Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Lavender (But Were Afraid to Ask)

It was just a week ago that I published my Lazy Mama's Honey-Lavender Ice-Cream recipe. I have some leftover lav-buds and I might make scones out of them (that's a lie, I did it already). I'm still kind of obsessed with the plant. Why?

It's so pretty, sophisticated, retro, tasty, mysterious... It's Jean Shrimpton.

If Jean Shrimpton were French.

So here goes:

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Lavender (But Were Afraid to Ask)
  1. The name 'lavender' is not directly derived from the Latin 'lavare', to wash, though it was influenced by association. No, it is from 'lividis', meaning bluish (or livid!). It was, however, used to clean and freshen the laundry.
  2. There was an identical word in Middle English, 'lavendre', that meant 'laundress'. It also meant prostitute/whore/camp follower and became a surname in the 13th Century.
  3. Not only does lavender smell good, it has antibacterial properties. Cf. laundry, camp-following.
  4. It also kills human skin cells in a petri dish.
  5. Lavender is part of the mint family. So are basil, rosemary, sage, oregano and teak (yeah, the tree).
  6. It's considered not only cheesy, but also lucky to plant lavender and roses together.
  7. Lavender originated in the Mediterranean and was (probably) spread through Europe by the Romans. They used it in their baths. A pound of it cost 100 denari, which is roughly equivalent to a month's worth of a day labourer's wages. Those shi-shi Roman spas.
  8. Lavender repels bugs – so it was actually an affective anti-plague herb, since it kept the fleas at bay. This use continues to the modern day: it can easily be made into an effective bed-bug repellant spray for MontrĂ©al's very own version of the plague.
  9. Cleopatra is said to have seduced both Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony with lavender (kind of like I did with my husband). The asp that killed her may have been hiding in her lavender bush (... *crickets*).
  10. Lavender has about a billion medicinal uses. Mostly it calms things down – it can cure insomnia, anxiety, headaches, eczema, alopecia (through rubbing diluted lavender oil on the affected skin), and acne. It can also clean things, as we see in its use as an anti-fungal and anti-bug and anti-bacterial agent.
  11. Lavender reduces physical pain! Patients undergoing major surgery were given lavender-infused oxygen and reported less pain than patients with just the regular O. I say we bottle it and sell it.
  12. Lavender reduces emotional pain! Capsules of non-essential lavender oil are sold in Germany, after a study found that they were as effective at chillin' ya out as lorazepam (Ativan).
  13. Pure lavender oil is a little dangerous! It takes between 100-300 pounds of lavender to make one pound of lavender essential oil, depending on what it's diluted with. That's about 2600 cups of lavender buds (1 lb. = 13 cups of buds). Highly concentrated. And so...
  14. Lavender oil makes you grow breasts! A recent study found that pre-pubescent boys who used lavender and tea-tree oil products (though it wasn't measured in what concentrations) developed breasts, a condition called gynecomastia. Components of lavender oil have been found to mimic female hormones – and suppress androgens. It's theorized the use of lavender oil products may also be related to the early incidence of breast growth in girls.
  15. The Greeks called it nardus after the Assyrian city of Naarda, modern day Dohuk, Iraq.

Someone else's picture of lavender scones.
You know it's coming.

I am very much indebted to the Herb Gardener for her great research. Also, Wikipedia and the Online Etymology Dictionary.

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