Beautiful And Useful Lavender Herb Plants

Lavendar herb plants have many fine uses. Their scent is exquisitely intoxicating, learn of ways that you can put this plant to good use.

In the early spring the lavender plant is a somewhat innocuous looking specimen with its long spiky stems and thin, greenish-grey leaves. But once this compact evergreen shrub goes into full bloom from May til September, its blue, light purple, pink or white flowers are incredibly striking. Even more memorable is the lavender plant's scent -- especially if you rub the bloom or a few of the leaves between your fingers and then take a whiff -- the aroma is positively heady, even intoxicating!

Lavender aromatherapy has become an increasingly popular way to ease anxiety, fatique, and headaches; it can even increase your mental functioning. Besides being inhaled the herb may also be taken orally or be rubbed on the skin to treat such conditions as toothache, loss of appetite and sprains. Adding a touch of lavender oil to your bath can improve your circulation not to mention relieve your tired and achy feet after some marathon shopping at the mall or to un-stress after a bad day at work. The lavender plant does seem to have 1001 uses.

Lavender, in one form or another, has indeed been used for medicinal and culinary purposes for thousands of years. Initially the plant was native only to the Mediterranean region where it grew wild and where the ancient Greeks used it to treat a wide range of health conditions. It was the invading Romans who eventually introduced lavender throughout Europe where other civilizations soon realized the herbs amazing versatility, not only for relieving a long list of common ailments like rheumatism, bites, rashes, infections and colds, but also as a tasty additive to drinks, salads and stews.

Lavender quickly became a staple herb in the kitchens and apothecaries of yesteryear and was also a valuable trade commodity, some varieties of distilled lavender oils commanding high sums. Today's French perfumeries still pay top dollar for the best grades of lavender oil. During wars field hospitals usually had a large supply of lavender medicines on hand to treat a variety of injuries and infections.

The are approximately 20 known species of lavender. The English or "true" lavender is the most valued of all, producing the highest quality oil. Spain, France, Italy, Bulgaria, Holland, England, Australia and the United are the major producers of commercial lavender. A sub-species of the mint family, lavender bushes grow to a height of around 3 - 4 feet. Oil glands inside each part of the plant are responsible for producing its strong fragrance. Lavender plants aren't known to produce any seeds and propagation is usually achieved through cuttings or root division. Distillation of the flower produces what is called the "essential" lavender oil that's used for perfumes and cosmetics while lavender water, a solution that's mixed with alcohol and other additives, is used for soaps and toiletries. Another type of lavender oil called "spike oil" is made from the most inferior grades of lavender plants and is chiefly used as an additive in soaps and candles.

Most lavender species are relatively hardy and very pleasing additions to rock gardens or backyard flower beds. The good news is that you don't need to have a horticulturist's degree to raise lavender as long as you follow a few simple guidelines: 1) make sure you bring home healthy plants from your local greenhouse, 2) choose a space where the plant has room to spread 3) make sure your lavender plant gets lots of sun and good drainage, 4) prune plants in the spring and fall.

Keeping your lavender plant nicely pruned shouldn't be too difficult if you harvest the leaves and blossoms regularly to make potpourris or sachets for your closets, linen drawers or for birthday and holiday gift-giving! Not all lavender varieties are perennials either so make sure to check the tags before purchase. There are also certain types that won't survive harsher winter conditions or temperatures that drop under 10 degrees below zero, so this is another consideration to keep in mind before choosing a specimen for your garden.

Since lavender belongs to the same family of herbs as thyme, rosemary, basil and sage, it can also be used to flavour foods. Because of its somewhat bitter taste however, lavender's acceptance and use as a food additive has been slower to evolve than lavender's increasing use as an alternative medicine. If you're considering using lavender or a lavender derivative to treat a specific ailment, it's always best to check with your doctor or another health care professional first. Certain herbal remedies sometimes interact negatively with prescription drugs and even over-the-counter drugs.

In the meantime, if you're stressed out after a hard day at the office, pour a few drops of lavender oil into a steaming bath, light those lavender-scented candles and climb in. And let lavender's lovely aroma envelope you and help you forget about everything for about an hour or so!

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