I received a question from a customer, which again posed another question. The question and the answer – not that there is a clear one – illustrates some of the confusion with naming lavender.
The question from a customer was….. I used Lavender oil a great deal as it helps with my Fibromyalgia. I have always used what I call “Spanish” lavender, which I prefer to English. Is there such a thing? The bottle just says “Lavender Oil” which is not exactly helpful. Can you throw any light on this please?
My answer, with some editing was…When you say “always used what I call “Spanish” lavender”, I’m intrigued. Why did you call it Spanish lavender? At some point did you have a bottle of oil labelled as such? As you say, a bottle labelled as “lavender oil” is not helpful, and if you’ve read my posts you’ll know that I recommend that people do not buy any lavender oil, of any type without a botanical name.
Anyway, yes, Spanish lavender does exist but it is different depending on whether you are in the USA or Europe!!! In Europe oil from Lavandula latifolia is often called Spanish lavender (and spike lavender). The oil is used in perfumery and a little in aromatherapy, and it should be available through a good essential oil supplier. Look for the botanical name Lavandula latifolia. Aroma-wise it’s pretty pungent, containing in the region of 13% camphor and 25% eucalyptol. At Jersey Lavender, unfortunately we cannot reliably grow this lavender as the climate is not quite warm enough.
In the USA, Spanish lavender is a term used for what we know in the UK as Lavandula stoechas, French lavender or butterfly lavender. The oil is not commercially used in perfumery but it seems some is extracted and used therapeutically on a small scale. I have come across it locally in Portugal where it does form part of their local plant medicine armoury. A search of the internet gave me a few suppliers. One was http://www.oshadhi.co.uk/lavender-stoechas-organic-lavandula-stoechas/. The oil has a strong scent and chemically is dominated by camphor, fenchone and eucalyptol.
In other countries the term Spanish Lavender is also sometimes used for Lavandula dentata, sometimes called toothed lavender. Again, in small quantities I have came across the oil from this species but it is not widely used in perfumery or aromatherapy. To confuse matters even more the Australians call this lavender, French lavender!
So… as to which one my customer used, we don’t really know, but with some further investigation it shouldn’t be impossible to work out. The question does however illustrate the confusion about naming lavenders with “national” names, and underlines the reason why it is so important to use the botanical names.