Lavenders Compared: Pure Therapeutic High Altitude, 40/42, and Lavandin

The use of plants as medicine predates written human history. One can speculate with some authority that the herb lavender is one such plant. Its beneficial qualities and uses have been recorded throughout the millenniums, first in floggings, smudges, salves and infusions, then as essential oil distilled from the plant's flowering tops. Lavender's genus name comes from the Latin lavare, to wash, and for thousands of years it has been used in purification rituals and health regimens that call for antiseptic and deodorizing qualities. During World War I, lavender was used for cleaning wounds and hospitals. When King Tutankhamen’s tomb was excavated, the scent of lavender was still strong after 3000 years.

Lavender is a flower that can reduce inflammation and swelling, alleviate insomnia, work as a natural bug repellant, quicken the healing of minor burns, decrease muscle pain and calm nerves. It's a tonic for the whole human system. Lavender is still used to alter mood, cognitive, psychological and physical wellbeing. Few people are unfamiliar with its sweet fragrance. What starts out herbaceous, with a hint of eucalyptus, becomes more flowery as it evolves. Lavender's scent is sweeter, less herbaceous, when grown at high altitude. True lavender oil remains highly valued as a perfume essence and is used extensively in scents for men and women. People are often surprised to learn that more men’s products are formulated with lavender than women’s. It is one of the few scent oils that blend well with almost any other scent.

Synthetic and Artificial Fragrance - Lavender for the Masses

Synthetic fragrance was born at the turn of the last century. Prior to that, fragrances beyond farm and roadside pickings were the privilege of the wealthy. Fragrance was an upper class luxury. Lavender's popularity among nobility has been well recorded. That popularity no doubt contributed to the attack lavender sustained from the forces of laboratory duplication beginning just over a century ago with the development of synthetic fragrance.

Lavender, like so much of the scent encountered in our daily lives, has changed so dramatically in the last hundred years that many people no longer recognize the real thing. The world of natural odors has been overrun by a proliferation of duplicitous, unnatural wanna-bees, and this oversaturation of counterfeit scent has lessened our ability to appreciate more subtle and complex natural scents. Our food, personal care products and spaces are packed with chemicals masquerading as nature. So what you think smells like lavender might be the scream of a narrow partial scent. Real lavender may be more multifarious, or smaller than remembered, if you've been able to retain a familiarity with authentic lavender scent at all. Worse still, many people no longer trust scented products in a general sense. People have rubbed synthetic chemicals into their skin (their body's largest organ) until their bodies' revolted. Ditto the population's overwhelmed olfactory systems. It's been said that modern man is on a scent binge. "Fragrance" makes many uncomfortable and often triggers minor dis-ease symptoms like allergies, hives or headache. Sometimes fragrance can cause more serious and debilitating illness. Many fragrance-sensitive people must learn to actively defend themselves from the onslaught of carcinogens, hormone disruptors, and who-knows-what-chemicals that invade worksites and public spaces in the name of perfume or "fresh" cleaning scents. Yuck! Understand that when you read "fragrance” within a list of ingredients, even if it says "natural" fragrance, the actual chemical content remains unknown. The word fragrance denotes a proprietary formula. Manufacturers are not required to disclose. There can be hundreds of ingredients behind the word "fragrance." As consumers grow in sophistication, some claim that fragrance has become the dumping ground for every chemical-of-concern manufacturers don't want consumers to see. In any form, the word "fragrance" is synonymous with synthetic.

The modern introduction of fragrance coincides with an explosion and escalation of minor skin problems and more serious skin and respiratory ailments like eczema, psoriasis and asthma. Even more troubling are the dangerous health disorders like cancer and autism that have not been linked to environmental toxins, but their rise parallels the introduction of chemical proliferation. Industry denies culpability. They rigorously defend against any wrong doing. Synthetic skincare product manufacturers produce product to satisfy market demand, and consumers vote with their pocketbooks. Truer words were never spoken. It's up to consumers to understand what they are buying. Fragrance products comply with legal standards. Perhaps there is no justifiable link between fragrance and illness. Alas, American consumers do not know, since little independent testing has been done. 

There are commercial incentives to glaze over this information. Throughout various industries, companies use synthetics or inexpensive essential oils to keep prices low. (We'll get into various qualities of essential oils below.) Lower prices mean companies can undercut their competition. Companies can also increase profit margins by tricking unaware consumers. They pass off an inexpensive essential oil as its pure and expensive therapeutic cousin.

The question becomes: Is it possible that modern cultures pay too high a price for the luxury of so much affordable fragrance? Our answer is yes. sammysoap knows that all natural is best. Organically pure, high altitude, therapeutic lavender is superior, to be sure, but we offer other lavender essential oil options in our store and soap formulas, too. Not everyone can afford the best on any particular day. Better to make one small step today. Perhaps today you step away from a detergent product scented with "natural fragrance" and begin to use a real soap that is fragrance-free. Tomorrow, you commit to using only real soap always. Next thing you know, you've realized the significance of organic ingredients in healthcare products and decided to use only therapeutic quality essential oils. There's a fine line between educating and overwhelming our customers, but sammysoap is committed to personal service and your health. We want to meet you where you are now.

sammysoap uses only real lavender flowers and lavender essential oils in our products. We never use synthetic ingredients, and we believe in labeling transparency. 

