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Lavender Lore

Lavender is an ancient aromatic herb and a member of the mint family. Evergreen, woody, this shrub has spikes of flowers ranging from deep purple to pale pink and even white. Lavender thrives in hot and dry climates and likes rocky alkaline soil.

Lavender was used in ancient times for cleansing, bathing and perfume. The Egyptians used it in their mummification process. When the tomb of Tutankhamen was discovered in 1922, the distinctive fragrance of lavender could still be detected nearly 3000 years after the entombment.

From then until now, lavender has been valued mostly for its fragrance. With its chemical content of linalool and esters, lavender is a natural antiseptic, antibiotic and insect repellant.

Lavender appears in literature as early as 60 A.D. in the works of Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides (c. 40-c. 90). Dioscorides was from a small town in what is now southcentral Turkey. As a surgeon with Emperor Nero's Roman army, he traveled through Italy, Gaul, Spain, and North Africa, recording the existence and medicinal value of hundreds of plants. He compiled an extensive listing of medicinal herbs and their virtues. Originally written in Greek, this herbal was later translated into Latin and remained the authority in medicinal plants for over 1500 years.

Stoechas grows in the islands of Galatia over against Messalia, called ye Stoechades, from whence also it had its name, is an herb with slender twigs, having ye haire like Tyme, but yet longer leaved and sharp in ye taste, and somewhat bitterish, but ye decoction of it as the Hysdsop is good for ye griefs an ye thorax. It is mingled also profitably with Amtidots.

—Dioscorides, 60 A.D.

Lavandula is an herbe men clemp lavandre. This herbe is moche lyk to ysope but is mor lengger lewys thenne ysope and it hast a flour sumdel blew and also the stalke growith other-wyse. The vertu of this herbet is ef it be sothyn in water and dronke that water it wele hele the palsye and many other ewyls.

—The Angus Castus of the 14th Century

The distilled water of Lavender smelt unto, or the temples and forehead bathed therewith, is refreshing to them that have the Catalepsie, a light migram, and to them that have the failing sickness and that us to swoune much.

The floures of Lavender picked from the knaps, I meane the blew part and not the husk, mixed with Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Cloves, made into powder, and given to drinke in the distilled water thereof, doth helpe the panting and passion of the heart, previaleth against giddinesse, turning or swimming of the brain, and members subject to the palsie. French Lavender hath a body like Lavender, short and of woodie substance, but slenderer, beset with long narrow leaves, of a whitish colour, lesser than those of Lavender, it hath in the top bushe or spikie heads, well compact or thrust together, out the which grow forth small purple flowers or a pleasant smell. The seede is small and blackish: The roote is harde and woodie.

Herball, John Gerard - 1597



Copyright Kathy Gehrt 2005-2013
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