Sunday, 24 April 2011

Lavender potions


This enchanting photographic composition by Sherry Hicks precisely illustrates the traditional uses of lavender. No, it’s not French. The scales are clearly emblazoned Old Kentucky Home, but the picture has a universal quality. It’s about correct quantities in the countryside where the inhabitants would use whatever natural produce was at hand for both cooking and home-made remedies.

Beyond the use of lavender in perfumery, there’s hardly an ailment that lavender can’t cure, it seems. There are potions and infusions for nervous emergencies, and for ailments ranging from asthma to fever, nasal congestion, fainting to stomach disorders, headaches to rheumatisms.

In old Provence, an influenza cure was made by boiling a litre of water to which was added a whole fifty grams of flowers, left to infuse for several hours. It would then be reheated, and the patient (as if they hadn’t suffered enough) made to drink it all straight down. They would sweat profusely, and have to run for the outside privy, but the potion was deemed to have a potent effect on the body.


To maintain his health, Napoleon is supposed to have swilled two bottles of lavender essence a day month. It's claimed he even drank it before rising from his campaign bed and appearing on the battlefield! I suspect this heroic consumption may have been encouraged by the level of preserving alcohol in his favourite brew… 

There is a more traditional recipe for lavender aperitif that is based on lavender flowers marinated in white wine. After a week it is filtered, and sweetened with sugar and honey before it is bottled. It’s an acquired taste, rather like the lavender ice-creams and crème brulées served in summer. (A few teaspoons are enough for me: one of the few times when I feel the interest lies in tasting what is essentially an interesting idea rather than actually wanting to eat it. The same goes for the lavender biscuits sold in Apt market.)

My choice would be to mix it into a homemade pot-pourri to perfume the house: allow lavender flowers, thyme flowers and mint leaves to dry, then add several cloves and place in open bowls.


And to dream a while, here is photographer Hans Silvester’s picture book Lavender, Fragrance of Provence, a fine sourcebook should you be searching for that perfect field in which to sit and embrace a perfumed world.

Sherry Hicks writes The Shanty Girl blog here  – as she puts it, searching for the balance between rust and glamour, with a dash of Provence in Texas.

32 comments:

Kenza said...

Happy Easter! Joyeuses Pâques Deborah!
Et plein de bisous chocolatés

Lynne Rees said...

Hi Deborah - the strangest lavender taste I've come across was lavender fudge. Yes! A friend brought it over from Norfolk - it was a bit like eating soap... but I still ate it!

The essential oil is great for burns, used neat and immediately.

Lauracea said...

Coming from Norfolk I have lavender in my blood. There's nothing so beautiful as a field of blooming lavender - beats anything. If you have a bush in your garden it attracts butterflies and bees, it's a real joy (as well as a lovely scent). I can't imagine drinking it though! And thank you for the pot-pourri mix, I'm going to try that.

MuMuGB said...

Hi Deborah! And the latest craze in France is lavender ice cream...

Danièle said...

Thank you Debbie I shall certainly try you pot pourri recipe. My lavander has been very badly hit by the cold this year in Dublin, sadly.

ShantyGirl said...

I want to sit in the field in the last picture posted!! I will have to take a look at that book. I would love to incorporate lavender in some remedies and smell goods for the home. Thank you for sharing my photo and your post are always lovely and very intriquing.
Sherry

Janel said...

Happy Easter, Deborah! I have tried several flower flavored treats, with elderberry flower syrup mixed with seltzer water as my favorite. I imagine the lavender treats are very interesting indeed!

Richard said...

Les plus beaux champs de lavandes sont, à mon avis, à Sault, et surtout sur le plateau de Valensole. Une merveille fin juin/début juillet.
La lavande aux mille vertus. Mais, tu en as oublié une: Si tu te fais piquer par une guêpe ou un autre insecte, frotte un brin de lavande sur la piqure et tu seras instantanément calmée.
Voilà. Bonne fin de dimanche, Deborah!

James Kiester said...

I've seen a Tea Shop that sells Lavender Lemonade. I haven't tried it yet, but perhaps I will now. Happy Easter. :-)

Kenya D. Williamson said...

What have I been eating all these years? I've yet to ingest any lavender! Thanks for the wonderful photos, Deborah. When I see lavender on the menu, I'll think of you -- and take small bites. ;) Happy Easter!

