English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia Mill.): Botanical Versatility

Contributed by: Nicole Ramsay

Figure 1. English lavender stems – Image Source: Shan 16899

Binomial Name

Lavandula angustifolia Mill.


Lavandula officinalis Chaix

Lavandula spica L., nom. utique rej.

Lavandula vera DC.

(USDA, n.d.)


Common Names

True lavender (MBG, n.d.), Garden lavender, lavender, English lavender, lavendel (German), Echter lavendel (German), Schmalblatt-lavendel (German), lavande (French), lavande officinale (French), lavande vraie (French), lavande à feuilles étroites (French), lavanta (Turkish), lavendel (Danish), alfazema (Portuguese), lavanda (Portuguese), Keskenylevelű levendula (Hungarian), lavandel (Swedish), levandule lékařská (Czech), lavanta (Greek), Echte lavendel (Dutch) (GBIF, 2021).

Figure 2. Drawing of English lavender anatomy – Image Source: Franz Eugen Kohler   


Botanical Description

Kingdom: Plantae – plants

Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants

Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants

Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants

Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons

Subclass: Asteridae

Order: Lamiales

Family: Lamiaceae – mint family

Genus: Lavandula L. – lavender

Species: Lavandula angustifolia Mill.

– English lavender

Group: Dicot

Duration: Perennial

Growth Habitat: Shrub (USDA, n.d.)


Lavender’s name derives from the word lavo, which means to wash in Latin, as this was its original purpose. English lavender is an herbaceous perennial that produces fragrant pinkish/purple flowers in the summer months of June through August. The stems are square in shape and support fragrant thin leaves that are gray-green in colour. (MBG, n.d.). These shrubby plants can grow up to 45 cm tall and are covered by soft hairs. The leaves are long and thin, and end in a point. The inflorescences are spiked and support clusters of 6-10 tubular flowers (FFW, 2021). The calyx is five-pointed, and young leaves are white that transition to green as they mature, growing in opposite fashion (McCoy & Davis, 2021). Different lavender types can be characterized by their bracts, where L. angustifolia Mill. have bracts that are oval-rhomboid shaped and are missing bracteoles, or possess them as large as 2.5 mm (Tucker & Hensen, 1985).


Origin and Distribution

English lavender was named after the fact that it flourishes in the climate of England, although it originated in the Mediterranean (MBG, n.d.; Wells et al., 2018). It is native to the western Mediterranean region within mountain terrain (McCoy & Davis, 2021). L. angustifolia Mill. distribution includes many countries, such as Venezuela, Austria, East Aegean Island, Krym, Italy, Spain, France, Bulgaria, West Himalaya (Govaerts [COL], 2017). Cultivation for commercial use has been adopted by Bulgaria, France, Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States (Wells et al., 2018). There is also record of its introduction to 11 countries or islands with no evidence of impact: the United States, Belgium, Australia, Denmark, India, Czechia, Norway, Slovenia, Greece, Cyprus, and Switzerland (GBIF, 2021).


Figure 3. Distribution of L. angustifolia Mill. – collected specimens and observations                                         
Image Source: © OpenStreetMap contributors, © OpenMapTiles, GBIF

English lavender grows best in full sun with well drained, alkaline soil, and dry to medium water conditions since over-moist conditions result in root rot (MBG, n.d.). These plants also prefer less organic substrate and can survive in varying conditions. English lavender is prized for its high-quality essential oils housed in oil glands, but flower and oil harvests are lower than other types since flower stems are short with small flowers (Wells et al., 2018).


Linalyl acetate makes up to 40% of lavender essential oil composition and is an antimicrobial ester that produces a sweet scent. Lavender essential oil also comprises a terpene alcohol, linalool, which also contains antimicrobial components and is harmless to humans (McCoy & Davis, 2021). English lavender also contains 1,8-cineole, terpinen-4-ol, beta-ocimene, and camphor (Cavanagh & Wilkinson, 2002). The 50-60 terpenes found in the Lavandula genus help to fend off herbivorous organisms and subdue other plant growth to prevent competition of resources (Hassiotis et al., 2014).


Cultivation Practices

English lavender is the most commonly cultivated species of lavender (McCoy & Davis, 2021).

Since it is a perennial, L. angustifolia Mill. can flower yearly for about ten years, contributing essential oil, but produces less in the first year it is planted. Lavender sowing can withstand inclines and is performed from the spring season through autumn where growth is best achieved through Mediterranean-like climatic conditions. This species is generally planted in long rows for effective growth and efficient harvesting, with spacing between rows around 140 cm, and between plants around 33 cm (Fig. 4). Plants are cultivated in sandy-loam soil, and routinely fertilized and irrigated (Giannoulis et al., 2020). Most commercial producers take advantage of efficient cloning, as opposed to growing lavender from seeds (Wells et al., 2018).

