Last Updated on January 20, 2023 by Urska
Is lavender a flower or a herb? This versatile beautiful plant looks amazing and smells amazing too! The flowers and leaves have an amazing scent if you crush them and release the terpenes that characterize the plant. Let’s have a look at what lavender is, what terpenes are, and how this herb can help you in life.
Is Lavender a Flower Or a Herb?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a herb as “a plant or plant part valued for its medicinal, savory, or aromatic qualities”
Is lavender a flower or a herb? By this definition, we can conclude that it is a herb. The flowers are also a herb.
Read more about: Is Lavender A Flower?
What is Lavender?
Lavenders are all plants that belong to the genus Lavandula. There are 47 or so species in the genus and these tend to be very rich in terpenes and related compounds. If you don’t know about terpenes, do not worry, the next heading is a brief summary of these magical compounds.
The important thing to understand about Lavender is that we refer to a broad group of plants as “Lavender”. This is why people would ask “Is lavender a flower or a herb?” There are culinary lavender species that actually are not poisonous and can be used in cooking.
There are lavender species that produce oils that are therapeutic and can help with various medical issues. Some lavenders make nice oils that are great in perfumes. Some lavenders have pretty flowers and not much scent at all.
Parts Of The Lavender Plant
Lavender plants consist of a root system, stems, branches, leaves, and flowers. The leaves and flowers have the greatest concentration of aromatic compounds, and these tend to be what are harvested for extraction, picked to put in vases, or use as a herb (if the variety is a culinary variety). The Lavender plant has a pretty strong root system. You will see this when you dig up a four or more-year-old plant.
More information can be found at firsttunnels.co.uk.
Terpenes – The Magical Molecules That Make Lavender Awesome
Terpenes (and terpenoids) are a huge class of chemicals consisting of repeated units of (C5H8)n. This allows for the construction of complex and often biologically active compounds that resemble a honeycomb in many cases! Let’s not go too far into chemistry, other than to say that the structure has enabled nature to produce more than 50 000 known chemicals in this class.
The most abundant terpene we probably see in everyday life is rubber!! Much of the aromatic nature of most herbs comes from terpenes, as do the fragrances of many flowers and fruits.
Many terpenes have biological activity. Because of their complex structure, these terpenes can bind to receptor sites in cells, modulate immunity, influence brain function, and have a range of other effects. In this regard, consuming terpenes can be medicinal.
This does not mean one should go and drink the things in large quantities – many terpenes are toxic in high concentrations.
Terpenes in lavender
The main terpenes in various lavender extracts tend to be ratios of linalyl acetate, linalool, and caryophyllene. These terpenes tend to have several effects on us when we smell them. A very important note is that these terpenes are actually toxic and can cause several problems, hence the use of essential oil extracts should be something you do carefully. Not to be taken internally – anywhere.
If you wish to extract your own lavender oils there are now really cool little home kits that you can use to extract your own essential oils. I tend to prefer metal distillation rigs – because metal does not break as easily as glass. Glass distillation rigs are lovely – but remember that essential oils are flammable.
I have also used alcohol to extract essential oils via distillation in the past, and have had a small fire incident hence I am a bit jumpy. If you do any distillation, always remember to have two buckets of water on hand, and a fire extinguisher.
I have been involved with the extraction of quite large quantities of various terpenes and it is a lot of fun distilling these beautiful oils. Again, in their concentrated form be careful. Lavender oil should always be stored in a metal or glass container.
You will find if you store it in a plastic container it somehow eats through the container and creates a world of chaos for you. If the only containers you can find are plastic, make sure they are fluorinated plastics.
The fluorination process cross-links the plastic on the surface of the bottles making them a bit less vulnerable to attack by the terpenes. And importantly, think what a lot of these terpenes can do to you if they can dissolve plastic!!
What I Like To Do With The Lavender Oil I Extract
I find that if I put a few drops of lavender oil into the humidifier around about the time my partner gets menstrual cramps that this helps both of us.
There is some scientific evidence to suggest that the lavender aroma helps with cramps helping her, and also helps to reduces anxiety (this helps both of us). I also find that when I have a bit of extra stress in life, having a bit of lavender wafting around helps.
A bunch of lavender in a corner. I will often just pick a huge bunch of lavender when I trim the bushes in the garden. Placing this indoors diffuses a lovely lavender note into the house. This really works nicely in terms of making the house seem a lot calmer!
Lavender soap. I just love making my own soap from time to time.
Is lavender a flower or a herb? Now we know it is both. Flowers can be herbs! Lavender really can help you bring some calm and peace into your house. Grow this plant both for its beauty, and its medicinal properties. And remember! It helps the bees too.
Read more about: How Much Water Does Lavender Need
What are some cool facts about lavender?
The terpenes in Lavender are beneficial in small quantities. They help to ease menstrual cramps and treat anxiety and insomnia. These I can attest to (well I have seen in my partner they help the menstrual cramps). Terpenes are a huge family of natural chemicals, many of which have medicinal properties. Extracting your own lavender oil will get you started on a path of discovery, and probably lead to you extracting many other essential oils too. I speak from experience.
What do I need to know about lavender plants?
These are great plants to grow! There are many types, and if you read the little tag on the plant at the nursery it will tell you how to grow it in your area! Lavender seems to generally thrive on a bit of neglect. It needs deep well drained soil. And weed it so it does not get crowded by weeds. Other than that, it is tough! Whenever I neglect my plants they thrive, and the more I care for them the less healthy they get (within reason).
Dr. Garth A. Cambray is a Canadian/South African entrepreneur and beekeeper with 28 years of experience in apiculture and specializes in adding value to honey. His Ph.D. research developed a new advanced continuous fermentation method for making mead that has resulted in a number of companies globally being able to access markets for mead. His company, Makana Meadery, exports honey mead to the USA where it is available to discerning connoisseurs. He has also developed technologies to commercially manufacture organic honey vinegar in Zambia for export globally. He holds a few patents globally in the ethanol industry and believes in technology and knowledge transfer for human development and environmental sustainability. One of his proudest achievements is the fact that the wind farm he started at one of his old apiary sites has essentially made his hometown carbon neutral.