Adiante said...

La lavande est vraiment synonyme de Provence ...

✿ ♥ France ✿ ✿ said...

BOnnes fêtes ma belle
BISE

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Happy Easter, Deborah!

In my past life in marketing, I launched a lavender (+chamomile) scented baby product line. Lavender definitely adds a relaxing touch. :)

...louciao... said...

In my youth, I considered lavender an old lady type of scent. Now that I am of a "certain age" I have been smitten by its subtle charms, including lavender shortbread made at Christmas.

Omoy said...

looove the post I went antiquing yesterday looking for apothecary bottles. I'll be brewing up some cough syrup it's my grandmothers recipe one of my brew involves lavender. Napoleon was wise about his lavender again love the post:)

Miel et Lait said...

Happy Easter!

I once worked at a restaurant that served Lavender Creme Brulee. I didn't get to try it, but I heard it was divine!

Linda said...

what a fabulous post....i adore lavender but cannot imagine that 'medicine' made from it....the book needs to be on my coffee table immediately...i too am a lover of potpourri but use rose petals from my english roses mixed in and never thought of adding the thyme, mind with the lavender-brilliant idea! wonderful post, thank you for sharing. xx

Elizabeth Young said...

I absolutely adore lavender, it is my favourite of all perfumes. I also make it into potpourri and last year made a wonderful peach/lavender jelly. Too good! I also find that lavender really does destress, the eye pillows are amazing...

le blÖg d'Ötli said...

Des images parfumées ! Quelle belle idée ! Je ne connaissais pas toutes ces vertus de la lavande... qui reste pour moi le parfum des tiroirs de la maison... depuis mon enfance, grâce à des petits sacs, regarnis chaque année.

Airelle said...

Yesterday I tasted few other plants macerated in white wine. what a good idea!
Joyeuses Pâques!

Pétales de fées said...

Thank you for all that information about lavender! The photographs are beautiful! I especially love the fields covered with lavender flowers can be seen in the Drôme Provençale! I make all the years of shuttle lavender flowers that I slide under the clothes in the closets, it is always a delight!
Beautiful evening

Robyn said...

I just went to a brewery in New Albany, Indiana, where they have a pommes fritte appetizer with various things to dip your french fries in, including lavender oil. I was deeply skeptical about the lavender oil, but it was so perfect with the french fries. Mmmm, justs thinking about it.

Lindsay said...

Lavender creme brulee. Now that is heaven. One teaspoon at a time.

Lisa Erin said...

I picked up some lavender sugar in the shop of an English tea room I used to visit. It was...interesting. The volume of herb to sugar was low enough to be palatable.

Lavender is one of my favorite things. I find its scent so relaxing. I have an eye pillow filled with it. The best natural remedy I've found for my headaches...I just lie back and put it over my eyes.

The White House said...

I love lavender; I keep the uses down to perfume and scented pillows. The one and only time I ate it in a yoghurt had a disturbing effect on my stomach lol!

Shirl x

Wine and Words said...

Deborah, thank you for visiting my blog and pulling up a chair! It's a nice circle of folks. Sounds like I need to plant me some lavender :)

Jennifer said...

I love the scent of lavender. I recently tasted lavender flavored ice cream and I must say it was very good. The photos you have included are beautiful as always.

Olga said...

Thank you for the wonderful post! I love lavender honey and everything with lavender. Hans Silvester’s photos are marvelous.

BookGeek said...

I had the pleasure of walking in a lavender field once in New Zealand. It was gorgeous and so fragrant. Lovely post, Deborah!

Judith van Praag said...

Deborah, Your blog is a joy to visit. We share more than a page on SheWrites ;-) I've stuffed lavender hearts (made of Liberty of London's floral fabric scraps) and presented people with those "sweet dreams" pillows. Lavender and rosemary are my favorite pick-me-up aroma's combined with grapefruit and peppermint.

rhi said...

My mum would always tell me Lavender would help me sleep, but it never did. Smells nice ;)

Divine In Mind said...

Oh my that evokes and odd mixture of emotions for me. In my mid-30's I battled cervical cancer and my husband would rub my feet nightly with lavender oil because he'd been told it would help my immune system. I beat the cancer, not sure if lavender had anything to do with it, but I can't smell it without thinking of that time of my life.

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