Saturday, February 02, 2008

I love lavender essential oil! (Aromatherapy/Essential Oil Information)

I am a lavender fanatic. I currently have over seventy essential oils but lavender is still one of my favorites since it has so many medicinal and cosmetic uses. And it smells wonderful!

I recently posted about some of my favorite lavenders from around the world on a forum so thought I'd post the information here too (with added information of course :) ). The species I am discussing is Lavandula angustifolia, but any essential oil fanatic will tell you the scent and chemical composition of any essential oil can vary greatly by region, season, climate, weather, processing/distilling methods, altitude, etc. So even if it's from the same species, essential oils from different areas and seasons will smell different from each other. They are like fine wines in that regard! :)

My favorite lavender is high altitude wild grown French. My second favorite is Bulgarian lavender. If you want to try the French, you have to be careful where you buy it, since according to Jeanne Rose (personal communication during a class in October 2007) much of what is listed as French is really Bulgarian (the French will import Bulgarian and then repackage and then call it French). Both the French and Bulgarian are more floral and have no hint of camphor than other varieties I have smelled. The French has a sweeter and very floral scent in my opinion, but it is also very fruity too. Both are used by perfumers in perfume, especially the high altitude wild grown French.

I also like English lavender (which I think is more herbal and green than the French or Bulgarian) but I also love lavender from California (which is woody and green). California lavender is high in borneol which is considered an immune stimulate. It is a nice and smooth smelling lavender. The lavender from Hungary is very mild and not as intense as some other countries.

I personally don't like Lavender 40-20, it always smells 'off' too me; too artificial. I always thought that even before I knew what 40-20 was, before I learned that it was partially synthetic. Basically since the scent of essential oils can vary greatly from each batch (even if it's the same species, grown in the same area) many producers/manufacturers will add Linalool and Linalyl acetate (which are two chemical components naturally found in lavender) to make sure each batch smells the same. Some perfumers and crafters love 40-20 for this reason, but I don't. Some people claim that it is completely natural (since the Linalool and Linalyl acetate are essential oil components. Though it's true they are naturally found in lavender essential oil, to my knowledge--and I could be wrong about this--what is most often added is lab created Linalool and Linalyl acetate, and not naturally plant derived Linalool and Linalyl acetate. Though a few companies may actually add plant dervied Linalool and Linalyl acetate, I do not know for sure). 40-20 is less expensive, and each batch smells consistent (there are no variations). (A related story on how good my 'nose' is, I remember a few years ago I was raving about a skincare line to my sister in a store since previously they used only pure rose essential oil in their line, asked her to smell their product, and when she said it just smelled okay, I smelled it and said immediately that I thought they added some synthetic rosy scent to it. I looked at the ingredients and I was right: while they were still using essential oils, they had begun to add 'essential oil components' like Linalool to their products).

Lavendin tends to be cheaper too (it is a hybrid of a couple different species of lavender) but it has much more/strong camphor notes in it.

There was a question asking about the difference in prices and whether it mattered in crafting which lavender was used. And my answer was:

Honestly though there a few people (like me) who would care about which one is used and can tell the difference between lavenders, I think most people won't be able to tell the difference, so you should just sample different lavenders and choose the one you like the best. :)

Many vendors offer free samples that contain a few drops, probably not enough to craft with but enough to smell and compare between samples, others offer larger samples for a couple bucks.

The French, Bulgarian, and English are available at AV-AT, and are organic except for the French which is ethically wild harvested (no pesticides though since it's high altitude, no pollution in the area). CA is available from Jeanne Rose (who also sells a lavender kit that contains 6 lavenders from around the world. I haven't tried the kit yet so don't know from what areas but her essential oils are some of the best I've tried). Not sure if the CA is organic but I think it's grown as part of the Aromatic Plant Project so most likely it is organic (may or may not be certified). The Hungary lavender can be found at Garden of Wisdom.
Not sure if it's organic either but many of Markey's (GOW's owner) essential oils are organic or at least ethically wild harvested (but they aren't labeled as such) so there's a good chance it is. Conventional 40-20 can be found at Mountain Rose Herbs, who also sells a nice organic Bulgarian lavender. I haven't used Lavendin in a while and forgot where I initially tried it but Nature's Gift sells it, and many other different kinds of lavender including Bulgarian and French. Though I haven't tried their lavender they sell superior quality essential oils and I am sure they smell great! They also sell a CO2 extract of lavender and a lavender from the Himalayans that I've been eyeing. Some of their lavenders are organic, and some are wild harvested from high altitude areas.

Another question: Why does my bulgarian lavender smell different from last time? I got it at the same place.

Many things can greatly affect the scent of essential oils: season, climate, weather, distillation methods, storage conditions, altitude, etc.

I haven't gotten bulgarian lavender recently but I know that last year's bulgarian and turkey rose crops failed due to the weather, so it is my guess that the climate/weather has affected all types of plants grown in the area.

If you want floral, try a high altitude French (but be careful as many lavenders labeled as French are really Bulgarian so buy from a company you trust) (also French does smell floral but it leans more toward fruity in addition to floral)

Some companies like Av-at, Nature's Gift, Sun Rose Aromatics, etc you can request free samples before you buy. Not really enough to craft with (unless you get from SRA but enough to smell to make sure it's what you want).


Anonymous said...


What do you think is the best lavender for anti-acne purpose? Marge from Nature's Gift said it's best to use high altitude French lavender, but I'm gonna order some items from GoW, maybe Mountain Rose Herbs too, so I want to grab either the Hungarian or Bulgarian lavender for convenience.

Thank you,


Solarkat said...

Hi Liz

Sorry for taking a few days to responding (thesis).

I've used all three and all are fine for acne (the chemical composition of lavender varies greatly depending on where it is grown but I've found from personal usage that most lavender--Lavendula angustifolia--is helpful for acne).