Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lavender and the Prevention of Stinky Feet

I visited a Neob Lavender Boutique and greenhouse in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada. After taking a really cool tour of the growing area, I spent some time sniffing out the history of these pretty flowers.

This herb has had many names over its 2500 year history, including Nardus (named after the city of Naardus in Syria), Spikenard (because of the shape of its flowers) and Lavender (after either the latin word ‘lavare’ which means to wash or ‘livendulo’ which means bluish.)

Lavender is mentioned over and over again in different cultures, time periods and places.

Ancient Egypt
King Tut had his own stash of lavender. We know this because they found some in his tomb. The Egyptians used lavender for perfumes, cosmetics and mummification but only royalty and rich people could afford it. The Egyptians even made special contraptions called stills so they could extract its oils.

Biblical Times
Lavender is mentioned many times in the bible but it was called spikenard. According to the bible, Mary wiped Jesus’ feet with an expensive ointment made of lavender.

Ancient Greece
The Greeks learned about lavender from the Egyptians. Where the Egyptians used the scent on their heads, the Greeks used it on their feet. That’s probably the better way to go since your feet usually stink a lot more than your head does…especially if those feet have been sweating in a pair of old running shoes all day.

The Greeks also explored the healing qualities of this plant.

Ancient Rome
The Romans took it a step further and bathed in lavender water. After all, if lavender helped stinky feet, why not smelly arm pits?

They put lavender in linen drawers and in their laundry. They even hung the flowers around the house…I can see where this would be especially in handy in the washroom.

The Romans really appreciated lavender’s healing and antiseptic qualities. It helped keep away insects because bugs hate the scent. A Greek military doctor under the rule of Emperor Nero studied the medical uses of this plant and found that it helped tummy aches, gas, sore throats and headaches. The Romans also used lavender to clean wounds and burns.

Some of the first types of lavender were probably grown by the Arabs. They used the plant for healing.

Look for my next post when I tell you gruesome lavender stories from the Great Plague and more.

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