How to Make Lavender Oil
The Beauty of the Lavender Plant
The aromatic and visually breathtaking lavender plant is one that I have grown up with as far back as I can remember. The long, slender stems of purple, blue, pink and white hues flowing in the gentlest summer breeze grew in great quantities in our garden and provided a very dramatic Mediterranean feel.
Grown for medicinal and decorative reasons, lavender is the best example of a multi-purpose plant there is. Its distinctive heady aroma is instantly recognisable. Beauty lotions, creams, gels, soaps, incense sticks, insect repellent, potpourri, oil burners and candles are just some of the many popular cosmetic and beauty products that feature this medicinal and aromatic plant thanks to its numerous therapeutic benefits. It is widely used and available in many other forms.
Practical Uses for Lavender
- essential oil
The History of Lavender
Lavender is a member of the mint family and classified as an herb with 25 to 30 known flowering species. Native to the Mediterranean countries, it can be traced back to the Greeks and Romans who both used it to scent their bathing water. It is believed the word 'lavender' stems from the Latin word lavo, meaning to wash. In ancient times, the Egyptians, Arabs and Phoenicians were known to use lavender in their traditional mummification of the dead and in perfumes.
The Arabs are credited with spreading the domestic plant through Europe—with conquerors and voyagers during this period, it is believed that the plant was reintroduced to France, Italy, England and Spain. It was not until the 17th century that lavender made its way into the Americas with the pilgrims.
Lavender Essential Oils vs. Infusions
Firstly, there are two types of lavender oil: essential oil and infused oil. Another product made with the flowers of the plant is lavender water.
This oil is primarily extracted from the flowers of the plant through the distillation process. This is not recommended for the home gardener as the quantities of flowers needed to produce a small amount of oil is vast. Essential oils are primarily produced in large quantities by commercial growers and end up in perfumes, oils and cosmetics. English lavender, in particular, Norfolk lavender, is reputed to be the best producer in the world. Fields upon fields of stunning flowers grow here and are well worth a visit.
These oils are easy to make at home, requiring no distillation process and only two ingredients. The oil can be used in many beneficial beauty applications such as in massage oil, bath oil, body moisturiser and hair treatments. If you grow lavender, an infusion is the best way of utilizing your flowers into a multi-purpose product.
This product is produced by combining lavender oil with alcohol and additives. Through the centuries, this was used as a restorative tonic to combat fatigue, giddiness and fainting.
Caution should always be taken when using lavender in any form if an allergy is suspected. Medical advice should be sought before using this herb.
How to Make Lavender-Infused Oil
- A large bundle of lavender
- Good-quality oil (olive oil, extra-virgin olive oil or almond oil)
Note: Amounts will vary depending on the size of the glass jar or container that is used.
- 2 glass jars with lids
- Cling film (saran wrap or food wrap)
- 1 rubber band
- Newspaper or paper towels
- Mesh sieve (for later)
- Sitting at a table, lay down a sheet of newspaper or about three attached sheets of paper towels.
- Start removing all the flowers and leaves by holding the plant between your thumb and index finger and gently running along the stem.
- When you have removed all the flowers and leaves, lightly crush them to release the oil.
- Fill your clean glass jar with the flowers and leaves nearly to the top of the jar.
- Pour in the oil until the flowers are covered.
- Cover the top with a lid OR use cling film and place it over the top and secure it with a rubber band.
- Leave the jar for at least two weeks, shaking daily to mix the blended oil. A month is recommended for maximum infusion.
- Pour contents into a mesh sieve, and using the back of a large spoon, press the oil through into the second glass jar. The oil in your jar is now ready to keep and use.
- Recycle any used glass jars in the kitchen for this project.
- Gift this to friends, family members or work colleagues for special occasions.
- Stir the oil once a week to infuse the lavender more evenly.
- Consider making your own fresh, dried lavender for infusions.
Lavender is popularly used in cooking and offers exceptional flavour to dishes and desserts. Care must be taken to use the herb in tiny amounts for flavouring due to its highly pronounced fragrance and taste which can be easily overdone, rendering the dish overwhelming to the senses.
Popular Lavender-Infused Foods
- Abdominal discomfort
- Migraine headaches
- Loss of appetite
- Damaged hair
- Head lice
- Scalp infections
Lavender can be used for a variety of household applications:
- Floor cleaner
- Insect and moth repellent
- Air freshener
- Multi-purpose cleanser
- Pet-odour neutralizer
Fun Facts and Trivia
- Bulgaria is the world’s biggest producer of lavender oil.
- Queen Victoria of England requested that her furniture be polished with a lavender solution.
- Lavender was used in water to bathe the wounds of soldiers during World War I.
- Used during the Bubonic Plague, glove makers would scent leather with the flowers as it was said to ward off the plague.
- Cleopatra is thought to have seduced Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony with a lavender-infused perfume.
- The Romans used to scent their linens with the flowers.
- Rene-Maurice Gattefosse (1881–1950), a French chemist, was the founder of aromatherapy of which lavender plays a major part in.
- Irish brides traditionally wore a garter of lavender to ward off witchcraft.
- Rubbing yourself with a drop of lavender is claimed to entice suitors.
- English and French lavender is reported to be the best in the world.
- The lavender plant does not have seeds.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2012 Suzanne Ridgeway