Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly…
As I write, I’m sat with some lavender essential oil diffusing in my living room. As a scent best known for it’s sleep inducing qualities it’s perhaps not the best choice of essential oil to use whilst I attempt to write; perhaps something with more stimulating qualities, like rosemary, would have been a better choice to keep my mind sharp. However, it’s helping transport me back to last Thursday morning when I paid my first ever trip to the Cotswold Lavender farm in Snowshill. A full five years after moving to the area, after a recommendation from a friend and on a beautiful British summer’s day, I was able to visit just prior to the yearly harvest to see the lavender fields, plus an abundance of beautiful wild flower beds, at their very best.
Lavender is something that regularly features in my Espalda Massage Therapy massages so it was fantastic to have the opportunity to see it on the farm in this way. The pre-blended aromatherapy oils that I use (only qualified aromatherapists can create their own specific blends for use on clients so I stick to using locally produced pre-blended oils) quite often have lavender in them, combined with other essential oils to create a calming, soothing or relaxing combination. The wonderful Alani ‘Soothing’ oil created by Kerry Baxter of the Cheltenham School of Complementary Therapy and Beauty contains jasmine, palmarosa, frankincense and lavender and is absolutely gorgeous!
The essential oil of the plant itself is what gives lavender its characteristic scent and according to Cotswold Lavender this is stored in small glands at the base of the flowers. On those beautiful summer days, when happy little legs brush past the flowers in your garden on their way to the trampoline or when the flowers accidentally get caught by the mower, the glands burst and the scent is released.
The processes used (and the sights seen) at Cotswold Lavender would not look out of place in Provence, where a huge quantity of lavender is harvested and the resulting oil is used by the finest perfumeries in Grasse and further afield. Here in the Cotswolds the lavender is harvested using a specially built harvester, the only one of its type in use here in the UK. It gently gathers the fragile crop and collects the lavender flowers in the distillation trailer that follows it, taking an hour to collect 5 tonnes. The next stage is the steam distillation process, thought to have been invented in Ancient Egypt. Steam from naturally softened rainwater is fed up into the trailer, heating the lavender flowers until they burst and the oil evaporates, the steam carrying the oil up through the trailer, with a collection point in the conical shaped lid. After distillation comes the separation process during which the oil and steam mixture is cooled in a condenser cylinder and reverts back to water and oil. When fed down into a separator tank the oil rises to the top and is drawn off, the water being recycled to be used again. It’s a wonderful, natural process that only uses rainwater to extract the oils that are then used in a range of products. The aroma in the distillery was really intense, despite the last harvest having been last season!
As I mentioned above, lavender is well known as the ‘sleepy’ essential oil, a drop of oil on a pillow case being one of the easiest ways to help you drift off. Lavender however has properties that stretch far beyond the stereotypical ‘Grandma’s Talcum Powder’ memories that it can often evoke. It is the one essential oil that I always ensure that I take away with me as a result of its wide ranging qualities. ‘The Fragrant Pharmacy – A complete guide to Aromatherapy and Essential Oils’ written by Valerie Ann Worwood lists it as having antiseptic, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties that can help with burns, inflammation, cuts, wounds, headaches, influenza, insomnia, nervous tension and nausea amongst other complaints. Clearly, by the very nature of its description, the ‘complementary’ aromatherapeutic use of essential oils such as lavender at home should never replace replace traditional medicine when that is required but a little drop of lavender on an irritating insect bite or on an annoying blister can quickly make a difference and help you get on with your day. (See note below)
Cotswold Lavender is still open for business this season until the 7th August, so there is still time to pay them a quick visit. They anticipate that harvesting will start on Wednesday 27th July and you can sample some of their delicious lavender tea, ice cream, shortbread and other treats after having a stroll around the site. (See note below)
I’ll be looking forward to visiting once more this season and will pick up some of their massage oil. Feel free to get in touch if you’d like to book in with me for a relaxing lavender inspired Indian Head Massage or call 07885533130 if you would like to discuss how Espalda Massage Therapy can help you or your organisation via workplace and on-site seated massage therapy.
Enjoy the rest of your summer!
Note: I am not a qualified aromatherapist and solely use essential oils at home for personal use. With Espalda Massage Therapy clients I use pre-blended oils that are produced by qualified aromatherapists. Essential oils can be very dangerous if used incorrectly and great care should be taken to follow the instructions provided on any essential oils that you purchase for use at home. Special attention should be paid before using any form of essential oils around babies and young children and you should seek further advice from qualified aromatherapists if you are unsure about the suitability of any particular essential oils. Essential oils must not be used in cooking, ingested or used internally. The culinary lavender products at Cotswold Lavender use a culinary grade lavender plant rather than essential oils to impart the fragrance.