Old medicinal concoctions using lavender Lavender drops

This was a compound tincture of lavender oil, useful as a colouring and flavouring for medicines but also effective for fainting.

Red lavender

This consisted of lavender mixed with rosemary and cinnamon bark, nutmeg and sandalwood and macerated in spirit of wine for several days used in a dose of teaspoonful to some water for indigestion (Grieve, 1937). The British pharmacopoeia officially recognised red lavender for 200 years. In the eighteenth century it was known as palsy drops and red hartshorn. The first formula was complicated and used thirty ingredients in a distillation: fresh lavender, sage, rosemary, betony. Cowslips, lily of the valley, with French brandy; cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cardamom were digested with all the rest for 24 h and then musk, ambergris, saffron, red roses and red sanders wood was tied up in a bag and suspended in to perfume and colour it.

Red lavender is sometimes mentioned in the literature, for example in 'Man and Wife' by Wilkie Collins (1870).

Modern uses BPC products

Compound Lavender Tincture BPC 1949 Dose: 2—4 ml Lavender Spirit BPC 1934 Dose: 0.3-1.2 ml

Uses of lavender medicinally

Bertram (1995) suggests the following uses for Lavandula angustifolia: nervous headache, neuralgia, rheumatism, depression, sluggish circulation, chillblains, insomnia, windy colic, physical and mental exhaustion, neurasthenia, sense of panic, fainting (1-3 drops in honey). He continues: for toothache, sprains, sinusitis, bladder infection, to relieve stresss, calm and relax and also migraine. For transient high blood pressure, combine with lime blossom (1: 3), The uses are nearly identical to those suggested both by Culpeper (1653) and Gerard (1597), both of whom were referring to L. stoechas, not this species!

Different lavender preparations

Use dried flowers of lavender, 0.5-2 g, 3 X daily (Bertram, 1995).

Tea : 1 teaspoon per cup of boiling water, infuse 15 min. Dose: 0.33 of the cup.

Home liniment: handful of flowers, fresh (50g) in 500 ml alcohol (e.g. vodka) and macerate for 8

days in cool, shady place, shaking daily. Filter and massage into affected area.

Tincture BHP (1983): 1: 5 parts 60% alcohol. Dose: 2-4ml.

Lavender bath: 30g fresh flowers and tips to 500 ml water, boiled, strained, added to bath as tonic.

Natural food flavours

Lavandin oil, spike lavender oil and lavender oil, absolute and even concrete are used as natural food flavours. Reported uses in the food industry (Fenaroli, 1998) include: baked goods, frozen dairy, soft candy, gelatin, pudding, non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages (Table 18.1).

Cooking with lavender at home

Several suggestions are made in the Norfolk lavender booklet (1999), including: herring or trout stuffed with thin slices of lemon and lavender sprigs; duck or chicken stuffed with lavender and white grapes; roast lamb or pork with lavender and redcurrants.

Table 18.1 Lavandin, spike lavender and lavender uses as natural food flavours reported uses in the food industry (Fenaroli, 1998) include





Spike lavender




Baked goods





Frozen dairy





Soft candy





Gelatin, pudding





Non-alcoholic beverages





Alcoholic beverages





Lois Vickers (1991) suggests a number of fascinating recipes for cooking with lavender, garnishing foods and use as crystallised flowers. L. angustifolia cultivars like 'Hidcote' of 'Munstead' are suggested for crystallisation using the whisked white of an egg made in its own volume of water for painting the flower head, then coating them with icing sugar and baking for at least 2 h in a cool oven. Lavender can be used in salads mixed with nasturtium, marigold and borage flowers, mixed in with avocado slices and chicory leaves! Lavender marmalade is suggested using the usual recipe of Seville oranges (1 kg), one lemon, 2 l of water, 2 kg of sugar and the dried lavender flowers in a muslin bag (35 g). Lavender yoghurt ice and lavender meringues are suggested as deserts. Perfumed lavender sugar, lavender syrups and liqueurs also whet the appetite for lavender-holics!

Tissanes or teas

Tissanes or teas are sold in great quantities in Europe, and have now become relaxant drinks in the United Kingdom, even being sold in sachets in supermarkets. They often include cinnamon and fennel. Unsubstantiated claims exist that a herbal tea of 1 tsp. dried lavender flowers to 600ml of boiling water, infused for 5 min and drunk with honey cures cystitis, vaginitis and leucorrhoea (probably due to the antiseptic effects of honey); it is also good for convalescents and for treating oily skins, as a rinse for oily dark hair and used to relieve headaches and as a tonic against faintness, spasms, colic or vertigo (Rose, 1982).

Scented candles

These can be easily made using grated candle wax in a saucepan, heating gently and then carefully adding the fragrance and lastly putting in the wick.


Pot-pourris were very fashionable in the sixteenth century and are still used today, but in a different format. Originally, the scented petals and leaves of rose, lavender, lemon verbena, lemon balm, thyme, mint, calendula, partly dried, were mixed with lemon and orange peel and put into an earthenware jar and layered together with salt for several weeks until it 'caked' (Flanders, 1995). The cake was then taken out and broken up and perfumed with spices, like cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg and then mixed with fixative oils or orris powder or gum benzoin, frankincense or myrrh and again left to 'cure' for many weeks. The pot-pourri did not look attractive though it smelt wonderful, and was kept in a china jar, often with pierced lids to allow the smell to waft out. Alternatively, the lid was removed on occasion, when the jar was placed in front of an open fire and the aroma would escape into the room.

Nowadays, fragments of dry scented wood are used together with dried lavender etc. and the contents are re-livened with drops of EOs of lavender etc. when needed. The contents can be altered for different seasons. The pot-pourri can be made to look more attractive by the addition of whole cloves, petals, dried leaves etc.

Veterinary products

Spike lavender is included in some veterinary shampoos and other products as an insect repellent, especially for fleas (Potter, 1988).

Household cleaning

Elizabethans used to scrub floors with bunches of lavender and the oil was used to polish furniture (Ryman, 1991). The fragrance is still the most used of all in any cleaners including detergents, but true lavender is nowadays replaced by synthetics. Home-made furniture polish can be made using 240 g grated beeswax, 60 g grated household soap, 600 ml genuine turpentine and the same volume of water, heating first the beeswax and turpentine in a bain-marie to melt it, then adding the soap dissolved separately in water and then adding lavender oil (Flanders, 1995).

Perfumes, beauty products and scents for the home

Lavender is added to lotions, bath products, after-shaves, soaps, colognes, toilet waters, perfumes, etc. Soaps can be scented with lavender oil by grating the unscented soap into a saucepan and then adding drops of fragrance and gently heating and stirring until the mixture solidifies again (Flanders, 1995). Alternatively, soap balls can be made in the cold by mixing the finely grated soap with some water and the fragrance in a mortar with a pestle and then making the mixture into balls by hand.

Herbal pillows

Herbal pillows have been used as an aid to sleeping for hundreds of years, but became old-fashioned and were only recently re-discovered in England due to the advent of 'aromatherapy' and the re-discovery of the sedative properties of lavender (Buchbauer et al., 1991).

Lavender bags

These were used in centuries past and were even more popular in the Victorian era. The bags were made simply from pieces of cotton, round or square, which were filled with dried lavender flowers and tied up with ribbon. These bags were used for perfuming contents of draws, wardrobes and rooms in general and to keep insects at bay. Sometimes, larger pieces of material were sewn together and filled with lavender and used as drawer liners. Lavender would sometimes be mixed with peppermint, thyme, rosemary and other dried herbs and spices and used as a more effective insect repellent. These and other shaped containers made of material, containing dried lavender are making a come-back.

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