Lavender (lavandula, Linn.), a genus of hoary, narrow-leaved, fragrant, sub-shrubby or perennial-herbaceous plants, of the natural order labiates, indigenous to the south of Europe, the Canaries, N. Africa, etc. Both the common and botanical names are derived from the latin lavare, to wash, either on account of the use made of the distilled water in bathing, or because the flowers were used to scent newly washed linen, whence the expression to be " laid up in lavender." There are several species, but two only which are economically employed. The common lavender (L. vera, Linn.) has been long known in gardens, and in deep, dry, warm soil it forms a compact hemispherical bush, flowering abundantly every year. Its flowers are lilac or purple, though a white-flowered variety is known. In the climate of New York it is scarcely hardy, but in the vicinity of Philadelphia considerable quantities are grown for market. The dried flowers are used to make sachets or scent-bags for perfuming drawers, and the fresh flowers distilled with alcohol furnish the officinal spirits of lavender. By distillation with water they yield the fragrant oil of lavender, extensively used in perfumery. The lavender is easily propagated from cuttings, which often send up flower stalks the same season.
The second kind, sometimes called French lavender, and sometimes spike or broad-leaved lavender, is L. spica. Its oil, called oil of spike, is employed by painters on porcelain and in the preparation of varnishes for artists. The plant has the habit of the common lavender, but more humble and the aspect more hoary, the spikes more dense and shorter; it yields by distillation twice as much essential oil as the preceding. The sweet basil is frequently called lavender in our gardens; it belongs to the same natural order, but to a different genus. (See Basil.) - Lavender is considered an aromatic stimulant, but is seldom used in medicine alone. The compound spirit of lavender is prepared with oil of lavender, oil of rosemary, cinnamon, cloves, nutmegs, and red saunders, with alcohol and water. This is frequently employed as an adjuvant to other drugs, or as a remedy for gastric disturbance or faintness. From 30 drops to a teaspoonful may be given with sweetened water or on a lump of sugar. In cases of inflammation of the stomach it should be cautiously administered.