Origin

Lavender consists of the flowers of Lavandula vera, a small shrub, growing wild in the South of Europe, and cultivated everywhere in gardens The flowers are arranged around a terminal flower-stem, forming long, slender spikes. These are cut at the commencement of their flowering in August, and tied in bundles, which are sold both fresh and dried.

Sensible Properties. The separated flowers are small, blue, and of a remarkably fragrant odour, which they retain long after being dried, sometimes even for years. Their taste is warm, aromatic and bitterish. Though they yield their virtues in a moderate degree to water, alcohol is a much more efficient solvent.

Chief Constituents. The flowers contain a volatile oil, a bitter principle, and tannic acid. Though all of these have some activity, the virtues of the medicine depend mainly upon the volatile oil. This is obtained by distillation with water. It is very light, and of a pale lemon-yellow colour, with the fragrance of the flowers, and a burning aromatic taste.

Medical Properties and Uses

Lavender has the properties of the aromatics, with a feeble tonic power, and probably a slight stimulant influence upon the nervous system. Its odour alone is often refreshing in languor and general uneasiness; and it is probably more employed in reference to its fragrant properties, than internally as a medicine. Some of its preparations, however, are in considerable vogue.

The Volatile Oil (Oleum Lavandulae, U. S.), which is also officinal in the British Pharmacopoeia, though the flowers are not, may be given internally in nervous headache and languor, as well as for its cordial aromatic properties, in the dose of from one to five drops. It is, however, much more used in the form of alcoholic solution.

The Spirit of Lavender (Spiritus Lavandulae, U. S.) is made, according to the officinal directions, by distilling alcohol from the flowers; but much more commonly by simply dissolving the oil in alcohol, in the proportion of a fluidounce to a gallon; and the latter mode of preparation is recognized in the British Pharmacopoeia. Made in the former method, it is more agreeably fragrant. The lavender water of the shops is usually a solution of the oil of lavender, with some other aromatic oils, in alcohol. Spirit of lavender is useful in the sick room for its grateful and refreshing odour. It may be given internally for the relief of nervous headache, languor, and depression of spirits, in the dose of one or two fluidrachms; but its frequent use might lead to intemperate habits, by originating a fondness for the alcoholic ingredient; and it should not, therefore, be incautiously prescribed. The following is a far more popular preparation.

The Compound Spirit of Lavender (Spiritus Lavandulae Com-positus, U.S.; Tinctura Lavandulae Composita, Br.) is made, according to the U. S. Pharmacopoeia of 18G0, by dissolving the oils of lavender and rosemary in alcohol, percolating with the solution a mixture of powdered cinnamon, cloves, nutmegs, and red Saunders, and adding, towards the close of the operation, enough diluted alcohol to give a certain measure to the percolated fluid. When duly prepared, it is a delightful compound of the spices, of which the lavender is not the most important. It is much used in gastric uneasiness, flatulence, colicky pains, nausea, general languor, faintness, depression of spirits, and slight hysterical disorder. But the same caution is necessary, in prescribing it, as mentioned in reference to the preceding preparation. It is much employed popularly, under the name of lavender compound, and, it is to be feared, not unfrequently when there is no real occasion. It is one of the best additions to mixtures, in order to recommend them to the taste and the stomach. Its red colour is sometimes of advantage, in otherwise colourless preparations, as in the solution of arsenite of potassa or Fowler's solution, by preventing their being mistaken for water. The dose is from thirty minims to a (fluidrachm.