Aromatherapy is an old practice that has come back in favor in recent years. Scent seems to stimulate or calm areas of the brain. Oils from herbs are one of the keys to aromatherapy, as are those derived from flowers. For me, lavender is one of my favorite scents and I haven’t been without lavender plants for decades. I use their sweet fragrance and dried flowers in many ways, all of which I find beneficial.
I really love the scent of Freesia, but products that claim to boast that aroma fail to compare. I used to grow Freesia when I was in a milder climate, just to have the fragrance near, but have had to give it up in this extreme zone. One thing I haven’t had to give up is my lavender. I have several varieties of lavender and late summer finds me harvesting the flowers of lavender. I dry these and bag them up to freeze. That way, when I need an aromatherapy boost, I can get a fresh batch to calm my head.
Lavender contains compounds that reduce inflammation and calm the nervous system. It is also a powerful scent that triggers a calm feeling in the brain. There are many uses for lavender from health, to cooking, and prominently in aromatherapy. I’m a firm believer in the power of scent and the practice is centuries old. The smells in my home have huge influence on my moods. The soothing perfume of lavender wards off cooking smells, scents my bath water, and puts me to sleep.
The varieties of lavender I grow are English, French, and Spanish. I love the chubbier flowers of the Spanish and the dense, compact little bush. I grow the French variety for its larger bushes and long flower spikes, but it’s the English plants that have the most perfume. Each one has the characteristic scent, but in varying degrees.
How to Harvest Lavender
When the flowers are at their peak, I cut the stems and arrange little posies in a Mason jar. The effect is charming and the scent leeches out as the flowers dry. I have even made a lavender wreath by tying bunches of the stems onto a wire frame. The scent will fade over time, but the dried flowers remain pretty for months. Dried flowers mixed with baking soda and sprinkled over the carpet fresh for days. I just let them sit there for a few hours and then vacuum them up. In the kitchen I use them in muffins or add the dried buds to my tea ball.
The biggest way I harness the lovely odor of this plant is in combating my insomnia. This is something that has plagued my older years. I used to sleep like a baby until I hit the half century mark. All that peaceful, dreamy rest is now a thing of the past. I lay and stare at the dark ceiling for hours, praying for sleep. Dried lavender blooms fill a little fabric sachet I made. I tuck this under my pillow and if I wake in the night and can’t get back to sleep, I pull out the bag and sniff deeply. The scent relaxes me and I can usually drift right off.
Lavender is easy to grow and trouble free in my garden. It is hardy and stoic, handling long periods of freezing if mulched well. So far, it reliably comes back every spring, with the first signs of those softly purple flowers arriving by early summer. The flowers last a long time, so I can enjoy them in the garden, but harvest them before they are too old to offer me relief. I will always grow lavender for its beauty and delicious smell.