I have been in a lavender haze this week. It started with a shipping mishap that resulted in a double order of lavender essential oil, it continued with a chance selection of the excellent sleep story "Blue Gold" read by Stephen Fry on Calm.com, and finally it came up, at this point not coincidentally, in two separate conversations about flu and insomnia. Clearly, the signs pointed to me to mediate on the potency of lavender and it's importance to natural beauty and health.
A brief history of this purple powerhouse
Lavender is part of the mint family and it's distinctive floral fingerprints run through 2,500 years of history. Egyptian tombs were filled with jars of it's oil, it is found in sacred biblical recipes, Greeks and Roman's bathed in it (and gave "Nard" it's new name of Lavender from the Latin lavare meaning to wash), Queen Elizabeth sipped lavender tea for migraines and encouraged it's perfume production, Glove makers (who used the oil in production) survived at greater rates then any other trade during the great European Plagues, Queen Victoria's enthusiasm for it saw it become a household medicine and bathroom stable, and it was used to disinfect the medical working areas in World War's 1 and 2.
Precious but Practical
Clearly it has earned its reputation as a precious yet practical plant from times past, and modern day science is still finding new ways to understand it's molecular mightiness. So let's run through a quick list of how it has be used:
Clean and heal wounds, cuts, grazes, and rashes
Disinfect surfaces or skin
Ease burns and sunburns
Sooth cramps, headaches, and migraines
Relief for insomnia, nervousness, anxiety, and tension
Treat acne, pimples and insect bites
It would seem the more important question is "what can't it be used for?" My deep dive into the history of lavender this week inspired me to create two new ways to incorporate this multi-functioning flower into my life.
Four Thieves Vinegar
One of the most interesting lavender uses that I came across this week is the legend of the four thieves and their magical vinegar. During the great plague there were four thieves who robbed the sick and dying of their valuables (boooo!). When they were caught, after a year of skullduggery (hoorah!), they traded leniency for the recipe of the vinegar that had prevented them from catching the plague. It is said that they soaked face masks and washed their bodies with their "magical" elixir. The legend and the recipe persist today because of the known antiseptic qualities of all four of the herbs. So with news of rampant flu outbreaks this month, I decided to make some and see if I could bring some of the medicinal magic to my home.
The traditional recipe is as follows:
1 Tbs Fresh Sage
1 Tbs Fresh Rosemary
1 Tbs Fresh Thyme
1 Tbs Fresh Lavender buds
16 oz Vinegar (any will do - I used white!)
Warm the vinegar a little (do not boil) and add it to the chopped herbs. Let it steep for a few weeks (4 if you can wait that long). Strain the herbs out and use to wipe down surfaces or hands (do not use on metal surfaces).