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Common Name

Latin Name Family Country/Origin
English Lavender: Lavendula Angustifolia French Lavender: Lavandula stoechas Labiatae Mediterranean

Known today primarily for its use as an essential oil in soaps and lotions, this intensely aromatic light purple spice was enjoyed by the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks who used lavender flowers to fragrance baths. The name lavender comes from the Latin word 'lavare' meaning 'to wash.' They ancients used lavender as a medicine and during the process of mummification.

Lavender was not used as a culinary spice in Central Europe until after the Middle Ages. Previous to the 18th century lavender was used more for its fragrance and anti-bacterial properties. During the 16th and 17th centuries in a town in France, where lavender was often used generously in perfumes inhabitants were relatively unaffected by the Plague. It is impossible to know for certain, but the anomaly may have been a result of lavender's anti-bacterial qualities. In recent history, lavender was burned in hospitals to purify the air.

There are many different types of lavender, but the two main varieties are French and English. French lavender is generally used for culinary purposes. The leaves and stems are also edible, however it is mostly the flower and buds that are used in cooking. The flowers have a very strong, fragrant odor, that when added in excess can be overpowering and bitter. The leaves are the most bitter part of the plant.

Purported Medicinal Qualities*

The soothing scent and therapeutic properties of lavender and essential oil of lavender have been used for centuries in baths to relax the body and mind. Lavender has been used to treat insomnia, migraines and even depression. Lavender oil is said to help with anxiety, exhaustion and even irritability. In addition to top billing as a conduit to rest and relaxation, lavender has powerful anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Historically, lavender has been used to:

  • Induce sleep and relaxation, as a mild sedative
  • Aid digestion and relieve upset stomach
  • As an antiseptic
  • As an anti-bacterial
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Reduce or eliminate fungus
  • Heal wounds, acne and eczema
  • As a carminative
  • Stimulate appetite
  • Soothe sore muscles and joints

*Always check with your healthcare provider before consuming, inhaling or otherwise ingesting any non-prescription or prescription natural or homeopathic substance or pharmaceutical. is not recommending, suggesting, inferring or otherwise endorsing the use of any herb or spice as a medication.

Culinary/Suggested Use

Lavender can be used in sweet and savory dishes and is a primary ingredient in Herbes de Provence. Use lavender sparingly as it has a strong fragrance and flavor and can easily overpower a dish or contribute to bitterness.

Lavender pairs beautifully with garlic and can be substituted for thyme or rosemary, albeit in lesser quantities. The flowers can be used fresh or dried and can be added to anything from champagne to pastries to bread dough.  Food for thought:

  • Add a few lavender buds to black tea
  • Add lavender buds to shortbread cookie dough - beautiful and delicious
  • Add ground lavender to granulated sugar and use it for baking
  • Leave stalks of fresh lavender in sugar for a few weeks until it absorbs its flavor and then use the sugar in baking and iced and cold tea.
  • Substitute rosemary with lavender when cooking chicken, lamb or even potatoes
  • Lavender is a nice addition to mutton dishes as it is strong enough to compete with strong oily flavors.
  • Add lavender buds to green and fruit salads
  • Add lavender flowers to pizza or pasta sauce
  • Infuse simple syrup with lavender, strain and then use to make sorbets, iced teas and martinis.

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