The botanical name Lavendula derives the latin, lavare, meaning "to wash".
Lavender is part of the Labiatae family, comprising aromatic herbs such as thyme, savory, oregano, peppermint, and sage.
Lavender grows wild in many parts of the world, in the hot and dry regions of the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the desert regions of Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Ethiopia. Tradition tells us that French lavender originated in Persia or the Canary Isles.
Today lavender is farmed in France, England, China, the Mediterranean region, Spain, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Bulgaria, Russia, Australia, Japan, Canada and in Washington state in the United States.
The plant has blue-green leaves and bright blue blossoms. Both the leaves and flowers are fragrant.
One hundred and fifty pounds of lavender flowers produce one pound of essential oil that is aged for one year before it is released. Lavender has light, floral scent with woody undertones.
The French lavender oil excels all other types in quality, possessing a characteristic sweetness of odor.
Provence is now the world's largest lavender producer, the town of Grasse is the centre of the French perfume industry.
Traditionally lavender was used to scent the linen closet and white linens were once spread over lavender bushes in the south of France.
Lavender oil has a long history. In the Bible there is the story of Judith, who anointed herself with perfumes including lavender, seducing Holofernes, the enemy commander.
Once he was under her scented influence, she murdered him and saved the City of Jerusalem from destruction.
Both the Queen of Sheba and Cleopatra are said to have used the power of perfume in seducing their lovers.
Lavender played a sensual role in the famous Roman public bath houses as Romans used aromatic oils to scent their bodies and and the bath water.
Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria were devotees of lavender. Queen Elizabeth I drank copious cups of lavender tea to treat her frequent migraine headaches.
During the reign of Queen Victoria, lavender floral waters and smelling salts were in fashion and part of every lady's toilette.
The oil of lavender also has soothing effects on the skin.
Lavender oil was used in ancient Persia, Greece and Rome to clean hospitals and sick rooms.
Roman soldiers carried lavender oil in first-aid kits on their campaigns.
The aroma of lavender oil was thought to be cleansing and soothing for the spirit.
The pure single chemical of the lavender smell in many perfumes does not have the soothing properties of the pure oil which contains over 50 different compounds.