Honestly, lavender has got to be one of those notes that when inhaled just makes me smile from ear to ear. It cools me down, calms my jagged nerves and tells me that everything is in its rightful place. Honestly, I think lavender is one of the most honest notes that I have in my perfumer’s palette. So I wanted to dig deeper to find out just where this “honesty”, my interpretation of it, comes from.
According to Wikipedia, Lavandula augustifolia, a.k.a. lavender, is a genus of 39 different species of the Lamiaceae family — flowering plants of the mint family (mint, hint, hint) and is the most widely cultivated species of which the buds and leaves contain the highest percentage of essential oil.
Recently, three subgenera have been acknowledged within Lavendula:
- subgenus Lavandula – a woody shrub found across the mediterranean to north eastern Africa and western Arabia.
- subgenus Fabricia consists of shrubs and herbs wide spread from the Atlantic to India
- subgenus Sabaudia which have two species spreading from the Southwest Arabian peninsula and Eritrea and are quite distinct from the other species.
Lavender flourishes best in dry, well-drained, sandy or gravelly soils in full sun. All types need little or no fertilisation and good circulation. This wonderful plant has anti-septic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Lavandin is a hybrid of L. augustifolia and L. latifolia and contains a higher level of Terpenes making it sharper and less sweet smelling.
The ancient Greeks called the lavender herb Nardus after the Syrian city of Naarda, commonly called NARD and the species originally grown was L. stoechas.
Drawing from the website NCHerb.org by Dr. Jeanine Davis, I discover that lavender oil contains up to 40% linalyl acetate and 30% linalol. Linalol is a terpene alcohol that is non-toxic to humans yet naturally anti-microbial. Linalyl acetate is an acetic ester (acetic: of or like vinegar or acetic acid) and has a pleasant, sweet, fruity aroma which along with its antimicrobial properties makes lavender unique. Other constituents of the oil are cineol, pinene, limonene, generaniol, borneol, and some tannin. The two esters responsible for the odour of lavender are lineally acetate and lineally butyrate.
Here are some chemical differences between four of the most common genus species:
L. angustifolia oil contains lineally acetate (up to 40%!), linalool, (about 25%), geraniol and its esters.
L. latifolia oil has more alpha-pinene, camphene, beta-pinene, sabinene, beta-myrcene, 1,8-cineole (up to 33%!), beta cymene, linaloyl oxide, camphor (about 5%), and linalool (up to 25%) among others.
L. stoechas oil is high in camphor (24%-72%!), borneol, cineol, tench one (up to 34%), linalool acetate and others.
*** L. angustifolia, L. x intermedia (a.k.a. French Lavender), L. latifolia and L. stoechas all contain the anti-oxidant rosmarinic acid.
Now what do I extract from all this? First that Rosemary EO could go hand in hand with Lavender EO. The dry terrain in which it grows, the fact it needs lots of sun and has anti-inflammatory properties, inspires me to want to create a cologne to cool down for the summer or to give a sense of freshness and crispness to a formulation; add to that that it is part of the mint family and coolness is its middle name.
What’s not to love about lavender?!