Lavender – A Scent of History

Ancient Romans recognized lavender for its healing and antiseptic qualities, and in deterring insects, and washing.

Like most things agricultural, Lavender has a rich and long history.

In ancient Egypt, Lavender was used for embalming and cosmetics.  Tutankhamen’s tomb revealed jars filled with soothing ointments resembling lavender. Ancient Romans recognized lavender for its healing and antiseptic qualities, and in deterring insects, and washing.

An early written record of lavender’s healing properties is from Nero’s military physician Dioscorides in 77 AD. He collected medicinal plants and described their medical uses in a five-volume work entitled De Materia Medica. Lavender, he noted, relieved indigestion, headaches and sore throats. Lavender too could be used to clean wounds and burns or treat skin ailments. Roman soldiers took lavender on campaigns with them to dress war wounds.

Seventeenth (17th) century lavender was found in most herbals as a cure all. The great English herbalists Gerard, Parkinson and Culpepper all wrote about lavender. During the Great Plague of 1665, lavender was thought to protect against this terrible disease.

Queen Victoria was a great enthusiast in the use of lavender. She appointed Miss Sarah Sprules as “Purvey of Lavender Essence to the Queen,” making lavender very fashionable with ladies in this era.

In fact, some women hoping to attract a suitor wore small sachets in their cleavage. How is that for an attention-getter? Other women put it to more practical uses to scent wardrobes, wash walls and furniture, and even stuff lavender bags between sheets while in linen presses. Lavender was also historically used to repel inspects; treat lice; as perfume and potpourri; in furniture polish and soap; and as a cure-all in household medicine cupboards.