Where in the world can you find one of nature’s most vividly colorful plants, and how can you use it to do the most good once you’ve found it?
Lavender, the distinct purple flowering plant which manifests itself in roughly 47 different species is actually part of the mint family. The classic (and more common) variety is Lavandula angustifolia, most often recognized because of its distinct Crayola crayon hue, but the history of lavender goes back over 2,500 years. Indigenous to India, the Mediterranean, and Middle East, the plant was used by the Romans — both for medicine and to spruce up baths and make their clothes smell nice.
Some people might think using lavender as a sleep aid might just be an old wives tale, but research — including studies at the University of Maryland, Southampton University, and recently by P.H. Koulivand and M.K Ghadiri with support of the University of Muenster — supports the medicinal benefits of lavender for a variety of conditions, including insomnia, alopecia, anxiety and stress. Those looking to use lavender medicinally may brew it as a tea, create aromatic lotions infused with the plant, or administer it combined with epsom salts or oils, or even have it crushed and rubbed directly onto a variety of pressure points.
Lavender oil is a strong anti-inflammatory and natural antihistamine, which comes in handy during allergy season for a number of reasons. People suffering from allergies can use lavender to strengthen the body against dust mites and other air-borne allergens by placing a few drops at the temples and around the nostrils, or simply breathing it in through a diffuser. Lavender oil can also aid in soothing rashes and hives. Try rubbing lavender oil with a little coconut and/or jojoba oil and apply directly to the affected area for an almost immediate soothing effect.
Provence, nestled in the Southeastern corner of France (from the lower Rhone River to the Western Italian border), is known by many as “Lavender Country.” Fields bloom purple from mid- to late-June until the middle of August. Provence tourism has created a handy map with a lavender route (which you can explore at provenceguide.com) that begins at La Ferme aux Lavendes and includes such landmarks as the Distillerie Les Agnels (lesagnels.com); the Lavender Museum (thelavendermuseum.com) where you can get up-close-and-personal with its massive assortment of 16th Century copper stills (used to extract lavender’s precious essence), ornate perfume bottles and enough knowledge to become an expert in all things lavender. Les Lavandes Champelle (gaec-champelle.fr) is a popular farm that makes its way into into the foothills of Mount Ventoux and over Sault and Aurel. In addition to colorful fields of blooming lavender, the farm offers a picnic area and shop with flowers, bouquets, essential oils and more.
Here in the states, Lavender By the Bay, located in East Marion New York, extends over 17 acres of farmland on North Fork, Long Island. The most popular time to visit the farm — which has been family-owned since 2002 — is early July when the main French Bloom hits the farm. Lavender By the Bay sells lavender oil, dried French or English lavender bunches, soaps, lotions, shea butter cream, candles, bath and culinary soaps and more. Their popular, all-natural pillow mist is the perfect way to transport their fields of lavender home to lull you to sleep. Seasonal offerings also include honey from the farm’s beehives. Many of these products are available at Greenmarket Farmers Market locations around New York City (grownyc.org/greenmarket).
Last modified: July 10, 2018