Learning from Lavender

lav sun

If you listen closely, you can glean wisdom from the plants you cultivate.  Lavender taught me some valuable lessons, and has come in handy for a wide variety of issues in my household.  She is one of my favorite plants to grow, but it wasn’t always that way.  It took some trial and error before I came to discover her likes and dislikes.

Careful cultivation…and disappointment

A few years ago, I purchased lavender seeds (Lavendula angustifolia) and took it upon myself to gather all the necessary tools for lavender cultivation.  I carefully planted the seeds in my greenhouse and watched in excitement as they sprouted rather rapidly.  I researched how to grow lavender, and took care to water them regularly.  When they were sturdy enough, I transplanted them to my little raised bed where they promptly died.

The next year, I tried growing it again.  This time, I tilled up a field in full sun (because I read that lavender likes full sun) and simply sowed seeds in spring.  They began to sprout, but alas, they did not survive.  I live in zone 6a, according to the United Stated Department of Agriculture.  From my research, lavender will grow in USDA zones 5-9.  I was stumped.  I planted them in soil I thought they would like, I watered them (not too much and not too little) and I put them in an area with full sun.  I decided that the next attempt would be growing it in pots.

Finally success!

When the next spring arrived, I planted lavender (this time a variety of English lavender called hidcote lavender) and watched it sprout in the greenhouse. When it was sturdy enough, I put two decent-sized plants in an old water trough my grandpa had used for his cattle when he had this farm.  The water trough was full of dirt my husband dumped in with his tractor a few days earlier.  It was nothing special, no organic matter or fertilizer.  However, it turns out that lavender doesn’t need much fertilizer or organic matter in its soil to thrive.   In addition, alkaline or chalky soil is usually preferred by lavender and it actually enhances its fragrance.

The trough was in mostly full sun in my yard.  It didn’t take long before the plants were sprouting flowers. I was elated!  I didn’t water it near as much as I had watered the other lavender plants, and it thrived.  Lavender is native to the Mediterranean region, so it is very drought-resistant.  Today, my trough is full of lavender bushes.  It has come back every year for at least three years now.

How I use my lavender

The uplifting, herbaceous scent of lavender is an instant mood-booster.  It is lightly floral, but not too strong.  It has an after note that is almost medicinal.  Not only do the buds smell amazing, the whole plant smells amazing.  I have used lavender in several ways:

Tincture for stress and anxiety

Lavender can be infused in alcohol or vegetable glycerin to make a type of extract.  This is an excellent way to benefit from its stress-relieving properties.  Fill a jar with lavender (I use all aerial parts, but especially the buds), and cover the plant material with 80 proof alcohol or vegetable glycerin.  Let this sit and infuse in a cool, dark place for at least one month (shake daily if you can remember) and then strain everything out.  I take one to two droppers full under the tongue as needed for stress and anxiety relief.

Oil infusion

You may not grow enough lavender to make lavender essential oil, but you may still be able to create a lovely oil infusion with lavender.  This can be used in much the same way you would use lavender essential oil.  You can massage it into the pulse points to help promote rest and calmness. It has even been shown to help reduce blood pressure.  We also use a lavender oil infusion to treat rashes.  It is great for helping to calm the skin.  To create this, you must fill a jar with dried or wilted lavender.  Next, cover the plant material with a carrier oil.  Try to pick an oil that doesn’t have a strong scent.  A great oil to use for this is jojoba oil. I find that it does not have a strong fragrance.  It is also great for the skin.  Place a lid on your jar and store it out of direct sunlight for four to six weeks, making sure to shake it daily to further promote infusion.  Some people like to make sun infusions, and sometimes I do this by placing my jar in a brown paper bag and sitting it out in the sun daily to let it gently warm.  I personally don’t like exposing my infusion to direct sunlight, so the paper bag helps to lessen the damaging UV rays.

Essential oil and hydrosol

I love making lavender essential oil and hydrosol! I steam distill the aerial parts to create this potent aromatic treat.  The hydrosol is underrated, but so amazing!  It is gentle, yet effective.  It works wonderfully for treating minor cuts and scrapes, as well as for de-germing surfaces (because lavender is highly antimicrobial).  The essential oil is always a good choice for diffusing at bedtime when we want a restful night’s sleep.  It pairs wonderfully with cedarwood and chamomile.  Together, these oils help to calm, relax, and promote a more tranquil environment.  Another great thing about lavender is that it is often one of the safest choices for use with children.  It can be diluted in a carrier oil and applied to the skin to treat rashes, burns, and minor skin irritations.

lav neck

Above: I made a charm with the lavender growing in my re-purposed water trough.  It serves as a reminder to appreciate beauty and simplicity.  It also reminds me to have patience through trials.

Lesson learned

It took me a while to learn how to properly grow lavender.  This taught me patience.  However, once I was able to successfully cultivate it, I learned that it is truly a blessing to keep at something until you succeed.  The benefits my family and I obtain from this amazing plant are totally worth all the trial, error, and disappointment I experienced while trying to grow it.  Another valuable lesson I learned from lavender is that sometimes it doesn’t take a lot of expensive fertilizers and potting soils to grow something.  Simplicity is key with lavender.  In keeping things simple, I was able to discover the surprising truth about this plant that eluded me for so long. Stop over-complicating things.  Listen to what lavender is trying to teach you.  Her wisdom is calling.

For more recipes and remedies using lavender essential oil, purchase my book here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1646114027

To learn more about the plants you can use to heal mentally, emotionally, and physically, enroll in one of our four courses today! https://thebitterherb.com/




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