Summer has arrived in Cyprus and for us herb folk this means we’re busy as bees! All Mediterranean herbs are at their peak now, ready for harvest. Oregano, thyme, marjoram and hyssop are all vying for our attention and the herb garden is awash with colour and fragrance.
But nothing beats the intoxicating aroma and the lilac, blue and purple hues of lavender, which has just started to bloom now. Taking a stroll in the lavender lined gardens, brushing against the plants and releasing its aroma lifts the spirits and dispels all thoughts and worries of the day. Here you can just be, and enjoy the moment.
The climate in Cyprus is very suitable for growing the most fragrant of all 450 varieties of lavender, Lavandula Angustifolia. This variety has the most distinctive floral note and is considered the most valuable for use in perfumery, as well as the most therapeutic.
Lavender is one of the most versatile herbs, with a long list of health benefits. It is best known as a relaxant for the nervous system, effective in stress-relief, anxiety, tension and headaches. It is also a powerful antiseptic, antibacterial, analgesic and expectorant, relieving coughs, colds and fever.
We can make a relaxing tea from the dried flower petals to benefit from its therapeutic properties. To make a lavender tea, simply put half a teaspoon of dried lavender flowers in your cup, pour boiling water onto it and let steep for 5 minutes. Then strain and drink. for sweetening you may add a teaspoon of honey or a pinch of stevia.
For external use the essential oil is a must have in every home. It is one of the few essential oils that can be used neat on the skin. To dispel a headache you simply rub one drop of it onto the temples for instant relief. Lavender oil is very helpful in acne. It gets rid of spots and blackheads without drying out the skin. It disinfects cuts, grazes, relieves itching from eczema and dermatitis, repels mosquitoes and heals burns. In fact, the father or modern aromatherapy, French chemist and scholar René-Maurice Gattefossé discovered the fast healing power of lavender oil when he badly burned his hand in a laboratory experiment in 1910. He quickly poured lavender oil over his burns and was amazed how quickly his wounds healed, with very little scarring. Later, during the first World War he successfully treated wounded soldiers with it.
Lavender’s uses are not restricted to tea and aromatherapy, the fresh or dried flowers can also be used in the kitchen! You can also make lavender cakes and cookies, refreshing ice tea and lemonade, even lavender ice cream and liqueur!
Herbalist dip. HM (Inst. NH)
CyHerbia Botanical Park, Avgorou