I have a new love in my life. White (or green, or yellow) Lavender (Lavandula viridis) is her name. For me getting to know an essential oil has the same frisson as any new love. The growing intimacy, the surprising characteristics that are revealed, the unknown, the edge of mystery.
This rare subspecies of Lavandula Stoechas grows abundantly here on my land in Portugal, but I knew nothing about it until last year. We wanted to learn the art of distilling essential oils, so invited a local specialist to teach us how. She introduced us to the wonders of white lavender.
Until this I had thought these strange colourless lavender were just Lavendula Stoechas in waiting, or the result of some mineral imbalance in the soil. They are very distinctive and intriguing, with their pale yellow/green stamens. They seem to grow in distinct patches, in the damper folds of the hills and don’t often intermingle with their purple relatives.
We did a small distillation last year, getting about 2 ml of oil and 500 ml of hydrolat. It was so exciting to watch the appearance of the first oil produced here on our property. We had harvested the plants lovingly and the whole process was undertaken as a meditative celebration. The fragrance of the distillation was heady as the sharp green camphoraceous vapor filled the air.
Over the past year I have had the delight of following the development of the oil, as its bouquet has settled and smoothed out and become more soft and floral. It’s still fresher and sharper than a ‘normal’ lavender, with a lung opening, deep breathing effect, but it is also gentle and linaloolic.
Over the year, the essential oil has been selected by animals for wounds, fungal infection and sinus irritation. I used it in combination with eucalyptus to steam bath when I had a bad case of the flu and found it opening and relaxing. I have used the hydrosol as a soothing skin cleanser, that gently disinfects and relieves irritation, and for bruises.
I have also been investigating its background do see what it’s really made of!
A research study published in 2011 in the Journal of Medical Microbiology identified fifty-one essential oil compounds in this species. These include a large proportion of oxygen-containing monoterpenes, followed by monoterpene hydrocarbons. Among the fifty-one compounds, 1,8-cineole, camphor, alpha-pinene, and linalool had the highest percentages, respectively. From these results we can see how the essential oil is anti-infectious and opens the lungs, and is at the same time soothing and gentle.
The research found that the essential oils had a strong antifungal activity against yeasts and filamentous fungi, specifically strains of Candida, Aspergillus, Trichophyton, Epidermophyton, and Cryptococcus. Of these strains, L. viridis was most active against Cryptococcus, then Candida, and was least effective against Aspergillus strains.
We have used the essential oil for fungal infections on our animal and human family with good success. I’m pretty excited about the possibilities of the hydrosol as a natural anti-fungal solution for cats as well, although have not had chance to try that yet.
Any day now the white lavender will be ready to distill. We have a beatiful new copper still this year, so I hope to get a good yield over the distilling season. And I am looking forward to deepening my relationship with Lavandula Viridis as we continue to get to know each other.
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