The English word lavender is generally believed to be derived from latin: lavere which means, "to wash". We know the romans used the herb in their baths and we know the Victorians lined their linen drawers with lavender sprigs. But Sally Festing, says the word "lavender" did not come from lavere but from the earliest spelled form: livendual---Latin for "livid "or "bluish" instead. Which origin is true? We don't know.
Lavender has been cultivated (planted tended and used) from the beginning of recorded civilization. Yet despite more than 2500 years of use, the origin is a mystery. Egyptians constructed stills to extract the oil for use in their mummification process. Phoenicians used it as perfume. Romans used it for perfume oil, bathing, cooking and to freshen the air. Throughout history it has been used as a mind mood tonic, to repel insects and moths and for smoking.
Some varieties are believed to have been domesticated in Arabia, then traveled with Greek traders in about 600 bc to the Hyeres Islands off the southern coast of France. It spread from there to France, Italy and Spain.
France's Provence region is famous for its production of various lavender essential oils. Varieties range from sweet for perfume to bold champhoric for detergents. During medieval and renaissance time laundry women were known as "lavenders". They would place sprigs of freshly cut lavender on sheets of linen or sachets.
Lavender first arrived on the North American continent with english pilgrams in 1600's. English Lavender (which ironically did not originate in England) was introduced commercially in the late 1500 early 1600. Since that time growing lavender in England has become less popular but it still has the reputation for producing the the sweetest lavender oil.
Lavender essential oil is found in the plants: stems, leaves, flowers and is known to have over 180 constituents. It is most often used as a top or middle note in perfumery to introduce into a blend "fruity aspects". Lavender is also used by itself as perfume fragrance.
Its aroma has long been associated with "sweethearts" and their ardor and its enhancing effect on the libido. A recent scientific study by a Chicago research foundation revealed that the most arousing of all fragrances tested on male subjects was not musk or rose but a combination of lavender and pumpkin!
In recent times by modern medicine has been confirming long known "herbal lore". For instance, the essential oil constituents have been shown effective against: hyperactivity, insomnia, flatulence, bacteria and fungus microbial activity on airborne molds and (when combined with: thyme mint rosemary clove and cinnamon) the bacterium staphylococcus which can cause boils and infections.
Medicinal uses of the lavender essential oil include inhaled in steam, applied directly to the skin and stirred into a warm bath. The foilage can be used as a poultice or tea. Scientists are looking at lavender's properties as a source of compounds to kill cancer cells. Its been shown to reduce breast cancer tumours in mice. Studies underway to investigate the benefits of these natural cancer fighting cells on women.