Friday, May 20, 2016

Nineteenth Century Wonder-Plant: Lovely Lavender

What do Sequim, Washington; Lullingstone, England; and Provence, France, have in common? Something that no nineteenth century lady, and many gentlemen, would be without.


Lavender is thought to have originated in India or the Middle East. Called spikenard or nard, it was known in Biblical times. The Romans considered it an herb and used it in or on just about everything. Sometime during the Dark Ages, monks began cultivating it in England. The pilgrims are credited with bringing it to America.

I will admit to being fond of the little purple flowers (although the plant just getting ready to bloom in my garden is white), but lavender has a surprising utility. Just consider some of the ways it was used in the nineteenth century:

  • Distilled with water as a light astringent (lavender water, anyone?) or to help laryngitis
  • Combined with other scents for perfumes and lotions
  • Powered into smelling salts
  • Applied as a poultice to bites or stings
  • Used with hot chocolate to put your beloved in the mood
  • As a flavor for snuff
  • Included in herbal tea
  • As an ingredient for baking.
Perhaps my favorite use for lavender, however, is in a lavender wand, which is creating by bending the flowered end of a lavender stalk into the center and then weaving ribbon to close it up. My dear husband gave me one for one of our anniversaries, and I take it out and inhale deeply from time to time. The scent never ceases to relax me.

The beribboned devices were not only used to waft away sour smells but could be found in Victorian cupboards to keep bugs out of stored clothing and blankets. And they were quite right, for lavender actually does have insecticidal properties!

Want to make one of your own? Follow directions here.

So, what's your favorite use for lavender?

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