for both the smoker and his companions.
In the house it can be mixed with beeswax to make an excellent wood oil with a soft scent. In Elizabethan times it was often mixed with rushes and laid on the stone floors. This was perhaps the earliest cheap carpet. The rushes kept the floor warm and as it was walked on the crushed lavender would perfume the room.
In the nineteenth century lavender uses were innumerable. Most gardens had lavender plants and it was sold through the markets and street sellers during the summer months. The popularity of lavender in cooking, cleaning and medicinal products declined during the past fifty years. However visit any of the Lavender estates in Australia or Europe and you will soon realise that it is has come back into vogue with a vengeance. I would be surprised to find a cleaning or perfuming product that hasn’t been refashioned with lavender.
An interesting story thatt typifies the mystioque of this fascinating herb.
A Carinthian Tale.
Once upon a time a beautiful young shepherdess took her cows into a quiet valley way above her village. She lay on the soft grass, and pondered her dull life and the chances of finding a husband amongst the local boys. She didn’t notice a nice young man until he was beside her. He was very handsome and sent her heart a flutter. He sat and they talked for quite awhile. Not only was he handsome but also witty, charming and interesting.
To her delight he seemed to find her fascinating. It was love at first sight and he begged to meet her the following afternoon. The young shpherdess agreed. He rose reluctantly and took his leave of her. As he was walking away she saw to her horror that his back was hollow. A sure sign of the Devil in human disguise. The terrified girl rounded up her herd of cows and returned to the village where she hastily found the priest.
The priest listened to her story and after some thought told her to meet the Devil the next day and find out which plants he feared the most. The next day she did as she was instructed and the Devil incautiously admitted to being terribly afraid of lavender, lad’s love and hairmoss. On the third day she picked a bouquet of these three plants and had it blessed by the priest.
Once more the young shepherdess took her herd to the valley. Once more the Devil returned and try as she would, she could not help but find him fascinating. However when he tried to seduce her she came to her senses and grabbed her bouquet from its hiding place. She thrust it at him. With a terrible roar of flames and the smell of sulphur the Devil disappeared before her, never to return.
Since then lavender has been known as an anti-demonic plant and used to keep evil from the home.
In the modern household lavender is popping up in so many places. Unfortunately many manufacturers seem to think that if you use purple in the product and put lavender in the name it will have the benefits of the real thing. Others use cheap chemically adulterated oils. Real lavender or lavandin (oil from Lavandula x intermedia) oils are expensive. Good quality, pure oil from Lavandula angustifolia plants can sell (wholesale) for as much as $300 per kg.
If you have trouble sleeping at night burn several drops of good lavender oil as you go to bed. The worst is the room will smell nice but for many people it relaxes the mind and allows you to drift off to sleep. Keep a bottle of good oil in the bathroom for insect stings. Rub several drops into a bee sting and feel the itch fade away.
Lavender fragrance bags are great for use in those places that don’t always smell the best. These are best made with dried Lavandula x intermedia flowers as they have a greater level of Camphor and Borneol. Some interesting ones are: In the dogs bed, In the horse float, In the laundry or in the boot of the car.
Dried lavender stalks are great as fire starters. They burn quickly and easily and leave a pleasant fragrance. Whereever lavender is used it will leave a great fragrance and improve the mood of those around.