Lavender has a very rich history both in ancient times, biblical times, and the colonial era, as well as being used in the modern day world. Lavender’s history spans over over 2000 years. The Egyptians used lavender in their mummification process and archeologists found decorative urns in the pyramids with residues of lavender oils still inside. The Egyptians were known for using lavender to perfume their skin and dwellings.
Lavender's biblical roots can be found using the ancient terminology for Lavender known at that time as "Spikenard". The Bible has several references to Spikenard particularly in the New Testament. Spikenard or Lavender oils were used by Jesus for foot washing of his disciples prior to his crucifixion. References are made to Mary using Spikenard on Jesus after the crucifixion when she was preparing him for burial.
Lavender spans many cultures and languages throughout history. In Roman times you can find the uses of Lavender by tracing the Latin word "lavare"which means 'to wash' or bathe which were some of the common uses of lavender by the Romans. The Romans also used the herb for cooking and early medicinal purposes. The Romans learned a great deal about lavender from the Greeks and Egyptians.
Renaissance Times and the Victorian Era
During the Renaissance, lavender was used to protect against infections during the Plague. The Plague was carried by lice and transported on rats to various areas of the European populations. The Lavender plants and oils were found to be a excellent insect repellant during this period of time.
English royalty were particularly fond of Lavender, and the herb took on a great surgence of interest during the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria's reigns. Queen Victoria particulary enjoyed the scent of Lavender and requested Lavender be used throughout the castles for everything imaginable, from perfumeries, to the kitchen. Castle floors and furniture were washed with Lavender to please the Queen. The royal linens and chambers were perfumed with its sweet scent as well.
The Queen's interest and passion for this plant encouraged all fine English ladies to follow suit and scent themselves and anything else possible with the wonderful oils. There were street vendors carrying bundles of flowers for sale that they harvested from the hills and the women would craft Tussie Mussies and sachets for their homes and boudoir. The scent of Lavender symbolized cleanliness and purity. Lavender was soon planted in every English garden and still is in many homes today.
The demand for Lavender was soon brought about by the Europeans which encouraged more cultivation and farming of the herb to help keep up and maintain a constant supply for the royalty.
The Colonial garden served as the apothecary, perfumery, and spice rack for the average household. Gardens graced both the farm yard and the city home. The first Colonial herb gardens were primarily kitchen gardens, planted with herbs, fruits, flowers and vegetables.
The Colonial era was frought with challenges and the uses for Lavender continued to flourish. The colonists brought Lavender with them from Europe. Lavender was often used to scent clothing in the colonies and keep it in bed linens and within bed ticking to reduce insects and smells. Dried lavender would be tucked among stored clothes to refresh them by infusing the garments with their scent. Cooking also became another prominent use for Lavender in the colonies and families enjoyed the flavoring of meats and game as well as adding it to teas and for medicinal uses.
Lavender in Modern Times
Lavender was rediscovered by Rene Gatefosse, one of the founders of aromatherapy because he burned himself in his lab. The closest vessel he had contained lavender essential oil and he quickly soaked his arm in it. Mr. Gatefosse gained relief and he noticed the healing processing was accelerated from typical burns he had experienced in the past. The lack of both infection and scarring resulted from his quick thinking and the use of Lavender essential oils.
Today Lavender is experiencing a renewal of popularity as a culinary and medicinal herb, and wider uses in cosmetics and aromatherapy products as well as taking care of your pets. Every member of the family can benefit from Lavender.
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