Figure 4. Farm field of English lavender cultivation –  Image Source: iacomino FRiMAGES


Figure 5. Bumble bee foraging on English lavender – Image Source: Wirestock Creators


  Conservation Status

English lavender is listed by the IUCN as least concern (GBIF, 2021). This species is commonly grown in hobby     gardens, widely cultivated for essential oil extraction, and establishes easily in the wild under varying climates.




Use and Plant Products

History of Use: Lavender is a versatile plant, whose aromatic and medicinal properties have been exploited since ancient times. Ancient Egyptians used its aromatic properties in incense and perfumes and incorporated it in embalming the dead. Ancient Greeks praised the plant for its medicinal properties, and commonly used lavender in baths for its calming effects (McCoy & Davis, 2021). Greeks and Romans were also known to use lavender oils cosmetically (Wells et al., 2018). Historically, lavender has also been valued in folk medicine as an aid to fall asleep by placing linen sacs filled with lavender flowers under pillows (Buchbauer et al., 1991). It has also been known to be used as an antiseptic, to cleanse lesions, and as an insecticide against flies, moths, and mosquitoes. Lavender use as medicinal remedies included: relief from headaches, pain, nervousness, and digestive issues (McCoy & Davis, 2021). Its beneficial properties have been recognized and adopted for many years in varying disciplines, from use in eradicating parasites in veterinary medicine to sanitizing burns and wounds in human subjects (D’Auria et al., 2005).

Figure 6. English lavender use in tea – Image Source: Olena Rudo

Modern Uses: Lavender products are widely available and can be found for purchase online, in markets, grocery stores, boutiques, home businesses, and large-scale farms. Lavender can be found for use as alternative medicine, in perfumes and cosmetics, creams and soaps, essential oils for aromatherapy, herbs for culinary use, or in food products (Wells et al., 2018). Its aromatic flowers and leaves are also favoured for use in potpourris and sachets (MBG, n.d.).

Culinary: L. angustifolia Mill. is more frequently used in cooking compared to other varieties of lavender (MBG, n.d.). Both the flowers and leaves are edible, and produce a sweet, citrusy flavour. They can be included in place of rosemary, and are commonly incorporated in breads, sauces, stews, and salads (FFW, 2021). Honey made from the nectar of lavender is another product widely used for drug flavouring, culinary purposes, and has healing properties for efficient treatment of injuries and fungal infections (Wells et al., 2018). Ice cream, baked goods, drinks, candy, and chewing gum are some of the foods known to be flavoured with lavender in the food industry (Hassiotis et al., 2014).


Figure 7. Lavender use in baking – Image Source: Sergii Koval

English lavender has also been tested and found effective as a natural preservative in food through its antibacterial   properties, especially against gram positive strains. This use is very relevant in modern times as food companies   are trying to meet the growing demand of the consumer population’s increasing interest in natural products. There   is also evidence of fruit crop preservation through use of lavender’s fungicidal attributes (Wells et al., 2018).


Many skin care and beauty products contain lavender essential oils due to the popular aroma, but they also serve as natural preservatives, fending off microbes, and eliminating the need for harmful chemicals like parabens. Some common products containing lavender include soaps, creams, sunscreen, hair care products, bath items, and perfumes. Lavender in cosmetics provides added benefits, such as antioxidants and prevention of microbial and fungal growth. However, caution should be taken regarding the concentration of lavender to prevent skin irritation (Wells et al., 2018). Since English lavender is constituently lower in camphor, it is more frequently used in perfumes compared to other lavender types (Cavanagh & Wilkinson, 2002).


Figure 8. Cluster of English lavender blooms – Image Source: nnattalli

Aromatherapy is a popular practice of inhaling active compounds released from essential oils through oil diffusion, incense, steam rooms, and massage oil (Buchbauer et al., 1991; Wells et al., 2018). This application utilizes the essence of plants to treat and relieve various symptoms and enhance well-being through effects on the mind, body, and soul. Essential oil from English lavender comprises linalool, which produces calming effects on the central nervous system, and linalyl acetate that influences mood and behaviour (Samadi et al., 2021). Lavender aromatherapy is commonly used for calming effects to aid in sleep, stress reduction, analgesia, and treatment of symptoms, mental and other diseases (Wells et al., 2018). Research by Samadi et al. (2021) concluded that this alternative method can lead to better sleep and reduction of fatigue, especially for those suffering from depression. Studies have shown that the primary active compound enters the bloodstream through topical or inhalation means. The relaxing effects of essential oils from L. angustifolia Mill. has shown to improve hypertension and heart rate, as well as aid in longer, better quality sleep for those suffering from insomnia (Wells et al., 2018). Buchbauer et al. (1991) studied this effect in mice and observed a notable sedative effect and decrease in motor activity upon breathing lavender essential oil and its main components, linalool, and linalyl acetate separately.


