Herb of the Month: Lavender Lavandula officinalis 

Lemon balm Melissa officinalis

In the garden

Aromatic lavender in all its varieties and cultivars is now in flower. This shrubby perennial prefers well drained, poor soil, preferably calcareous and in full sun. It’s a Mediterranean plant, after all. It propagates easily from stem cuttings, in late summer. Use non-flowering shoots, cut out a soft growing tip and pot in gritty compost and overwinter in a cold frame. Don’t water it over the winter. Or you can raise lavender by seed, sown in the spring, in warmth. After a year or so the bushes can become leggy and woody and need replacing. Lavender makes a wonderful path edging plant, easy to brush as you walk by, releasing its glorious perfume.

In the kitchen

Where I live near Stroud there is a café called the Lavender Bakehouse, and indeed they make cakes and biscuits containing lavender. There are plenty of recipes online. You can make lavender tea with a sprig of fresh flowers, or dry it for use in the winter months. 

In herbal medicine

Lavendula officinalis was almost certainly brought to Britain by the Romans, specifically the wonderful Roman army doctors, largely for its noted antiseptic qualities. It is named after lavare, Latin ‘to wash’, because of its use in their bath houses. It contains volatile oil, tannins, coumarins, flavonoids and triterpenoids. It is antibacterial: the oil will kill the bacilli of diphtheria and typhoid, which we luckily do not have, and also streptococcus and pneumococcus, which we do. It’s a sedative herb, good for calming anxiety and tension, and soothing spasms in the digestive system. Drink lavender tea to aid a tension headache, or use the essential oil as a gentle rub on the forehead. The essential oil is rare in that it can be applied neat to the skin, and will prevent blistering and scarring on minor burns, applied once the pain has been relieved by cold running water. Keep a bottle near the BBQ this summer.

For further information on the benefits of herbs or our herb of the month call 01453 884 092to speak to our medical herbalist 

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