Lavender essential oil is probably the most frequently suggested essential oil, one of the first we purchase, and the one we reach for most often. What we often do not realize until we have been using essential oils for a while is that there are several varieties, and even species, of lavender available as essential oils. Although they share some important properties, they are quite different in their chemical make-up and hence different in their safety and usage profiles.
Botanical name: Lavandula angustifolia, Lavandula officinalis
The main Lavender used for therapeutic purposes in both herbalism and aromatherapy is Lavandula angustifolia. There are many cultivars of L. angustifolia, with flowers ranging in color from light purple to dark purple, white, and even pink. This Lavender is sometimes referred to as English Lavender. I have also heard some people call it French Lavender, but since that term has also been applied to Lavandin (L. x intermedia) and to L. dentata, it is best to refer to it via its botanical name, L. angustifolia, to avoid confusion.
Despite its name, Lavandula Angustifolia isn’t actually native to England. It is native to Mediterranean countries like France, Italy, Spain, Croatia, and Greece.
Lavender is comprised of over 100 constituents, including linalool, perillyl alcohol, linalyl acetate, camphor, limonene, tannins, triterpenes, coumarins, cineole, and flavonoids.
Lavender essential oils consistently boast the following therapeutic properties (among others): analgesic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, anxiolytic, antispasmodic, carminative, cicatrisant, diuretic, emmenagogue, nervine, sedative, and uplifting. They are generally useful for any kind of skin ailment, nervous tension, anxiety, lack of restful sleep, aches, pains, and spasms, While Lavender is safe for even neat use on the skin, some clinical aromatherapists now recommend using it undiluted only for acute ailments (like a bee sting). When used regularly over time, it may be best to dilute even the friendly Lavender essential oil in a carrier. True Lavender essential oil is costly to produce and is often adulterated with isolated (or synthetic) linalol or linalyl acetate, synthetic Lavender oil, and even Lavandin essential oil. Know your source well to be sure you're purchasing a true, 100% L. angustifolia essential oil.
Botanical name(s): Lavandula latifolia, Lavandula spica, Lavandula spicata
Spike Lavender grows at a lower elevation than the L. angustifolia plants and is sometimes called Aspic. The essential oil has a sharper, more camphoraceous aroma than the essential oil from Lavandula angustifolia, with a camphor content that can vary based on where the plant was grown, sometimes reaching concentrations up to about 35%. It also contains higher amounts of 1,8-Cineole. Its aroma hints at its antiseptic qualities and smells quite medicinal. It is often utilized in respiratory support blends and is especially useful when you're feeling a bit stuffy. It can be helpful for pain and inflammation. While not nearly as calming as a True Lavender oil, it does stimulate circulation and effectively gets stagnant energy moving through the body again.
Because of the camphor content, it is recommended that this oil be avoided when pregnant.
Therapeutically, Spike Lavender essential oil is analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, antispasmodic, circulatory, and expectorant. It is sometimes used in skincare preparations and is often included in blends that support skin ailments, cramps and spasms, headaches, and minor wounds.
Botanical name(s): Lavandula stoechas
L. stoechas is sometimes called Spanish Lavender, but since that term is also applied to L. dentata and L. stoechas is also called French Lavender (a term also applied to L. angustifolias and L. x intermedia varieties), it is best to just refer to it by its botanical name: L. stoechas.
L. Stoechas makes a stunning compact hedge in the garden and tends to bloom continuously beginning in late spring.
The essential oil is not as easily found, but it can be sourced. Generally speaking, it is not well suited for use with little ones and comes with a few safety contraindications. It is rich in Camphor (even more than Spike Lavender), 1,8-Cineole, and Fenchone, and has an affinity for the respiratory system. Since it is so rich in ketones and oxides, it should be used with caution.
The numerous indications for Lavandula Stoechas and its non-toxicity make it one of the leading components of modern aromatherapy. For instance, it is used in Ayurvedic medicine in India to soothe depression accompanied by digestive problems. It is also used by Tibetan Buddhist monks to treat various mental disorders. In general, Lavandula Stoechas can be used internally against: - Infection (otitis, chronic sinusitis* primarily). - Headaches. - Fever. - Nausea. - Rheumatism. Due to its anti-inflammatory and healing properties, lavender is also used to treat muscular pain and wounds, eczema and so on. Lavandula Stoechas can also be used as an essential oil, known for the following properties: - Anti-catarrhal, mucolytic. - Anti-infection. - Wound healing. - Anti-inflammatory.
Botanical name: Lavandula x intermedia, Lavandula hybrida, Lavandula x burnati
Lavandin (L. x intermedia) is a Lavender species that is cherished by growers and distillers around the world. Lavandin plants are created when a Lavandula angustifolia and a Lavandula latifolia plant are cross-pollinated. The resulting hybrid is a much larger plant than the L. angustifolia varieties and yields a great deal more essential oil. Lavandins make beautiful garden hedges because of their impressive size and color.
Lavandin essential oil is not as commonly used in the aromatherapy industry, but it is produced worldwide for the fragrance industry. It is a common ingredient in soaps, laundry detergents, skin care, perfumes, and cleaning products. It's far less chemically complex than L. angustifolia essential oil and is considered to be somewhat inferior therapeutically, so not many professional aromatherapists use it. Still, the aroma is lovely - a bit sharper than an angustifolia, due to its higher Camphor and 1,8-Cineole content. Some people prefer its aroma because it's more similar to the traditional Lavender smell they're used to while others, who think they don't like the smell of Lavender until they smell a true L. angustifolia, shy away from the Lavandin scent.
Therapeutically, Lavandin essential oil is used for its antibacterial properties and to support the respiratory system.
Like the L. angustifolia essential oil varieties, Lavandin essential oil is usually offered as simply 'Lavandin - L. x intermedia' or 'Lavender - L. x inter