11 Nov

Essential Oils

lavender-oil-page1bLavender Essential Oils
They’re Not All the Same
Pure lavender essential oil is extracted from the flowers using a process called steam distillation.  This process separates the oil from the steam, leaving the pure essence and therapeutic qualities of the flower concentrated in the oil.  Some remnants of the fragrance and therapeutic properties (although much less) remain in the steam that re-solidifies into the leftover water by-product, called lavender hydrosol.

There are so many factors that impact the quality of a lavender essential oil.  For example:

  • The Lavandula species the oil was derived from (Lavandula: Angustifolia being superior to other species, for example, see Varieties for more information).  Historically, essential oils were gathered from Lavandula: Angustifolia, Lavandula: x intermedia, and Stoechas.  In our modern day, we don’t see Stoechas cultivated for the production of essential oils (1).
  • Not all Lavandula: Angustifolia varieties (or cultivars) are suitable for essential oil production; only the sweeter cultivars produce the prized highly fragrant notes that are created by the linalool/lanalyl acetate content in lavender essential oil (2).
  • Whether the plant itself has undergone water stress.  Plants that get too much, or not enough water suffer as the highly fragrant notes in its essential oil are harmed (3).  In other words, stressed plants will produce less essential oil, and the quality of that essential oil will be lower.
  • Excessive Nitrogen in the soil (which does help young plants produce better and longer flowers and stems) hurts the oil  production (4).
  • The plants must be harvested at just the right time for optimal essential oil quality and yield.  This optimal harvesting window varies for each specific cultivar, but generally speaking is marked by the withering of approximately half of the flowers on the spike (5).
*Warning:
Most lavenders are not raised organically.  While lavenders are, to some extent, naturally repellant to many insects, like any crop they can be subject to blights and infestations.
Commercial growers of lavender absolutely use pesticides, herbicides and fungicides to protect their crop and obtain the highest yields.
Unless the lavender is certified organic or you know where your lavender essential oil comes from, I strongly caution against using the lavender essential oil or products made with these tainted essential oils.  Imagine taking a bath with essential lavender oil; what should be a soothing, healing activity instead could be steeping you like a teabag in synthetic poisons.
Oreganic Farms absolutely never uses any herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, or man-made chemicals of any kind.  Our lavenders are grown in a pristine environment and are far from any potential cross-contamination from other sources.

Lavandula: Angustifolia
Cultivars Suitable for Essential Oil Production

The following are some of the varieties of Lavandula: Angustifolia that are considered best for harvesting essential oils.  It should be noted that if a lavender has high enough quality fragrance notes to produce essential oils, it’s considered culinary as well.  Since no two lavender cultivars are the same, each variety has its own unique fragrance characteristics and nuances.  Most Lavandula: Angustifolia essential oils sold are a blend of some of the following varieties; in France, most essential oil sold that is Lavandula:  Angustifolia is from the cultivar ‘Maillette‘.  The eleven cultivars denoted by * below are grown on Oreganic Farms and used to make our products:

  • Amanda Carter
  • Avice Hill (sometimes called ‘Impression’)
  • Beechwood Blue
  • Blue Bun
  • Blue Cushion
  • Blue Mountain
  • Bosisto
  • Buena Vista*
  • Coconut Ice
  • Common
  • Egerton Blue
  • Fiona English
  • Folgate*
  • Helen Batchelder
  • Loddon Pink
  • Lullaby Blue
  • Maillette*
  • Martha Roderick*
  • Mausen Dwarf (often misnamed Munstead Dwarf)
  • Melissa*
  • Munstead*
  • Nana Alba
  • Nana Atropurpurea, Plant B
  • Okamurasaki
  • Otago Haze
  • Pacific Blue
  • Premier*
  • Princess Blue
  • Royal Velvet*
  • Sachet*
  • Sarah
  • Sharon Roberts*
  • Susan Belsinger
  • Tasm
  • Colour Purple
  • Tucker’s Early Purple*
  • Waller’s Munstead
  • Winton

Bibliography

(1) “Lavender: The Grower’s Guide” (2010), pp.52. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.

McNaughton, Virginia.

(2) “Lavender: The Grower’s Guide” (2010), pp.2. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.

McNaughton, Virginia.

(3) “Lavender: The Grower’s Guide” (2010), pp.68.  Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.

McNaughton, Virginia.

(4) “Lavender: The Grower’s Guide” (2010), pp.7. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.

McNaughton, Virginia.

(5) “Lavender: The Grower’s Guide” (2010), pp.11. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.

McNaughton, Virginia.

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