Lavender: Then and Now with Lynna Banning

Have you ever traveled in Provence?  If so, you may have admired the purple haze of lavender fields.  Lavender (lavendula angustifolia), known as herb de Provence, is a small aromatic perennial shrub grown for use in sachets and soap and for lavender oil which is used both as a medicinal and as a perfume.  Fresh, crushed, or dried the herb is used as a tea and as a stimulant, sedative, antiseptic, linen-closet freshener and moth repellant; it’s also sprinkled  in bath water and used to treat burns and bites.  Wands of stems can be tied in bunches and burned as incense sticks.  There is even lavender-flavored lemonade.

Historically, lavender (from the Latin verb lavare, to wash) dates from ancient times.  Ancient Egyptians used it for cosmetics and for embalming; Tutankhamen’s tomb contained jars of lavender-scented unguents.  Greek philosopher Diogenes anointed his feet with lavender oil so that it “envelopes my whole body and gratefully ascends to my nose”.Lavender is thought to have been first domesticated in Arabia and, with the 7th century Arab conquest of the Middle East and Spain, the use of lavender spread throughout Europe.  Arab physicians and researchers such as Avicenna (980 A.D.) studied medicinal uses of the herb.

The plant can be propagated from cuttings or from seed, requires good drainage, likes chalky soil and lots of sunshine and needs no fertilizer.  Extracting the essential oil is by steam distillation, just like brewing whiskey in a still.  One acre of lavender yields 300 to 1800 pounds of dried flowers or 2 gallons of essential oil.

Provence is now the world’s primary lavender producer; prior to World War I, the French government (and perfume-makers) saw lavender production as a means of keeping people from leaving the area of southern France, so the almond orchards were cleared to plant lavender. 

In America, Shakers were the first to grow lavender commercially.  Later, when the founder of modern-day aromatherapy, Rene Gattefosse, burned his hand while working in his laboratory, he used lavender oil,  which stopped the pain and healed the burn with no infection or scarring.  Today, lavender farms thrive in California, Texas, Washington, Oregon, and even upstate New York.

Interesting historical uses of lavender include the following:
When Henry VIII dissolved the English monasteries, lavender culture moved to domestic gardens.  Traditionally, it was planted near the laundry, and washed clothing was laid over the plants to dry with an enticing fragrance.  Mixed with beeswax, lavender made furniture polish.

Queen Elizabeth I drank a lavender tea to treat her headaches and was so enthusiastic about the plant she encouraged the development of lavender farms.  Charles VI of France stuffed his cushions with lavender.  Glovemakers in France were licensed to perfume their gloves with lavender because it was believed to prevent cholera. 

Queen Victoria loved lavender!  She appointed a special Purveyor of Lavender Essence to the Queen, and lavender came to be fashionable among her ladies.  Street sellers in London sold dried lavender; it was then put into muslin sachet bags for use in wardrobes and between bedsheets.  Young women wore small sachets in their cleavage to attract suitors.

And in the Old West, young and old women did exactly the same.

Can’t you just smell the lavender? In honor of her new release, Lynna is offering TWO of her backlist westerns to TWO lucky winners! Just leave a comment for your chance to win.

Visit me at www.lynnabanning.com

Guest Blogger

29 Comments

  1. I’ve never seen a field of lavender. It’s beautiful. I can’t imagine how nice it must smell.

  2. Hi Lynna welcome to Wildflower Junction. I live close to several lavender farms and I love them. I have a lavender plant in my backyard but it’s not doing too well. I must not be giving it the right amount of neglect or something. Thanks for starting my day with such a heavenly fragrance.

  3. A field of lavender,what a beautiful sight and smells really awesome too.I just purchased your book “Lady Lavender”from Harlequin,has not arrived yet.Thank you for the great post.

  4. Hi Lynna,
    I do like the smell of lavender and have some in a pouch in a drawer. I didn’t know about drinking it in a tea though.

  5. I have never seen a field of lavender, but I bet it is just breathtaking. Thanks for the interesting post.

  6. Lynna, I am enchanted by “Lady Lavender”. Lavender is one of my all-time favorite scents, either alone or in a blend. It’s my favorite color, especially the lavender hues in a desert sunset! Thank you for a wonderful post : ) Lavender is used in so many different ways–I even recently tasted artisan chocolate made with lavender–YUMMY! Best wishes for lots of lavender and a Happy Valentine’s Day!

