Many people around the globe use essential oils for various purposes including aromatherapy, skin care, and even cooking. One of the most widely used essential oils is lavender, and this is mainly due to its versatility and pleasant scent.
However, as you may have noticed, varying names usually come up when you search about lavender essential oils or check the label of your essential oil bottle. This isn't strange at all because 1) there are about nine lavender species and 2) people call this plant differently in various parts of the world. Nevertheless, it can be quite confusing as you can't be certain which is which. That is why it's best to refer to them using their Latin names.
Taxonomy and nomenclature
Taxonomy is the science of classifying and describing various organisms including plants and animals. It also covers the behaviors, morphology, and genetics of such organisms. Nomenclature, on the other hand, is the naming of things that are grouped together.
Latin is used to name different organisms since it's the universal language, and these names typically consist of two parts — for example, Lavendula angustifolia. Thus, it is called a Latin binomial.
The first part usually states the genus, and it is always written with a capital letter. Meanwhile, the second part indicates the species or the characteristics. It is always written in lowercase, and it is always an adjective.
5 Lavender species used as essential oils
As mentioned earlier, there are around nine species of lavender. However, only five of them are used in aromatherapy.
1. Lavendula angustifolia
More popularly known as true lavender, L. angustifolia has been used for thousands of years. It is also the most commonly harvested lavender species and considered to have the best aroma. Thus, it is often used in skin care, aromatherapy, and cooking. Characterized by narrow leaves and a single stem, L. angustifolia is proven to be safe for personal use.
2. Lavendula latifolia
L. latifolia is better known as spike lavender. It has broad leaves that are blue gray in color, and it usually grows in lower altitudes. Moreover, this lavender species is able to produce a very high yield. Due to its high camphor content, it is traditionally used for headaches and dyspepsia, and it's great for colds as well.
3. Lavendula stoechas
This lavender species is simply called stoechas or sometimes Spanish lavender. It's quite a hardy plant as it can grow on sand and in between rocks. Stoechas can do wonders for your headache. However, because of its really high camphor content, it's not advisable for kids.
4. Lavendula x intermedia
Also known as lavandin, L. x intermedia is a hybrid of two lavender species: L. angustifolia and L. latifolia. This lavender species is not capable of reproducing naturally, but because of its high yield, it is great for commercial production. Typically grown in lower altitudes, L. x intermedia is characterized with a three-pronged stem. It is usually regarded as a lavender species with a lower quality, and its smell is considered to be not as sweet as true lavender.
5. Lavendula x spica
Simply called spica, this lavender species is a hybrid of L. latifola and L. dentata. It is often used in landscaping, but L. x spica has recently found its way in essential oils too.
It definitely pays to know the different species of lavender used in essential oils. This way, you can be sure that the products you're applying or taking in are really safe for you.