Lavender (Lavandula spp.)

— This article by Jerry Cates was first published on 23 October 2015, and revised last on 11 September 2016. © Budsinthenews Vol. 6:10(10).

English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). Source: Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen

English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). Source: Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen

 The lavenders (Lavandula spp.) comprise a genus of 25-30 species of flowering plants in the Lamiaceae (the mint family). All are native to the Mediterranean region southward to Africa and eastward to a number of regions in Asia. The genus includes annuals, herbs, and shrubs.

English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy. It yields an essential oil whose sweet overtones are favored in balms, salves, perfumes, cosmetics and other topical applications. In addition, the pure essential oil has been used internally to treat a variety of ailments, among them stress, anxiety, exhaustion, irritability, headaches (incl. migraines), insomnia, depression, colds, indigestion, flatulence, liver and gallbladder dysfunction, nervousness, loss of appetite. It is often used to freshen the breath as an additive to mouthwashes.

In a 2010 study conducted by Hui et al., a total of 47 compounds could be identified from essential oils derived from lavender. Of these, the most prominent was linalyl butyrate (1,5-Dimethyl-1-vinyl-4-hexenyl butyrate), which constituted 42.73% of the oil. This was followed by ocimine (1,3,7-Octatriene,3,7-dimethyl), constituting 25.1%, then Eucalyptol (7.32%), and Camphor (3.79%).

Linalyl butyrate (1,5-Dimethyl-1-vinyl-4-hexenyl butyrate):

Linalyl butyrate flavor ingredient

Linalyl butyrate, the most prominent chemical compound found in essential oil extracted from Lavandula angustifolia.

This chemical is variously known as linalyl butyrate, butanoic acid, 1-ethenyl-1,5-dimethyl-4-hexenyl ester; butyric acid, linalyl ester, 1,5-dimethyl-1-vinyl-4-hexenyl ester, and linalyl butanoate. With such a long list of synonyms, one would expect interesting results from digging deeper into its persona. However, its fame appears to attach mostly if not wholly to its aromatic qualities, which are important, as they are soothing to the nose, but are otherwise comprised of somewhat ho-hum characteristics.

Ocimene (1,3,7-Octatriene,3,7-dimethyl)

The ocimenes are often found naturally as mixtures of the various forms. Ocimene mixtures, as well as pure ocimene compounds, are oils with pleasant fragrances, with insecticidal, nematicidal, and fungicidal properties that defend the plant against attack from insects, nematodes, and fungi. They are used in perfumery and, as is also the case with the related acyclic terpene myrcene, are unstable as aerial evaporative chemicals. As with other terpenes, ocimenes are soluble in common organic solvents, including ethanol, but are practically insoluble in pure water.  They are named in honor of the plant genus Ocimum.

As alluded to above, the ocimenes are comprised of several isomeric monoterpene hydrocarbons that differ both structurally and stereoscopically. α-Ocimene differs structurally from the β-ocimenes in the position of the isolated double bond, such that it is terminal in the alpha isomer. α-Ocimene is cis-3,7-dimethyl-1,3,7-octatriene. β-Ocimene is trans-3,7-dimethyl-1,3,6-octatriene. β-Ocimene exists in two stereoisomeric forms, cis and trans, with respect to the central double bond. The ocimenes are often found naturally as mixtures of the various forms.

