The Different Types of Lavender Oils in Aromatherapy
True Lavender (lavandula angustifolia) is regarded as the most therapeutically versatile of essential oils. The ancient Greeks used Lavender to treat throat infections and to ease constipation; European herbalists used Lavender water in the treatment of head lice. A consistent member of herb gardens since the middle ages, Lavender was known to be an ancient folk remedy, said to ‘comfort the stomach and the soul.’
Lavender Stoechas (lavandula stoechas) was named after the island of Hyeres which was actually called Stoechades by the Romans. The ancient Romans were the probable users of this type of Lavender, using as a perfume for their baths. Until the middle of the 18th Century, Lavender Stoechas was used medicinally in England; in France and Spain, it was used to dress wounds by country folk.
Spike Lavender (lavandula latifolia) was traditionally used for headaches, rheumatic pain, colic and dyspepsia, as indicated in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. Culpeper recommended its use in fainting, malady and cramps. Lavandin (lavandula x intermedia) does not have a long history of use as it is basically a hybrid of true Lavender and and Spike Lavender, first appearing in the early 1900s.
Recognizing the Different Lavenders
True Lavender only grows at altitude of above 2,000 ft. Native to the Mediterranean region, it has small purplish-blue flowers and has the most fragrant of the Lavender scents. Lavandin, on the other hand, being a hybrid, is generally found growing at the lower altitudes. It has blue or gray-blue flowers and is a favorite in the perfumery industry due to its plentiful supply and low pricing.
Lavender Stoechas is quite different from the true Lavender flower in that it is short, spiky and less spectacular than the true plant. It is a hardy herb which is found on sand and crystalline rocks on the European coastline, particularly France. It has purple-blue flowers in Spring and Summer.
Spike Lavender grows at lower altitudes than true Lavender and has a very high yield, making it an inexpensive oil to produce. The plant is mainly grown in France and Spain for aromatherapy use. It has gray-blue flowers and is evergreen. It is distinguishable from true Lavender with broader and rougher leaves.
Uses in Aromatherapy
True Lavender essential oil is mainly composed of the chemical component of esters and is therefore a gentle, balancing oil. It is anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, antiseptic and a good skin rejuvenator. It is useful in easing muscle pain, headaches, insomnia, burns and women’s problems. It can also be used as a deodorant and an insecticide.
Spike Lavender essential oil is used in aromatherapy for similar benefits as true Lavender. It is a more forceful Lavender oil than true Lavender oil as it has a high percentage of the chemical component of oxides; oxides are known to be stimulating in their action and it is for this reason perhaps that Culpeper recommended careful use of it, indicating that a few drops were sufficient.
Lavandin essential oil mimics the healing benefits of true Lavender, more so than Spike Lavender. Its actions include being anti-viral, anti-infectious and warming; it is useful for coughs and colds, as a muscle relaxant and to ease anxiety and insomnia. Lavender Stoechas essential oil contains 70% of the chemical component of ketones, considered to be hazardous. Therefore it is usually recommended to use one of the other Lavender oils in preference to it.
Caddy, Rosemary 1997 Essential Oils in Color Amberwood Publishing Ltd: Kent, UK
Lawless, Julia 1995 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils Element : London, UK
Price, Shirley 2000 Aromatherapy Workbook Thorsons: London, UK