Not all lavender oils are equal. Lavender term is used to refer to more than 30 species of small aromatic flowering plants belonging to the Lavandula genus in Lamiaceae or mint family. Lavender oil can refer to oil from any of these species. These oils have therapeutic benefits different from each other. In aromatherapy, it is important to differentiate both the fragrance characteristics and the clinical action of various types of lavender oils. Read on to find out the difference between lavender oils from different species of lavender.
Although there are more than 30 species known ad lavender, some of the main species we are going to discuss are:
These species differ across the leaf shapes and sizes, flower types and essential oil qualities. The leaves shape and size can range from the simple to pinnately toothed, or pinnate, sometimes multiple pinnate and dissected.
In some species, the leaves are covered in fine hairs or indumentum. Similarly, flower colors range from blue to violet to lilac blackish purple or yellowish. Similarly, the composition and therapeutic benefits of essential oils vary from species to species.
The most common and widely grown lavender species in English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia, previously known as Lavandula officinalis). It is also known as garden lavender, common lavender, true-lavender, small-leaf lavender, narrow-leaved lavender or simply lavender.
It is native to the Mediterranean region. It is an herbaceous perennial that grows up to 1 meter tall. It has pale green, narrow, linear leaves and flowers on blunt spikes of beautiful violet-blue color.
The lavender essential oil comprises of hundreds of compounds but is particularly rich in linalool and linalyl acetate. Its aroma is sweet, floral-herbaceous with a balsamic-woody undertone. It is more fragrant, sweeter and softer in comparison to other varieties of lavender oils.
It has analgesic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, anxiolytic, antispasmodic, carminative, cicatrisant, diuretic, emmenagogue, nervine, sedative, and uplifting properties. The essential oil from lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is the most preferred lavender oil among aromatherapists.
Lavender is a favored essential oil for anxiety, stress, insomnia, aches, spasms, skin ailments among others. In addition, it is used in balms, salves, perfumes, cosmetics, and topical applications.
Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) is native to the Mediterranean countries, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, and Greece. It is also known as topped lavender or French lavender (U.K.).
Spanish lavender has narrow leaves and lavender, pink-violet flowers that form a “pineapple” shaped flower top (bract). Spanish Lavender, like French Lavender, has a softer scent.
The essential oil extracted from Spanish lavender is rich in ketones, monoterpenes, and Cineole. It has a very low amount of linalool with no linalyl acetate. This makes it very different from other lavender oils. It has a prominent fresh-pungent top note.
It should only be used under the guidance of a certified aromatherapist due to the high content of ketones and camphor. It might be used in case of respiratory and antimicrobial issues, as prescribed by aromatherapists. Spanish Lavender is used commercially in air fresheners and insecticides.
While buying lavender oil, always make sure to check the botanical name since Spanish lavender oil may also be sold under the name of lavender oil and it is a completely different oil from other lavender oils.
Essential Oil Spike Lavender (Lavandula latifolia) is native to the western Mediterranean region, from central Portugal to northern Italy (Liguria) through Spain and southern France. It is also known as Broad-leaved lavender or Aspic or Lesser lavender.
Spike lavender grows wild over a large part of the Mediterranean area, mostly in coastal southern France, Spain and Dalmatia at elevations of up to 600 meters, preferring warmer and lower regions than lavender and lavandin. Spike lavender has lance-shaped leaves, broader and rougher than true lavender. The flower is more compressed and of a dull grey-blue color.
Spike lavender oil is rich in Linalool, Eucalyptol (1 8-cineole) and Camphor . In comparison to lavender oil, it has higher amounts of eucalyptol (1,8-cineole) and camphor and a lesser amount of Linalyl Acetate. Due to the presence of eucalyptol and camphor, its aroma is less fine and has a more fresh-pungent top note.
Spike lavender oil is more stimulating and lavender oil is more relaxing and calming.
Spike lavender essential oil has analgesic, antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiseptic, antispasmodic, circulatory, stimulating and expectorant properties. It is beneficial in the cases of headaches, cough, congestion, burns, inflammation, stress and pain. It is also widely used in cleaning products, soaps, deodorizers, and disinfectants.
Spike lavender should only replace the lavender oil in cases where 1,8-cineole and camphor are preferred constituents for application.
Spike lavender oil should be used cautiously. It should be used under the direction of a certified practitioner during pregnancy and for children.
EssentialOils Lavandin (Lavandula × intermedia) is a relatively new hybrid species derived from lavender (Lavandula augustifolia) and Spike lavender (Lavendula latifolia). It is also known as Dutch lavender.
It combines the properties of lavender and Spike lavender. Its fragrance is similar to lavender but with an additional mild fruity-pungent note. It is easier to grow and produces bigger flowers in comparison to lavender. Lavandin This species is highest in the essential oil content of all lavender species.
Lavandin oil comprises Linalyl acetate, linalool, cineol, camphene and pinene among other compounds. It has a more sweet-fruity-green-herbaceous aroma than lavender, with fresh-spicy camphoraceous top-notes.
In comparison to lavender, lavandin oil has higher levels of terpenes including camphor, which add a sharper and penetrating overtone to the fragrance.
Since Lavandin is a hybrid of lavender and Spike lavender, its therapeutic benefits are a combination of properties of both the plants, albeit weaker in comparison. It has analgesic, antibacterial, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, nervine, sedative, and vulnerary properties. It has calming, antibacterial properties and is used for its antibacterial properties and to support the respiratory system.
Lavandin essential oil is not as commonly used in aromatherapy since it is considered inferior therapeutically. It is widely used in the perfume and fragrance industries.
French lavender (Lavandula dentata) is native to the Mediterranean region of Spain. It is also known as Fringed lavender.
One of the distinct features of French lavender is the narrow, finely-toothed leaves and compact flower heads topped by purple bracts. It grows up to 2-3 feet tall. Although, the flowers of French Lavender are less aromatic than those of Lavender, its leaves are more aromatic with smells resembling that of rosemary.
The essential oil from French lavender is very rich in 1,8-cineole . Due to the very high amount of 1,8-cineole, it is usually not recommended for use in aromatherapy.
|Botanical Name||Common Name||Note|
|True Lavender, English Lavender, Garden Lavender, Common Lavender, Narrow-leaved Lavender||Most preferred lavender essential oil in aromatherapy.|
|French Lavender, Fringed Lavender||Should be avoided in aromatherapy.|
|Spanish Lavender, Topped Lavender, French lavender (U.K.)||Should be used under guidance of certified aromatherapists.|
|Spike Lavender, Broadleaved Lavender, Portuguese Lavender, Aspic||Second most preferred lavender oil. Mostly used where 1,8-cineole and camphor are preferred constituents for application|
Lavandula × intermedia
|Lavandin, Dutch Lavender||Hybrid species. May be used in aromatherapy and in perfume and fragrance industries.|
Some other major species of lavender are Wooly Lavender (Lavandula lanata) and Egyptian Lavender (Lavandula multifida). In addition, some unrelated species such as Lavender sage (Salvia lavandulifolia), Lavender oregano (Origanum dubium ct. linalool) and Lavender tea tree (Melaleuca ericifolia) may also be sold under the name of Lavender. These oils would have completely different therapeutic benefits in comparison to lavender. Hence, it is very much imperative to ascertain the botanical name of the essential oils while buying.
Julia Lawless. Encyclopedia of Essential Oils