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Lavender

About Lavender
Lavender belongs to the genus Lavandula which is composed of around 25–30 species of plants. It forms a part of the larger mint family, Lamiaceae which includes rosemary, sage and other similar plants. The word, "lavender" is derived from the Latin "lavere" which means "to wash" and was termed the same due to its ability to rid all strong odors from a room completely infusing it with a clean and fresh aroma. The Common Lavender or the English Lavender, also known as the Lavandula angustifolia, is more popularly grown commercially compared to other lavender varieties as its flowers are bigger and it is also more easier to harvest.
 

The plant is short in height but can grow to reach heights of over 90 centimeters. It can live for upto twenty five years. Its leaves are narrow, gray-green in color and are tapering in shape. A perennial plant, the plant possesses a semi evergreen foliage with shades of silvery green. The blue violet flowers of the lavender plant bloom in the summer months of June, July and August. The flowers are placed in spiral arrangements of 6 to 10 blossoms. The rootstock of the plant is broad in shape and possesses erect and leafy green shoots. The plant is easy to grow from seeds, cuttings or seedlings and is multi-branched. Lavender oil is the main by-product of the lavender plant and it is derived from the flowers of the plant through a process of steam distillation. This highly useful essential oil is used to heal scalp and skin conditions, increase blood circulation and also to relieve minor pains.

 
The Lavender plant is native to the mountainous areas of Mediterranean region, Africa and to the southeast regions of India. Other regions where it is grown include southern Europe, Australia, and the United States. The plants grow best in areas with plenty of sunlight with light and sandy soils. Soils with good drainage facilities with ample amount of compost or manure are better for growing lavender. It thrives in the dry, sunny, rocky habitats but can easily tolerate many kinds of soils conditions. Alkaline soils increase the fragrance levels of the plants. This hardy plant becomes extremely resistant to drought like conditions, once fully established. Dampness can be detrimental to the growth of the plants.
 

History
Lavender is also known as nard and is named after the ancient Syrian city of Naarda. The lavender was used in the temple as holy herbs and is also mentioned in the Biblical book of the Songs of Solomon. The plant had sacred connotations in the ancient times. The Romans recognized its cosmetic and medicinal properties. The high value attached to it is reflected in the Roman times when the per pound value of the flowers was equivalent to the monthly wages of a farm hand. In this period, as a result of cosmetic value, it was used in the bath to scent the water. It was Romans who introduced the lavender plant to Britain when they conquered it. During the years of the Plague in Europe, leather items were scented using the lavender oil to prevent spreading of infection as the disease was known to be transmitted through fleas.

 

Uses
The lavender flowers are used in the dried flower arrangements and bouquets. It is placed among clothing as its strong scent removes all bad odors and infuses a freshness while also keeping away insects like moths. It is also used as an ingredient in making potpourris. The plant yields one of the highest amounts of nectar and attracts bees and butterflies, enabling the production of high quality honey. It is also considered a herb and is used for cooking purposes. The herb is specially used as a part of French cuisine where it adds the floral and sweet flavor to the food. It is the dried buds which are generally used in cooking but the leaves too can be used. It can be used to flavor sugar and added to teas to enhance the flavor. The flowers of the lavender can be used as candy and also as a cake

decoration. Lavender is used in baked goods, candles, detergents, jellies, massage oils, powders, shampoos, balms, salves, perfumes, cosmetics, fragrances for bath products and in a myriad of other products.

Lavender has several medicinal properties. Its antiseptic properties enable the its utilization as a disinfectant to clean floors and walls. It can be used to cure insect bites and can also be used as a soothing drink. Lavender is useful for the skin as it has been known to heal skin burns, acne and inflammations. From the flowers of the plant, the lavender oil is derived. Its relaxing scent makes it highly useful in aromatherapy as a hypnotic. Lavender has negative effects as well as it is a strong allergen and it is to be avoided at times of pregnancy. It is cytotoxic in nature.

 
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