Lavender has been called “the soul of Provence”. This region in the South of France currently grows a large percentage of the world’s lavender supply.
On a recent trip to the area, I couldn’t pass up the chance learn a bit about this popular plant. I’ve worked with essential oils for over two decades but haven’t had the chance to see this kind of production up close.
Since WW1, the French Government has encouraged lavender farmers in the area. Farmers cleared almond orchards to make room for lavender. The leaves, flowers, and essential oil from the plant have many uses. Lavender flowers are even an ingredient in the popular cooking spice “Herbs de Provence“.
The plants bloom in late June and are harvested in early August so July is considered peak time to see the purple fields. During our trip in early May, we saw purple flowers starting to bloom but quickly learned these are lavendine plants, not lavender plants.
Lavendine is a hybrid of lavender and camphor. The two were blended to create a heartier plant that can flourish in a wider range of climates and has a longer growing period. This creates a less expensive end product that is used to scent mass produced soaps, candles etc.
You must find “lavande vraie” (literally translates to “lavender true”) for 100% pure lavender essential oil. The expert I spoke with near the village of Les Baux de Provence insists only “lavande vraie” has the medicinal healing qualities the lavender plant. Lavendine will not produce the same results for relaxation, help with inflammation, wound healing etc.
Next time you find yourself in the South of France, I highly recommend learning about the local lavender farmers. It’s a beautiful part of the local culture!