Figure 9. Silver foliage of English lavender- Image Source: aniana

People suffering from varying mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and trauma have shown to benefit from this therapy (Wells et al., 2018). The amygdala and the hippocampus in particular have shown to be influenced through inhalation of lavender essential oils (Cavanagh & Wilkinson, 2002). There have also been positive results in treating anxiety and depression through consumption of lavender (Wells et al., 2018). Rooms scented with lavender essential oil have demonstrated a positive effect on mood, and have shown to benefit people in intensive care, and individuals living, working, or visiting long-term or palliative care facilities (Cavanagh & Wilkinson, 2002). A meta-analysis by Firoozeei et al. (2021) revealed effective action by lavender on depression, therefore limiting the need for antidepressant medication, many of which are associated with unpleasant side effects. Almost all of the studies in this meta-analysis showed success in reducing depression through lavender aromatherapy in comparison to control groups. There was also evidence of prolonged effects from aromatherapy in a couple of studies where relief from depression and anxiety were observed for two months following treatment of postpartum women and women experiencing premenstrual syndrome. Lavender aromatherapy as an alternative treatment is cost-effective and produces rapid results on account of the route of absorption.

Psychological health has proven to be just as important, and even linked to physical well-being. Aromatherapy baths have shown to be an effective way of reducing common stress and improving mental state through the addition of essential oils in warm bathwater. English lavender is a popular and effective choice for this complementary therapy, which is absorbed through the skin and inhaled to produce benefits, such as relaxation, stress-relief, and reduction in aggression and negativity (Morris, 2002).

The use of massage for health and quality of life has been practiced since ancient times and inclusion of aromatic, volatile plant essential oils within carrier oils has enhanced beneficial effects. The active components in L. angustifolia Mill. have demonstrated noticeable results, influencing levels of serotonin and inducing a state of calm and peace through skin absorption and inhalation. Aroma massage has shown to improve sleep quality, mobility, pain, mood, depression, anxiety, and lessen aggression in dementia patients. Essential oils should be diluted in a carrier oil at a concentration of 1.5-3% (Antonelli & Donelli, 2020).

Pest Control:

Synthetic pesticides in the agricultural industry are widely used and cause detrimental impacts on the environment and human well-being. There is increasing interest to find a natural way to protect valuable harvests from weeds and insects, and lavender use has shown to be effective at deterring many arthropods. Research has shown lavender to be effective against fruit flies (Ceratitis capitata, Bactrocera oleae) and common house flies (Musca domestica). English lavender has also demonstrated fatal action against a species of fly (Cephalopina titillator) that infects camels and causes myiasis disease (Wells et al., 2018). The Lamiaceae family has displayed lethal activity against many arthropods, with L. angustifolia Mill. proving effective against Tetranychus urticae, an herbivorous mite, through contact and fumigation (Ebadollahi et al., 2020). The main constituents of L. angustifolia are: 1,8-cineole, borneol, and camphor, which are fatal to southern house mosquito (Culex quinquefasciatus) larvae and pupae, and linalool, which is toxic to the larvae of the diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) (Ebadollahi et al., 2020). Other research has shown promising action of topical and fumigation treatment of the mite Psoroptes cuniculi, and against another mite that plagues sheep, in addition to other nuisance organisms, such as aphids, moths, and grain weevils (Cavanagh & Wilkinson, 2002).

One study by Ibáñez et al. (2019) demonstrated that weeds, especially Lolium multiflorum that plagues cucumber, are susceptible to the potent herbicidal action of oxygenated monoterpenes in lavender essential oil. This finding can support the idea of transition from traditional synthetic herbicides to natural alternatives, with English lavender showing potential and offering a means to avoid resistance commonly seen with synthetic pesticides.


L. angustafolia Mill. has proven to be useful against fungal infections like thrush (Candida albicans) that can plague oral and vaginal tissues (D’Auria et al., 2005; Wells et al., 2018). The essential oil from lavender can kill this fungal species within 15 minutes, but the linalool compound alone can achieve this in just 30 seconds (D’Auria et al., 2005). At low concentrations lavender appears to be productive in combating antibiotic resistant bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus and Enterococcus faecalis (Cavanagh & Wilkinson, 2002).

The main compounds in L. angustifolia Mill. have shown to combat inflammation, which is very prevalent today, as well as having pain reduction effects. A study on mice revealed that breathing in lavender vapour can decrease inflammation in airways from asthma and allergic reactions (Wells et al., 2018). Lavender oil has also shown promising results in other research surrounding allergies and associated inflammatory responses. The anti-inflammatory action of lavender has also been thought to be the cause for improvement in memory and cognitive performance in rats suffering from Alzheimer’s disease (Wells et al., 2018).

