When you hear the word ‘lavender’, probably the first thing that comes to your mind is a field full of this beautiful lilac plant. Similar to the image headlining this blog post. Lavender is an evergreen plant originally from Northern Africa and the Mediterranean. It is widely known for its plethora of cosmetic and medicinal benefits, and perhaps the most famous one is its calming and relaxing effect.
Although it can be an ornamental plant, lavender is vastly cultivated to produce essential oil. Lavender essential oil is used in countless beauty products, and along with its dried flowers, they are valuable ingredients in the fragrance industry. In this blog entry, we will explain the process of oil extraction, its properties and how it can benefit you.
The Lavender plant
Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia) is an aromatic shrub that can live up to 20 years under the right conditions. The height of the plant can reach an average of 60cm, and it produces a purple flower that blooms between late spring and summer. One may think France is the largest lavender producer in the world due to its tradition and know-how, but interestingly enough, it is Bulgaria. Appropriate climate conditions, cheap labour and (a not as famous as French) tradition make this possible.
Nowadays there are numerous lavender varieties and hybrids that can have slightly different characteristics and essential oil yields.
The oil extraction process (steam distillation)
There are several methods to extract essential oils from the plants, but here we will focus on the process of steam distillation. Steam distillation is the most used process of extraction of essential oils for commercial purposes, including oils used in natural products. It is believed the essential oils extracted with this method retain most of the properties as compared to other methods.
The image above shows how the distillation method works. The main parts involved in the process are: a retort or distilling chamber, the condenser and a separator. Along with these instruments, raw materials are of upmost importance. Carefully grown and harvested plant material is indispensable to achieve a high-quality essential oil. Harvesting usually happens in mid-spring when the flowers are purple-blue about to turn greyish. In large scale fields, a mechanical harvester is used to gently pull the stems of the plant and collect them on a tray as it goes.
Once the plant material (lavender buds, flowers and stems) is harvested, it is placed in the retort, where it is compacted in order to prevent air pockets. This maximises the use of the space and increases oil yield. Once the retort reaches its full capacity, it is closed and steam is injected into the bottom of the distillation chamber at a low pressure. The low pressure is important to prevent any damage to the plant material. As steam rises through the plant material, it breaks the glands containing the essential oils, releasing and evaporating them in the steam.
Then, the steam containing vaporised oils rises to the top of the retort and travel to the condenser. The condenser contains a pipe where cold water is pumped in. When the steam hits this cooled pipe, it cools down, condenses and turns back into liquid form, now a mixture of water and oil.
Finally, the mixture flows into a collecting vessel, sometimes called separator, where essential oils and water can be separated. Due to the difference of density, essential oil stays on top of the water and can be easily collected. In addition, the process produces a by-product in the form of floral water, the water separated from the oil.
Properties & Benefits
Lavender is one of the most popular scents in aromatherapy. As other essential oils, you can use it in different ways. Firstly, you can mix it with a carrier oil (olive, coconut and jojoba oils are great options) and apply it on your skin. In addition, you can use it with a diffuser and enjoy its distinctive fragrance. The fabulous lavender scent has relaxing and stress relieving properties that will bring peace and calm to your home. Finally, you can also take advantage of the benefits of lavender by using products that contain lavender essential oil. These products usually contain other essential oils along with lavender, adding more benefits and making them ideal to enjoy all the advantages of the purple plant.
Lavender oil can benefit you in several ways that we summarise next. You can also find products of our range to enjoy those benefits.
Calming and anti-depressant
As aforementioned, lavender is famous for its relaxing properties. Research has found that inhaling lavender scent can reduce anxiety levels. This calming effect can help you deal with stress during tough times. To enjoy this particular benefit, we recommend the following:
- Fizzy Bath Bomb - Lavender
- Luxury Bath Tea - Gardener's
- Luxury Bath Tea - Lavender
- Natural Bath Salts - Lavender
- Natural Room Fragrance - Hush Little Baby
- Vegan Candle Trio Gift Set - Floral
- Votive Candle & Guest Soap Gift Set
Promotes good sleep
Along with its relaxing properties, lavender can also help you get a deep sleep. It can be a great ally to fight insomnia, and having a better sleep will make you feel more energetic during the day. Undoubtedly, a good night’s sleep is essential for our health as it boosts the immune system, improves our mood and it increases focus and concentration. We recommend:
- Natural Bath Salts - Blissful Sleep
- Natural Room Fragrance - No Place Like Home
- Sweet Dreams Lavender Gift Set
Anti-bacterial, great for acne
Lavender has significant antiseptic properties that can help prevent acne. Several components of lavender oil, namely linalool and linalyl acetate, affect the ultrastructure of the cell walls of the bacteria. This inhibits the growth of bacteria, including those that can potentially cause acne in the skin. Additionally, it prevents the growth of odour causing bacteria so it is great as deodorant as well. We can recommend the following:
- Argan Beauty Face Balm
- Balancing Salt Scrub - Lavender & Rosemary
- Eye & Face Cream - Organic Lavender
- Face Mask - Green Clay
- Face Mask - Kaolin + Flowers
- Facial Oil - Organic Lavender
- Micellar Water - Aloe & Lavender
- Natural Deodorant - Lavender & Bergamot
- Natural Deodorant - Lavender & Geranium
Anti-fungal, good for eczema
Lavender has been used in traditional medicine for years and lavender essential oil can help effectively treat several fungal infections. Research has demonstrated that the previously mentioned components also kill or inhibit the growth of fungi, reduce its diffusion rate in the skin tissue and lowers the fungal cell count. This makes lavender ideal to treat a range of skin diseases, such as eczema or psoriasis, as well as, reduce symptoms like itching or skin scaling.
- Foot Cream - Organic Lavender & Tea Tree
- Heavenly Organics Baby Butter - Organic Lavender
- Heavenly Organics Body Butter - Organic Lavender
- Herbal Balm - Lavender & Rosemary
Wound healing & anti-inflammatory
Some studies have found that lavender oil could have a therapeutic effect in the healing of minor wounds. Although these studies have been carried out with animals and not humans, they show the potential of lavender oil to promote wound healing accelerating collagen synthesis. Other research has demonstrated how lavender oil inhibits the synthesis of pro-inflammatory cytokines, making it an effective anti-inflammatory treatment. To take advantage of these properties we suggest:
- Bath & Body Oil
- Bio Scents Body Oil - Organic Lavender
- Handmade Natural Soap - Lavender
- Handmade Natural Soap - Lavender & Geranium
- Handmade Natural Soap - Lavender & Lemongrass
- Natural Luxury Soap - Lavender
- Pure Body Soap - Lavender
Promotes hair growth
Lavender may help promote hair growth to fight hair loss and thinning. Studies have shown some compounds of lavender oil stimulate hair growth and soothe the scalp. On top of that, its anti-bacterial properties can improve your scalp health to reduce dandruff and prevent itchy scalp. It is also great for dogs, as lavender can kill fleas and ticks. To enjoy lavender benefits on your hair we recommend:
- Beard + Hair Oil
- Dog Shampoo Bar
- Natural Hair Conditioner - Lavender & Rose Geranium
- Plastic Free Natural Shampoo - Rosemary & Lavender
Lavender essential oil is a powerful insect repellent. This is due to its high content in linalool, which produces a scent that overloads insects’ olfactory organs, and thus, insects stay away from it. Moreover, the fragrance produced from crushed lavender flowers repels insects and bugs, and it is frequently used in wardrobe moth repellents. For this purpose we recommend: