An evergreen sub-shrub with a much-branched woody stem, the square green shoots thickly covered with entire, linear leaves, which at first are white-felted, later green. The small, bluish, two-lipped flowers are arranged in spike-like terminal panicles often interrupted below. The fruit consists of four nutlets. All parts of the plant are aromatic.
The flowering stems or the flowers alone are used medicinally. Among the constituents are an essential oil (up to 3 per cent) with linalyl acetate, linalool, camphor and borneol as the main components, also tannins (12 per cent). These give Garden Lavender mild sedative, carminative, antispasmodic, rubefacient and tonic properties. In herbalism it is still used internally for headache, nervous disorders and insomnia, as a cough suppressant and for flatulence, but mostly it is used externally as a skin freshener. The essential oil, which is obtained from the fresh plants by steam distillation, is a component of various proprietary preparations.
The oil's chief use, however, is in perfumes, colognes and toilet articles. It is also used to mask unpleasant odours in medicines.
Garden Lavender is a native of the west Mediterranean region but it is widely grown in country gardens and it has become naturalised in some warm parts of Europe, but not in the British Isles. Lavender is also cultivated on a large scale for its oil, most, of which are contained in special glands on the calyx. Lavender oil is mainly produced in the south of France, but also in minor quantities elsewhere. In Britain it is produced not from L. angustifolia, but from a related species, L. intermedia, which is a hybrid of L. angustifolia and Spike Lavender (L. latifolia or L. spica). The generic name, Lavandula, is thought to derive from the Latin word lavare (= to wash), a reference to the Romans' habit of using Lavender to perfume their washing water. The plant remains one of the most popular and well known of the traditional herbs.
Flowering time: July to August