Lavender is the most known and the most used of all the Essential Oils. Few people, however, know the different ones. We are therefore no longer talking about one variety but about SEVERAL varieties of lavender. In this article, I am comparing these EO because they do not have the same benefits (although they are closely related), nor the same warnings and they are not used in the same fashion.
The different varieties of lavender EO
Although there are numerous varieties, 4 of them are the most important:
True Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia or Lavandula vera, Lavandula officinalis) known also as fine lavender or lavender officinal
Spike Lavender (Lavandula latifolia or Lavandula spica) or wild lavender
Hybrid Lavender (Lavandula hybrida or Lavandula x burnatii clone super) natural hybrid between Lavandula augustifolia and Lavandula latifolia
Sea Lavender (Lavadula stoechade) also known as butterfly lavender
A little bit of botany
True lavender – Lavandula vera – brings together in fact several lavenders. What makes them different is the altitude at which they grow because it will have an effect on their biochemistry and the active components of the EO extract (notably the quantity of camphor).
From the highest to the lowest we have, therefore:
Fine wild lavender – Lavandula Angustifolia – its authentic form.
This plant of 50 to 70 cm has only one flower on each stem and blooms at about 2000 m altitude in the Alps of Haute-Provence. It is the highest quality lavender (by its smell and composition) but its harvest is limited.
Cultivated fine lavender grows in the dry mountains of Provence on chalky terrain at about 800 to 1000 m altitude. This fine lavender is rather fragile and its availability uneven from one year to the next. It blooms from end of June onwards.
Fresh, floral smell, makes it particularly interesting in perfumery
Yield: 130 kg of flowers needed for 1 litre of EO by distillation.
Officinal lavender – Lavandula officinalis – cultivated on a larger scale and at a lower altitude is much more resistant.
Aroma: greener and more intense
Sensitive to cold weather, Spike lavender is a small bush of a height of 30 to 60 cm, growing at an altitude of 200 to 800 m in the sunny Provence ‘garrigue’ (or scrubland) around the Mediterranean. It can be recognised by its larger, hairy leaves with several ramifications, each stem carries several flowers of a small size. It blooms later and takes place during August.
Perfume: less pleasant and more camphor
Yield: 100 kg of flowers needed for 500 to 800 g of EO!
Hybrid lavender grows between 0 and 800 m altitude all over the world. It is large and has two ramifications, forming a very dense ball-like tuft. It is a natural hybrid born from the cross- pollination of true lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and spike lavender (Lavendula latifolia). Hybrid lavender (Lavandula x hybrida) is therefore sterile and is propagated by man through cuttings.
Perfume: stronger and less subtle than fine lavender
Yield: 40 kg of flower needed for 1 l hybrid lavender EO
What they have in common
Perennial shrub or bush with purple flower spikes, more or less perfumed depending on the variety, lavenders belong to the botanical family of Lamiaceae.
Originating in the Mediterranean region they prefer dry soils and sunshine.
All lavenders have some common properties: all have healing properties and are more or less anti-infectious.
True Lavender or Officinal Lavender EO
Lavandula angustifolia – Lavandula officinalis
This EO in known as “The Queen of essential oils” for skin problems. Mothers know it for having used it as a gentle way of helping their children go to sleep or to treat lice, but also to help healing or as perfume for the linen cupboard.
Main components: Linalol, Linalyle acetate
Strong antispasmodic Healing
Calming, sedative Skin regenerating
General antiseptic Purifying
Counter-indications: none known to physiological doses
- Sleep problems, stress, depression, anxiety, distress
- Burns. Analgesic, healing and really soothes the burning sensation
- Skin problems: acne, nail infections,
- Wounds, ulcers, anal cracks
- ENT infections, asthmatic bronchitis
- Cramps, muscular soreness
- Digestion: calms intestinal spasms, flatulence
- Insect bites, scabies, lice
Its distinctiveness: its polyvalence
Note: beware of counterfeits of this EO.
Spike Lavender or Wild Lavender EO
Not much used in perfumery, it is the most interesting on the health front. Its spectrum of activity is stronger than true lavender in the area of ENT, notably in its efficiency at dissolving mucus and its anti-inflammatory and anti-infectious action when confronted with rhino-pharyngites in children.
Main components: Linalol, 1,8 cineole, camphor
Expectorant, strong anti-catarrh Soothing
Anti-fungal Skin regenerating
Average anti-bacterial Astringent
Analgesic Skin soothing (pimples, insect bites, jellyfish…)
Beware Lavandula latifolia is rich in ketone. The usage of its EO can only be by external use.
Its high content of camphor is not recommended for:
Children under the age of 8
Pregnant or breastfeeding mothers
People suffering from convulsions
- Headaches, migraines
- Severe burns
- ENT complaints, bronchitis, laryngitis, ear infection, thick nasal discharge, rhinitis…
- Stings and bites of wasps, jellyfish, scorpion… 2 drops every 5 minutes for ½ hour
- Skin mycosis (athlete’s foot) and gynaecological mycosis (candida albicans)
- Skin infections, acne, over-infected pimples, psoriasis
- Joint rheumatism
Its distinctiveness: its quick action in an emergency (insect bites, severe burns)
Note: beware, this EO can cause allergy over the long term.
Hybrid Lavender EO
Lavandula x burnatii clone super
Main components: Linalol, linalyl acetate, camphor
Strong anti-spasmodic Soothing, sedative
Muscle relaxing Anti-inflammatory
Analgesic Light anticoagulant
Powerful hypotensive Thinner
Do not use during pregnancy and breastfeeding or with children under the age of 3.
- Industrial use for perfumery of cleaning products, detergents. The flower is used for the confection of ‘little lavender bags’.
- Problem and sensitive skins: acne, pressure sores, stretch marks, rosacea
- Anxiety, stress, depressive condition
- Pain: cramps and muscular contractions
Sea Lavender EO
Sea lavender is a little different for the other varieties of lavender. It has large mauve floral spikes at the tips of the branches and is the most widespread variety in the Mediterranean basin. It grows mostly on non-chalky soils and blooms from May to July.
Main components: Fenchone, camphor,1,8 cineole, linalol, D-limonene
- Powerful anti-catarrh, mucolytic
- Specific anti-infectious
- Tonic (in weak doses)
Beware, this variety of lavender is known to be abortive and neuro-toxic. It is not advised for babies, children or pregnant women.
Overall, this is what should be remembered regarding lavender varieties:
True lavender (lavandula angustifolia): excellent soothing and sedative. Totally harmless, it is very well tolerated and very effective. To remember without hesitation for most applications regarding the nervous system and the psycho-emotional field.
Spike lavender (lavandula latifolia): soothes wounds, burns and other insect bites. It is also very effective for acne treatment.
Hybrid lavender (lavandula x burnatii clone super): natural hybrid of two lavender varieties, it gives the best of itself to soothe cramps and muscular contractions.
Sea lavender (lavandula stoechade): helps with bronchial obstructions but should be used with great care.
L’aromathérapie J. Valnet
Les Huiles Essentielles pour votre santé, G. Roulier