Lavender is perhaps the most popular of all herbs, with a history going back to antiquity. It has always been valued for its fragrance, having scented ointments, clothing and houses down the ages. Lavender has also always been held in high esteem both as a medicinal plant for treating ailments including nervous tension, migraine, epilepsy, grief, sprains, paralysed limbs, baldness, neuralgia, snake bite, fevers, stings and so on.
It contains a highly fragrant essential oil, secreted mainly in the flower’s calyx or seed case, which has analgesic, sedative, antibiotic and antiseptic properties that would account for lavender’s effectiveness in some of those conditions.
Lavender is a useful home remedy for treating insect bites and stings. Crushed leaves are rubbed on to the skin. Lavender pillows are made for insomnia, and flannel infused with lavender placed on the forehead for headaches. A gargle of diluted lavender oil can be used for sore throats or mouth ulcers. In all these cases lavender is useful and non-toxic. It is not wise to use internally as it is toxic this way. For external use it must be diluted. The unsupervised use of any essential oil is dangerous and should be avoided.
As a culinary herb, the flowers can be added to baked goods, vinegars, ice creams and drinks. It is also used extensively in fragrant crafts like potpourri making.
Lavender is a superb garden ornamental plant. It can stand alone as a feature plant or be used as a hedge. Care must be taken in selecting the correct species for your climate. Lavenders love a sunny position and good drainage. Prune by a third each year to encourage compact growth.