Raw Materials | Lavender
Lavender is a flowering plant in the mint family Lamiaceae, native to the mountainous zones of the Mediterranean, where it typically grows in sunny and stony habitants. Today it grows all around southern Europe, Australia, and the United States, boasting its woody branches covered with gray-green narrow leaves and small violet flowers, known for their strong and relaxing odor.
The English word “lavender” probably comes from Latin lavare, meaning “to wash.” The origin of the modern name refers to the ancient tradition of using lavender in perfumed oils for bathing, as practiced in the times of the Roman Empire. Another possible interpretation stems from the earliest known English name for this herb— livendula. Livendula is the Latin name for a livid or bluish color, and bears a strong reference to the violet flowers of lavender.
Since ancient times, lavender has been used as a natural remedy in herbal and aromatherapy. People used to fill pillows with lavender to promote a good night's sleep and chase away nightmares. This herb was also used to improve mood, reduce anxiety and soothe stomach irritations. During World War I, the essential oil of lavender was used to disinfect the surfaces in hospitals, while many folk recipes mention lavender as an excellent remedy for insect bites and burns.
This lovely plant also has a culinary use, adding a floral and sugary flavor to most dishes. Lavender syrup and dried lavender buds are used to make lavender scones and marshmallows, while high-quality Monofloral honey, produced from lavender nectar, remains one of the most precious gourmand delights.
The essential oil of lavender is widely used in production of perfumes and body-care products. Depending on the variety, lavender essential oil can have a very sweet or distinctively sharp aroma. French lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), for example, has a sweet floral aroma while Dutch lavender (Lavandula intermedia) contains higher levels of camphor and other terpenes, having a very strong aromatic and sharp odor. Essential oil extracted from Lavandula intermedia is named Lavandin. This hybrid lavender has completely different chemical and therapeutic properties, even though it finds its use in the perfume industry for its refreshing notes.
Lavender essential oil is obtained by distillation from the flower spikes. Lavender oil of premium quality is produced in France, where Lavandula angustifolia grows in its natural habitant at an altitude of 600-1500 m. Distillation process usually takes place in small local distilleries yielding around 100 t of pure lavender oil yearly. This oil is used in fresh, sweet and floral fragrances, and especially in Fougère types of perfumes, distinguished by their herbal lavender top notes and oakmoss base. In its pure form, lavender oil is a colorless or pale-yellow liquid, but its exact odor varies depending on the source of lavender, the altitude at which it is grown, and the very distilling techniques.