Monday, January 2, 2012

Essential oils: Lavender - an overview

Lavender is one of the major essential oils, and I admit that I've been putting off my research of lavender because I know it's going to take a while as we use it so much and there's so much information out there on it. But here we go!

There are a few different lavenders you'll see out there. English or French lavender (Lavender angustifolia) has the most lavender-y type smell you'll find, with an emphasis on the flowery scent. Regular old lavender (Lavandula officianalis) generally smells a little more camphory. Lavandin (Lavandula x intermedia) has more of the camphor and 1,8-cineole. (I find it has a mustier, less floral scent than the English lavender). You might find lavender as an essential oil or as a hydrosol, and the essential oil is generally steam distilled.

You might see lavender 40/42 available for purchase. These numbers "indicate the linalyl acetate content; in this case, they indicate the product contains 40%-42% of linalyl acetate. Lavender 40/42 is generally a blend of various lavenders in order to get a consistent scent from batch to batch, with processors adding linalyl acetate to cover the smell of camphor or borneol components of a given lavender." (From Camden Grey). You might see it listed as Lavandula officianalis and its origin as France. I've seen write-ups at suppliers stating that this type of lavender essential oil has the lowest level of therapeutic abilities, but that's for us to investigate over the next few days!

The main compounds we find in lavender are linalool at 29% or so (a monoterpene alcohol that is responsible for a lot of the fragrance), linalyl acetate at 33% (a terpene ester responsible for a lot of the fragrance also). We find a lot of camphor (up to 13%) and eucalyptol or 1,8-cineole (up to 26%) in in Lavandula latifolia or Spike lavender.

What are the claims about lavender? It is purported to be an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, insect repellant and bite soother, anxiolytic (meaning it can treat anxiety), sleep aid, acne treatment at 1:10 with water, pain reliever, urine flow increaser, and respiratory disorder treatment. That's an awful lot of stuff to investigate, but here goes! But wait - we need to take a look at linalool and linalyl acetate as well as a little chemistry with isomers! Join me tomorrow for more on lavender!


Anonymous said...

Susan, I have used Lavender 40/42 neat on a burn on my finger with great results it almost immediately took away the pain and I have no blister..truly an incredible essential oil..:)

Cathy said...

Nice post Susan. I look forward to the next ones on lavender. I use lavender 40/42 in my soap and lavender products. I tried Grosso EO for awhile but the 40/42 seems to hold better. Enjoying your research.

Diane said...

Hi Susan, glad to see you wade into the controversial minefield of essential oils. There are truly many kinds of lavender, as with most plants, depending on geographical location and altitude. I'm most interested in the unadulterated EOs - the genuine and authenic natural recipe that has evolved over time to give a survival advantage to the plant. True lavender always contains less than 80% of the combination of these two components; 40/42 is by definition, "improved." Only, there are no inactive ingredients in EOs and when you pump up one component, you lose some subtle other ones. Not to say that the 40/42 would not be effective for some things, just don't think it's "better," except maybe for commercial reasons.
I always enjoy your explorations and salute your designation of 2012 as a year for curiosity. May we all keep learning(yes, especially me).