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Lavender, belonging to the Lamiaceae family, is an aromatic evergreen plant typical of the Mediterranean scrub, with linear, narrow and long leaves. Its name originates in ancient times, when its flowers were used to perfume the water of the bath and to wash the laundry. Its beauty of facts is not limited purely to the visual aspect, but it also intoxicates the sense of smell. From the lower woody stems branch silvery branches similar to spikes, which are colored with small perfumed violet flowers during the summer season.
The most widespread varieties in the Italian territory are officinal lavender and wild lavender, they grow from sea level up to an altitude of 1800 meters, even there where the soil is arid and rocky. It is widely used as an ornamental plant for the happy combination of beauty, resistance to hostile environmental conditions, it is also suitable for hot and very windy environments, and needs very little care. It is used in gardens for the construction of hedges or arranged in large bushy formations.
Like any plant with more varied properties and undisputed charm, it is traditionally associated with popular legends. A Provençal myth tells of the beautiful fairy Lavandula, with sky-colored eyes and golden hair, who flipping through a book of landscapes to choose where to live dwelt on the images of Provence and the dryness of those lands led her to such sadness that I begin to shed tears of sorrow; the tears smeared the page and the fairy to erase the stains arranged a blue sky on the image. From that day on, the purple-bluish lavender flowers fill the Provençal fields and in their appearance the girls remember the fairy Lavandula with blond hair and intense violet eyes. Even in our territory there are widespread legends related to lavender, in particular the ears are used to chase away the evil eye, keep witches away and promote prosperity and fertility.
Like most shrub plants, it does not like excessive humidity and, therefore, it is good to ensure good soil drainage and limit watering, ensuring intervals for drying the soil between one irrigation and another. Better to leave the plant dry for a few days than to drink it in excess. In fact, water stagnation in the soil could have devastating effects on the plant, causing the root system to rot. It prefers a slightly calcareous soil: if the cultivation soil is clayey it is, in fact, advisable to add peat and pebbles to limit the humidity rate. He loves very sunny and windy positions. Adequate sun exposure will allow a harmonious development of the plant, since it will not be forced to orientate towards the sun. It is perfect for adorning gardens with a rocky character, but it also finds space in earthy gardens, where it does not need particular fertilizing. A slight fertilization of the soil with compost in the spring period is more than sufficient to ensure good flowering in the following months. Generally lavender bushes do not exceed one meter in height, however, it is good to do a small pruning at the beginning of the autumn season, eliminating the inflorescences and a part of vegetation, without however affecting the lower structure.
The cultivation methods used include reproduction by sowing, for botanical varieties, or by cutting, for horticultural varieties and hybrids. The best time for the plant is the autumn, so that the natural humidity of the climate will allow the development of a strong root system, suitable for overcoming even the hottest heat with very little care. Plants after the autumn or winter period will require greater attention to the plant, which will require constant and regular watering in order to thrive.
The flowers are used in the production of cosmetic and herbal products, such as essential oils and essences with a characteristic aroma. Collected during the period of maximum flowering, they are dried in dark and ventilated places if destined for industrial use, or still used fresh to extract the essence by distillation.
Lavender is widely used in the field of herbal medicine, that is the therapeutic practice that exploits the beneficial properties of plants to treat and prevent particular disorders and promote the well-being of the organism. There are many properties of lavender. Particularly known for its mild sedative and antineuralgic effects, it acts effectively against anxiety and insomnia. It is able to soothe traumatic pains if placed on the affected area. It also has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and vasodilatory properties.
Widespread use in aromatherapy as a balancing agent; has shown antidepressant efficacy, decongestant in influenza states, promotes digestion, liver activity and improves gastrointestinal function in case of ongoing irritations.
It is also suitable for making compresses, effective against headaches and to soothe insect bites. With the dilution of essential oil in water, a natural detergent is also obtained which is excellent for fighting acne, for reducing skin irritation and for reducing excess sebum in the scalp.
The flowers of this plant have the extraordinary ability to keep their scent intact even when dried. By virtue of this exceptional property, they are used for making fabric-perfume fabric bags, which if placed in drawers or cabinets, besides giving the clothes a pleasant smell, will be effective in keeping moths and aphids away. The plant in its wild variety is a melliferous plant. The single-flower honey obtained from this plant has a very fine palate and a delicate aroma, it is useful in the treatment of sore throat. It is not easily found on the market and is prevalently common in Sardinia and on the island of Elba. Although it may surprise, lavender is also used in the kitchen, especially its flowers or in the form of essence. Intuitively it is associated with sweet dishes, but also with first courses and other savory dishes. Excellent for flavoring roasted meat or fish or to give flavor to sauces. Furthermore, a very versatile lavender syrup is made in the production of flavored creams.