There have also been recorded benefits for increased healing of burns with topical application of lavender extracts that possess antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties (Wells et al., 2018). Although there is no evidence of lavender use directly associated with tissue regeneration or reduction in scarring, it may alleviate manifestations of skin disorders like dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis (Cavanagh & Wilkinson, 2002).

It has been proposed that compounds in English lavender interact with areas in the central nervous system, treating symptoms of anxiety and insomnia. Silexan is a capsule form of English lavender that has shown promising effects in treating these symptoms, preventing the need for traditional, synthetic medications that come with undesirable side effects (Wells et al., 2018). However, in one study a few participants experienced some side effects, such as infection, digestive upset, and nervous system disorders.

Linalool, a compound in L. angustifolia Mill. has revealed favourable effects in rodents that experienced increased relaxation, lowered blood pressure, improvement in appetite and body mass, and lower energy consumption through inhalation. In mice it’s also been observed to drive social activity and deter aggressive behaviour, and similar results have also been found in dogs and horses (Wells et al., 2018).

Research on the use of lavender for analgesia has shown positive outcomes in relieving menstrual and labour cramps, suggesting it may function successfully as an alternative or complement to conventional drugs when used in massage oil (Wells et al., 2018). Linalyl acetate and 1,8-cineole are compounds identified to produce this pain-relieving effect, and studies have revealed lavender also contains diuretic properties (Cavanagh & Wilkinson, 2002).

Topical use of L. angustifolia Mill. has also been indicated for the purpose of hair re-growth among those suffering from alopecia, cancer, and chemotherapy treatment (Cavanagh & Wilkinson, 2002).

Harvesting and Processing Techniques

Modern research of lavender species aims to alter the genetics of plants to improve the yield of valuable essential oils (Wells et al., 2018) The summer season from June to August is when harvesting of lavender occurs since this is when the plant blooms. The stems of flowering plants are cut and hung upside down to dry for days before the conventional steam distillation method is carried out. There is a newer process of steam distillation from the United States that involves eliminating the drying stage and integrating the steps of harvesting, cutting, and grinding, which aims to increase yields. This “green-ground” system is made possible through the development of innovative machines that transport a distilling vat throughout lavender fields. Supplementary processes have emerged to extract essential oils from lavender, such as microwave, ultrasound, turbo hydrodistillation, and supercritical carbon dioxide fluid extraction. Depending on the method of extraction chosen, the makeup of the essential oils will vary, where essential oils will contain more terpenes through steam distillation (Lesage-Meessen et al., 2015).

Steam distillation is the most common method of processing lavender and extracting the coveted essential oils, mostly from the blossoms, but also leaves (Cavanagh & Wilkinson, 2002). This method is employed for about 90% of the essential oils produced globally and is preferred for commercial production. The oil glands of the calyx are targeted in this process to release their extracts, then heated so the oil becomes vapourized. The oil is subsequently cooled and condensed so it can be collected on top of water, which has a higher density (Radwan et al., 2020).

Figure 10. English lavender harvesting – Image Source: Jakob Fischer


Market Status

The market for English lavender products is booming with popular essential oils contributing 1500 tons to an estimated $7.5 billion per annum international essential oil market by 2018. Lavender cultivation creates an enormous market of global profit through the diverse use of its compounds in medicine, cosmetics, pest control, perfumery, culinary, aromatherapy, and more. Following 2013, the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of essential oils was almost 6%, with Bulgaria leading production of essential oil, followed by France. South Africa, Italy, Brazil, New Zealand, Argentina, India, Australia, the USA, and Russia are other countries that have seized the opportunity to profit from the wide scale essential oil industry (Wells et al., 2018). Lavender essential oil cost spans between $118 cad/kg to $209 cad/kg according to harvesting data from 2012 (Lesage-Meessen et al., 2015).

Figure 11. Various lavender products   –  Image Source: Margarita0192



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This plant profile was an assignment created for BOT*2000 – Plants, Biology and People for the University of Guelph. I would like to take the opportunity to give a whole-hearted thanks to Professor Jayasankar Subramanian (University of Guelph) for recommending my work for publishing in Spiritual Botany and taking the time to edit it. I also express my appreciation and gratitude to Professor Praveen Saxena, the Editor of Spiritual Botany, who provided the opportunity and honour for publishing.


About the Author:

Nicole Ramsay is an undergraduate student at the University of Guelph pursuing a degree in zoology and hoping to work in conservation. She has worked for years as a dental hygienist, striving to improve the health of others and made the decision to switch careers over her lifelong passion of nature. Nicole is married, has three dogs, and enjoys being outdoors. She stays active with yoga and aerial silks, and is an avid gardener. Her love of nature has also led her to volunteer at a wildlife rehabilitation centre caring for sick, injured, and orphaned local wildlife.


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