Old Fashioned Medicinal Lavender

His Aunt Jobiska made him drink
Lavender water tinged with pink
For she said, ‘The world in general knows
There’s nothing so good for Pobble’s toes!’
 
Edward Lear, ‘The Pobble Who Has No Toes’
 
The old herbals constantly sang the praises of lavender for medicinal purposes. John Gerard wrote in his Herball {1597}:
The distilled water of Lavender smelt unto, or the temples and and forehead bathed therewith, is refreshing to them that have the Catalepsie, a light migram, and to them that have the falling sickness and that use to swoune much.
The floures of Lavender picked from the knaps, I means the blew part and not the husk, mixed with Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Cloves, made into powder, and given to drinke in the distilled water thereof, doth helpe the panting and passion of the heart, prevaileth against giddinesse, turning, or swimming of the braine, and members subject to the palsie.
French Lavender hath a body like Lavender, short, and of woodie substance, but slenderer, beset with long narrow leaves, of a whitish colour, lesser than those of Lavender, it hath in the top bushie or spikie heads, well compact or thrust together; out of the which grow fourth small purple flowers, or a pleasant smell. The seede is small and blackish: the roote is harde and woodie.
But long before physicians like Gerard wrote of the virtues of Lavender it had been highly regarded for its medicinal uses. Dioscorides wrote in 60AD:
Stoechas grows in the islands of Galatia over against Messalia, called ye Stoechades, from whence also it had its name, is an herb with slender twiggs, having ye haire like Tyme, but yet longer leaved, & sharp in ye taste, & somewhat bitterish, but ye decoction of it as the Hyssop is good for ye griefs in ye thorax. It is mingled also profitably with Antidots.
lavender and hyssop seem to have been used in similar ways. The Angus Castus of the 14th century made the same comments as those of Dioscorides some 1300 years later:
Lavandula is an herbe men clepe lavandre. This herbe is moche lyk to ysope but it is mo lengger lewys thenne ysope and it hast a flour sumdel blew and also the stalke growith other-wyse. The vertu of this herbe is ef it be sothyn in water and dronke that water it wele hele the palsye and many other ewyls.

LAVENDER, COMMON OR ENGLISH

Ruling Planet: Mercury
 
Lavandula augustifolia or
Lavandula officinalis
 {Culpeper: Lavandula spica}
 

USES

 

Medicinal:

A strong antiseptic with antibacterial properties, lavender oil was used to treat cuts, bites, stings, burns, coughs, and colds, chest infections, rheumatic aches, giddiness, and flatulence. As a soothing tonic for nervous and digestive disorders, the herb was prescribed to relieve tension, insomnia, and depression.
William Turner, the ‘father of English botany’, said that ‘the flowers of lavender, quilted in a cap, comfort the brain very well.’ A sprig of lavender placed behind the ear was reputed to cure headaches. Culpeper warned that the oil ‘is of a fierce and piercing quality, and ought to be carefully used, a very few drops being sufficient for inward or outward maladies.’ The herb was also used in the form of lavender water, and tea.

CULINARY:

Lavender leaves were added to salads and used to flavor jellies, jams, pottages, and stews. The flowers were also crystallized.

MISCELLANEOUS:

A native of the Mediterranean region, lavender was introduced into England by the Romans. Its botanical name Lavandula derives from the Latin for to wash, a reference to its use by the Romans as a scented additive to their bathwater. Grown in medieval monastic gardens, it was not only valued for its medicinal properties, but for its beauty and fragrance, and as a strewing herb, insect repellant, and a mask for unpleasant smells.
The dried flowers were added to potpourri’s, herb cushions and sachets for freshening and keeping moths away from linen. The oil was used in varnishes, perfumes, soaps and cosmetics.