A lesson in Lavender June 20th

Lavender fields

Field of 2 year old Maillette

There are dozens of different types of Lavender, each with a different chemistry, scent and therapeutic potential. People generally think that Lavender is Lavender is Lavender, but nothing could be further from the truth. The majority of folk who go into a store to buy a bottle of Lavender essential oil do so because they are seeking the relaxing or stress relieving effects that this oil is reputed to offer. However, most of the Lavender essential oils sold in stores are inferior grades and not likely to deliver the results people want.

To simplify things, you can consider that there are three basic types of Lavender available. The first is Spike Lavender (Lavandula spicata). This wild character smells a bit like its name would lead you to believe...rough and spiky. It is full of camphoraceous notes and is not likely to soothe or relax you.

Lavender

Clonal & Population Lavender in comparison

The second are the True Lavenders (Lavandula angustifolia or Lavandula officinalis). This type of Lavender can be further divided into what the French call Fine or Population lavenders, and the Clonal Lavenders. A Clonal Lavender is a True Lavender that has been bred for certain characteristics (most usually a sweet bouquet) and which is propagated by taking cuttings from the parent plant, as opposed to by seed. Because of this method of propagation, all the plants in a field of Clonal Lavender will have the exact same genetic make up. The most popular variety of Clonal Lavender is Lavender Maillette. The Population Lavenders are the original Lavenders of Provence and because they are grown from seed, each plant will have a unique genetic make up....and this can be seen in the variance in the appearance of the plants in the field. Some plants in a field of Population Lavender will have characteristic purple flowers and other may be pale blue to white. This variance also gives the essential oil a rich complex bouquet, and a correspondingly rich therapeutic potential. Population Lavenders require cool air to thrive, so they are only found at high elevations.

Lavender fields

Lavandin Abrialis just coming into bloom

The third and final group are the Lavandins. Lavadins are types of Lavender produced by interbreeding the True Lavenders with the Spike Lavenders. There are many different strains of Lavadin, of which Abrialis, Super and Grosso are perhaps the most common. The reason that so much of the 'lavender' sold these days comes from strains of Lavandin plants is because these hybrid plants grow vigorously to a large size, they resist disease, and they have large flower spikes that yield a lot of oil - making the essential oil inexpensive. You can spot the fields in France growing Lavandin because the plants are large and bushy, and the flower spikes are long and a uniformly deep purple color. However, Lavandin oil is not the same as True Lavender oil, and should not be substituted for True Lavender if you want to achieve the results usually attributed to Lavender. At Body Bliss you can purchase Spike Lavender, Organic Lavender Maillette, Organic Lavender Vera (Population Lavender) and Organic Lavandin Abrialis, essential oils, as well as from time to time other Lavenders from outside of France.