The Sweet Smell of Lavender

In the summer of 2014 we undertook a great cycle tour (my first) of France, which I described in a couple of posts, A Nightingale Sang and The Joy of Eating. As an aromatherapist essential oils are a crucial part of my work, and being a big fan of lavender we of course had to take in the some of the lavender routes in Provence, which I talked about a bit in The Fragrant Road. I’ve been doing a little research recently about lavender, writing an article for my aromatherapy association newsletter which I hope to post a link to once it’s published (or post online in full on this blog) with more details of the serious issues facing lavender production in Provence. I hadn’t realized it at the time of our holiday, but the plant is under serious threat, a bacteria is attacking the lavender crops and EU regulations are looming on the horizon wherein the oil (and other essential oils) could be labelled as chemical toxins, something that could inhibit the general public from feeling confident about using these lovely essences*. A bacteria and draconian regulations could seriously affect the economy of Provence – a tragic development given the long history of lavender in the region.

As I looked deeper into these issues I stumbled across some real attempts to a) salvage the crops from the devastating blight and b) fight the EU regulations and perhaps have lavender oil classified as an agricultural product, so avoiding the chemical designation. And the French Institute  CRIEPPAM – Regional Center for Medicinal and Aromatic Plant Research – has combined forces with a German perfumery company, Symrise, to introduce a new harvesting machine that removes only the flowers of the lavender plants, excluding the stems, resulting in a fresher more modern scent at the same time as reducing the environmental footprint of harvesting. Some people tend to think that lavender can smell a bit ‘old-fashioned’ – depends how you use it I think. A true lavender is gorgeous, and when added to a blend can impart a rich, subtle and balanced aroma.

Lavender oil is probably one of most well-known of essential oils, but if you haven’t tried it the ‘true’ therapeutic lavender, Lavandula Angustifolia, is a fantastic oil to have in your arsenal of helpful essences. I’ve used it (diluted) for bites, stings, burns (sunburn and otherwise), spots, massages, in a facial oil, in the bath and to smooth and give body to oil blends. It’s healing, hypotensive, relaxing and calming. Not bad for one little herb.

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* It should be noted that whilst the belief is essential oils should not be classified as ‘chemicals’ and are wonderful substances to have in your home, they are highly concentrated products and should be treated with respect. Keep out of the reach of children and pets, do not ingest, do not use undiluted and use as directed on the label or by a qualified practitioner.

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