  7. I have read your book Lady Lavender and loved it. I am now looking forward to your next book Happily Ever After in the West with Debra Cowan and Judith Stacy.

  8. Thank you for the giveaway!

  9. I have never seen a field of lavender sounds beautiful. Also I have never read your books before but have been checking them out on Amazon. They sound really good. You would be a new author to me and I can’t wait to get your books.

  10. Hi Lynna, welcome to P&P. We’re so thrilled to have you here at the Junction. Lavender is one of very favorite scents. I love the fragrance of the flowers. And it’s so easy to grow. I’m sure seeing an entire field of it is just breathtaking.

    Looking forward to reading Lady Lavender. What a gorgeous cover with the field of lavender sharing space with the cover models. I wish you lots of success.

  11. Hi Lynna,

    I love the title of your book. I love the Lavender Flower

    The cover is just beauttiful

    Walk in hamrony,
    Melinda

  12. Hi Lynna, It’s great to have you at Petticoats & Pistols. I recently read an article about a woman with fibromyalgia who bought a lavender farm. As she worked with the plants, her symptoms improved tremendously.

    Your cover is lovely!

  13. Dear Lavender Fans,
    I love the story about the woman with fibromyalgia and working in her lavender farm. Great plot idea–why didn’t I think of that?

    Thanks for having me as a P&P guest! I hope all of you readers will like this book. And want another…
    Lynna

  14. Hi Lynna,
    I’ve never seen a lavender field but I love the smell of it!
    Good luck with your new book!

  15. Lavender love the smell of it… but that is one scent my sister can not stand. Thank you for sharing your post with us today!

  16. The women in our family love lavender. My second daughter has had lavender oil on hand for years. When the children left for summer camp, especially the first time, she sent a small pillow scented with lavender with them. A good reminder of home and it has a calming effect.
    We have a lavender farm in our county here in NE TN. They sell soaps, sachets, chocolates, and a lavender wine that is quite good. I have had a bush or two here since we bought our victorian farm house. Nice to be able to go out and pick it fresh.
    Enjoyed your post. Good luck with the release of LADY LAVENDER.

  17. I didn’t realize it has such a history. I happen to be allergic to many smells but luckily lavender is one I can enjoy. You’re a new author for me but your book sounds as lovely as the lavender 🙂

  18. I have never seen a field of Lavender however, I’d love to win your book thanks

  19. I have never seen a field of lavender but am growing a plant in my yard, right beside my walk.
    On a warm day, the smell is awesome.

  20. Welcome Lynna, I too have never seen a field of Lavender,but those photos almost made me smell them,I love the smell of Lavender its just so relaxing,very interesting post thanks for sharing

    Vickie

  21. “Yardley” lavender soap was one of my mom’s favorites. Sometimes she even let us girls use it in our bath—what a treat. I still love the fragrance of lavender but having tried a couple of recipes with lavender, I’m not ready to include it in my spice and herb cabinet.

  22. Your book sounds really good and I have added it to my TBR list.
    Very interesting facts about the uses of lavendar. I understand it helps one sleep if smelled before going to bed. Me, I just need to get a good book and try to finish reading a few pages. Better than a sleeping pill!

  23. Lavender was popular in households when I was
    young (1940s) yet I never could get too close
    to it. About 5 years ago, I won an author prize
    that included a packet of lavender products. I
    started sneezing almost immediately, turns out
    I’m allergic to lavender! It took months for the
    autographed book prize to lose the scent so I
    could read the book!

    Pat Cochran

  24. My mother loves lavender. She is going to be 91 next month and I think it is time to send her another lavender plant. Thank you for the reminder. Can’t wait to read your book.

  25. Hi Lynna! I remember meeting you at the Historical Novelists Conference in Albany. Thanks for all the info on lavender!

  26. When my sister has surgery on her knee, the nurse pinned lavender to her gown to ease the pain. It worked!

  27. I’ve always liked the scent of lavender. I enjoyed learning more about the plant and its history.

  28. Fascinating post Lynna! Lady Lavender is on my Kindle & I can’t wait to read it.

    Lavender is my favorite scent (and color!) and a field of lavender must be stunningly beautiful!!!

  29. Lynna, lavendar is my mother’s favorite scent. And I love the color of a field in bloom. Glad you joined us!

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