More to come…


  • Domain: Eukaryota (yew-carr-ee-OH-tah)  — from the Greek prefix ευ (yew) = good, well, pleasing + καρυον (khar-yone) = a nut/nucleus, thus organisms whose cells contain a nucleus and other organelles within membranes.
  • (unranked): Bikonta Cavalier-Smith, 1993 (bye-KOHN-tuh) — from the Latin bis = twice/double + the Greek κοντος = a punting pole; those eukaryotic organisms within the subgroups Apusozoa, Rhizaria, Excavata, Archaeplastida, or Chromalveolata.
  • (unranked): Archaeplastida Adl et al., 2005 (ahr-kee-PLASS-tih-duh) — from the Greek αρχαιος (AHR-kee-ose) = ancient/antiquated + πλασις (PLAS-iss) = a moulding + Anglo Saxon tid = time; a major group of eukaryotes, comprised of the red algae (Rhodophyta), the green algae, and the land plants along with the freshwater unicellular algae known as glaucophytes.
  • Kingdom/Regnum: Plantae Copeland, 1956 (PLAN-tee) or Viridiplantae Cavalier-Smith, 1881 (veer-id-eye-PLAN-tee) — from the Latin planta = a green twig; the plant kingdom, consisting of multi-cellular green plants, i.e., whose cells have cellulose within their cell walls and have primary chloroplasts derived from endosymbiosis with cyanobacteria containing chlorophylls a and b and lack phycobilins..
  • (unranked): Streptophyta Jeffrey 1967 (strepp-toh-PHY-tuh) — from στρεπτος (STREP-tose) = (easily) twisted, pliant + φυτον (PHU-tawn) = a plant/tree; the land plants and the green algal group Charophyta.
  • Subkingdom: Embryophyta Engler, 1892 (imm-bree-oh-FYE-tuh) — from the Greek εμβρυον (EMM-bree-yon) + φυτον (PHU-tawn) = a plant/tree; green plants, informally known as land plants because most are terrestrial rather than aquatic, while the related green algae are primarily aquatic;
  • (unranked): Angiosperms (AN-gee-oh-spurms)/Magnoliophyta Cronquist (mag-NOH-lee-oh-fye-tuh) — from the Greek αγγειον (AUGG-ee-awn) = a vessel/pail/reservoir + σπερμα (SPUR-mah) = a seed; the flowering plants, distinguished from the gymnosperms by having flowers, endosperm within the seeds, and the production of fruits that contain the seeds;
  • (unranked) Eudicots (YEW-dee-kotts) — from the Greek prefix ευ (yew) = good, well, pleasing + δι (die/dee) = two/double + κοτυληδων (cott-ee-LEE-dun) = a cup-shaped hollow; a monophyletic clade of flowering plants previously known as tricolpates or non-magnoliid dicots, to emphasize the evolutionary divergence of tricolpat dicots from earlier, less specialized dicots; close relationships are presumed among flowering plants with tricolpate pollen grains (the grains have three colpi, or elongated apertures or furrows in the pollen grain paralleling the polar axis);
  • (unranked) Asterids (ASS-tur-iddz) — from the Greek αστηρ (ASS-turr) = a star/meteor + the Latin suffix -idus (EE-duss) = indicative of having the nature of; one of the two most species group of eudicots (which have inflorescences having the appearance of a meteor or shooting star), the other being the rosids;
  • Order: Lamiales (lam-ee-AWL-ees) — the etymology of this designation is obscure; comprised of asterids generally having a superior ovary composed of two fused carpels, inflorescences with four petals fused into a tube, bilaterally symmetrical, often bilabial corollas, and four or fewer fertile stamens;
  • Family: Lamiaceae (lam-ee-ACE-uh-ee) — the etymology of this designation is obscure; comprised of the mint or deadnettle family of flowering plants containing about 236 genera and some 6,900 to 7,534 species, many aromatic in all parts, others being shrubs, trees (incl. teak), and some vines;
  • Subfamily: Nepetoideae (nepp-uh-TOY-duh-ee) — from the Latin noun nepeta = catnip, a kind of mint; a subfamily of the mint family divided into four tribes: 1. Tribe Elsholtzieae, 2. Tribe Lavanduleae (includes lavender), 3. Tribe Mentheae (the largest tribe, containing the herbs sage, thyme, and mint), and 4. Tribe Ocimeae (includes sweet basil);
  • Tribe: Lavanduleae (lave-ann-dyu-LAY-ee)
  • Genus: Lavandula L. (lave-ANN-dyu-lah) — a genus of flowering plants comprised of 39 recognized species, native to Europe, from Cape Verde and the Canary Islands across Europe and south to Africa, the Mediterranean, Asia, and India;
  • Species: L. angustifolia L. — from the Latin angustus = narrow/confined + folium = leaf, thus narrow-leaved; the species is known as English lavender, common lavender, narrow-leaved lavender, and true lavender, formerly L. officinalis for its medicinal properties; a pungently aromatic, flowering shrub with pink and purple (lavender-colored) flowers native to the Mediterranean, primarily the Pyrenees and mountainous northern Spain; commonly grown as an ornamental, popular for its colorful flowers and their fragrance, and hardy disposition that enables survival in low temperatures and dry, acidic soils (though it favors neutral or alkaline soils);

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