Rooted in myth and magic, this mesmerizing herb has a place in our homes, gardens, kitchens, linen closets, and medicine chests.
The first-century Greek physician Dioscorides first recorded lavender’s anti-spasmodic, gas-relieving, and sedative effects. Now researchers have found that essential oil from English lavender (L. angustifolia) contains the active agent linalool, which may be the key ingredient that causes smooth muscle tissue to relax, ultimately relieving tension headaches, insomnia, muscle spasms, and neuralgia.
Lavender’s effects can be enjoyed in many ways, as seen by the variety of lavender products sold at the Sequim festival. You can make many of these products yourself. Remember that essential oils are highly concentrated and must be diluted in a carrier oil before being applied directly to the skin. Purchase a good-quality lavender essential oil from any of the sources listed on page 31 and try the following simple techniques for turning your home into a calm oasis.
Fill a spray bottle halfway with isopropyl alcohol. Add 25 to 30 drops of lavender essential oil (or a combination of lavender, sweet orange, and mint oils), then top it off with distilled water. Shake well to mix. Spray in the air throughout your house, in hotel rooms, or in the car to purify the air. Carry a small lavender spritzer bottle to help cool down after physical activity.
Jadyne Reichner’s method is to fill a clean mason jar with fresh or dried blossoms. “Dried are best,” Jadyne says, “because they leave less sediment.” Pour 100-proof vodka over the lavender to within 1/2 inch of the top of the jar. Place a lid on the jar and store it in a cool, dark place for four to six weeks. Filter the tincture through several layers of cheesecloth into smaller, dark-colored dropper bottles; label and store in a cool, dark place. The Reichners keep lavender tincture on hand for sunburn, insect bites, and as an aftershave lotion.
Lavender Clothing Rinse
In a large pot, bring 6 to 8 cups of water to a boil. Add 1 cup of lavender leaves, stems, and flowers and 1 teaspoon orris root powder. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Next, strain the infused water into a large jar. Add all of the lavender water to the final rinse cycle in your washing machine. Alternatively, simply add 8 to 10 drops lavender essential oil directly to the final rinse water.
Lavender Fragrance Bags
Use dried lavender on its own or mix it with other favorite dried herbs such as rosemary, lemon verbena, or rose petals. Mix in a teaspoon of orris root powder per 1 cup of herbs and fill small cotton or linen bags (see sources, page 31). Depending on how you plan to use the bags, either stitch them closed with a needle and thread (for vigorous use), or tie with a ribbon. Use the bags under pillows to aid sleeping; in lingerie, linen, or sweater drawers; hang in closets to discourage moths; or toss into the clothes drier to gently scent linens. Jadyne uses a lavender bag as a wrist rest when working at the computer. She finds the calming effect of lavender helpful at work.
Rooted in myth and magic, lavender has a place throughout our homes, gardens, kitchens, linen closets, and medicine chests.
Bunch together an uneven number (nine or more) of fresh lavender sprigs with long stems, cut to the same length. Measure about 3 feet of 1/4-inch satin ribbon. Leaving 6 to 8 inches of ribbon free at one end, tie the lavender sprigs together just below the flower heads, keeping the heads lined up evenly. Gently bend each stem back over the flower heads, encasing them like a cage. Weave the short end of ribbon under and over each stem, traveling around the bundle several times to the end of the stems. Tuck in the short end of ribbon and tie a bow with the other end. For more detailed instructions on how to make lavender wands, see www.make-stuff.com/gardening/lavender_wand.html.
In a bowl or dish with a tight-fitting lid, combine the following dried botanicals: 1 cup lavender flowers, 1 cup rose petals, 1/2 cup rosemary leaves, 1/4 cup chamomile flowers, 2 tablespoons allspice berries, 3 tablespoons chopped orange or lemon peel. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon orris root powder and 6 to 10 drops of lavender essential oil over the herbs, toss to combine, and cover. To scent the air, remove the lid and stir the herbs.
Cold and Flu Steam Treatment
Use this relaxing antibiotic treatment just before retiring for the evening. Pour 6 cups boiling water into a large bowl; shake in 3 drops of lavender oil, 2 drops of eucalyptus oil, and 2 of drops sage, thyme, or hyssop oil. Sit with your face 12 to 18 inches away from the bowl and enclose your head and the bowl with a towel to trap the steam. Inhale deeply for 10 to 15 minutes. Cool and save the infused water to add to bath water.
Place a cotton pad in a bowl and cover with very hot water until soaked. Squeeze out the excess water and shake 6 drops of lavender oil over the compress. Lie down and place the hot compress over your eyes and forehead, covering the compress with a towel to retain the heat. Relax for an hour or more with the compress in place, reheating it occasionally in the microwave or carefully in an oven.
In a large glass, ceramic, or stainless steel saucepan, melt 1 pound of lard or shortening over medium heat until very hot (just before smoking). Add a large handful of fresh or dried lavender sprigs (leaves, stems, and flowers), cover pot, remove from heat, and steep 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Gently reheat the mixture to liquefy, then strain off herbs. Return oil to the pan, gently heat, and add about 1 ounce grated beeswax. Stir until melted and pour into glass containers. Use for burns, scrapes, and cuts.
An alternate method uses lavender essential oil instead of sprigs. Gently heat 1 pound of lard or shortening, stir in 1 ounce grated beeswax, continue stirring until melted; remove from heat, shake in 15 to 20 drops essential oil and pour into glass containers.
Abundant Earth, 762 West Park Avenue, Port Townsend, WA 98368; (888) 513-2784. Herb tea bags, sachet bags, etc. www.abundantearth.com/store/cottonteabags.html.
Cape Cod Lavender Farm, PO Box 611, Harwitch Center, MA 02645; (508) 432-8397. Lavender products, essential oil, fresh lavender in season. www.capecodlavenderfarm.com.
Tom Thumb Workshops, 59 Market St., Onancock, VA 23417; (800) 526-6502. Muslin bags with drawstrings and sachet envelopes.