Humans have been using essential oils for centuries to treat any number of ailments and maladies. While there can be limited science to back up the countless testimonials advocating their uses and benefits, one can not deny that no matter the claims, lavender essential oil is simply delightful.
So, what is it? Lavender essential oil is derived from steam distilling the spikes or the flower heads of the Lavandula plant. There are a number of cultivars commonly used in commercial distillation, each of which provides a unique result. It’s noted that the quality of the oil is based not only on the purity of the oil, but also on the camphor percentage found therein. We’ll cover the three most common cultivars in this post, but know that there are many others out there.
Lavandula angustifolia, commonly referred to as English Lavender. Named more so for it’s use in English perfumery rather than growing location. Most L. angustifolia is found in Spain and is considered True Lavender. L. angustifolia has very little camphor content which gives its oil the sweetest floral and herbaceous scent. Because of this, the essential oil from this plant is best for applications aimed at soothing the body and mind.
The next species in the Lavandula genus is Lavandula latifolia, or Spike Lavender. This lavender is most common to Portugal and will sometimes also be referred to as Portuguese Lavender. L. latifolia’s camphor content is much higher than its cousin angustifolia and it possesses a more pungent aroma. Some prefer to use this type to aid in respiratory ailments, as the camphor will help open up air passages and can act as an expectorant as well. Spike lavender will smell fresh, a bit spicy, herbaceous, and camphorous. Because of Spike lavander’s differing chemical make-up, it can be found to be stimulating instead of calming, and it has more antimicrobial properties.
Finally, we have the Lavender hybrid. Lavandula x intermedia ‘Gross’, aka Dutch Lavender, or Lavandin. This cultivar was created by cross pollinating L. Angustifolia and L. Latifolia. This cross created a larger plant than that of its parents, thus allowing more flowers per plant. Dutch Lavender is most often used in the fragrance industry and out of the three, has the most antimicrobial properties. It is considered to have both calming and antibacterial properties.
Knowing which type of lavender oil you have will be beneficial in choosing how to when and how to use it. The oil can be diffused, ingested, or applied topically. Any use of essential oils should, of course, be thoroughly researched prior to administration, and allergies or pregnancy should be taken into consideration as well. Consulting a physician is never a bad idea. That being said, L . angustifolia is the only essential oil gentle enough to be applied directly to most people’s skin. We encourage all interested in this wonderful oil to test it for themselves.