Commercial Lavenders

There are significant cost and availability factors associated with the different essential oils within a species—from cousin to cousin, if you will. The three species of lavender most used in soaps and cosmetics are lavandin (Lavandula x hybrid), Lavandula latifolia (“spike lavender”) and Lavandula angustifolia (“true lavender”).

The essential oils from these plants have subtle but varying chemical compositions that might be used differently if customers understood their distinctions. They are all safe. They are all real lavenders. We love and use them all, but they are different.


Lavandin Lavandula x intermedia is a sterile hybrid plant developed by crossing true lavender L. angustifolia with spike lavender L. latifolia. As with L. angustifolia there are lots of varieties of lavandin. The most common for oil production is “Grosso”. That's what we use. Others are Super, Sussex, Soumian and Abrialis. Lavender has always been known as highly purifying. Lavandin, however, has the highest percentage of camphor of any lavender species, between 5-12%, making it the most purifying and deodorizing lavender. For burn treatment lavandin is actually contraindicated because of its high camphor content. Camphor is a chemical constituent that you don’t want near a burn. Lavandin has been used to sterilize animal cages in veterinary clinics and hospitals throughout the world. However, despite its amazing powers of purification, lavandin is not generally as healing as pure, therapeutic Lavandula angustifolia. Nor is it as sweet. Lavandin is more herbaceous than high altitude lavender which is more floral. Lavandin is not a substitute for L. angustifolia. Lavandin is not worse, or lesser, than other lavenders. It is just different. Various species each have their own unique qualities. Aromatherapy uses of lavandin are similar to true lavender but more penetrating. Its scent is stronger. Camphor has a direct, penetrating scent that gives it a gutsy, medicinal aroma. Some prefer it but most do not. However, if you have a cold, the camphor will provide more benefit, and lavandin repels insects like mosquitos, moths, carpet beetles and ants better than L. angustifolia. Lavandin is considered beneficial for inflammation, respiratory and circulatory conditions. It is also helps fight germs.

Lavandin plants produce more oil than L. angustifolia. The plants are larger and yield more and larger flowers. The same acreage and amount of work produces three times the oil. Therefore, lavandin is less expensive. Its lesser cost does not mean it is a lesser quality lavender, just a different quality. It stands alone. Lavandin is commonly used in soap. We use it in our opening price soaps to offer the healing benefits of lavender at affordable luxury. sammysoap Blue Smooth, Blue Oat and Lavender Flower are formulated with lavandin and deliver an elevated bathing experience—heavenly scent and sumptuous lather. The scent is penetrating, the the soaps are moisturizing, soothing, strengthening, refreshing and calming. We also use Lavandin in our Athlete's Bar and Mosquito Soap.

Lavender 40/42

Lavender 40/42 is a standardized essential oil that is commonly used throughout the perfume and fragrance industry. The oil has a consistent aroma from lot to lot. I have never seen an ingredient listing identify the blend as Lavender 4/42. You’ll only see it as Lavandula angustifolia, but unless the lavender is identified as "pure, therapeutic" Lavandula angustifolia, you can be certain it’s L. angustifolia 40/42. (Lavandula Grosso is lavandin.) The numbers in Lavender 40/42 indicate the linalyl acetate content. In this case, they indicate the product contains 40%-42% linalyl acetate. Lavender 40/42 is generally a blend of various lavenders in order to get a consistent scent from batch to batch, with processors adding linalyl acetate to cover the smell of camphor or borneol components of a given lavender. Customers sometimes prefer Lavender 40/42 because it smells the way they believe lavender should smell and it's fairly inexpensive, about half the price of the pure, therapeutic lavender. Lavender 40/42 is the best selling lavender oil for many companies. Linalol is the active component of lavender that contains therapeutic benefits, but blended lavender essential oils are lower in overall therapeutic qualities than pure, therapeutic essential oil for a variety of reasons to do with distillation processes and transport.

Also interesting to note: country of origin distinctions have also been manipulated for marketing purposes, just like the actual oils. France exports more lavender than they produce, importing a significant quantity of lavender and blending it with their production. So much for "French Lavender". These blended scents are less refined, but I compare blended lavender to blended wine—blended wines are not considered inferior to varietal wines, just different. Some people prefer blends. We use Lavender 40/42 in our mid-range soaps to offer a wider range of lavenders, including the sharp lavender aroma customers have come to expect. The scent is soothing and inviting. sammysoap French Lavender Chamomile, Lavender Patchouli, White Lavender, and White Lavender Oat will leave you pampered and satisfied. They will satisfy all but true purists.

Pure, Therapeutic, Organic High Altitude Lavandula angustifolia

Purists understand subtle differences. Connoisseurs appreciate them. And so we arrive at pure, therapeutic, organic lavender essential oil distilled from the flowers of Lavandula angustifolia. This is the classic, high altitude lavender known in aromatherapy. Its oil is strongly floral and highly effective in treatment. Organic, High Altitude Lavandula angustifolia is the highest-grade lavender for therapeutic purposes and is the only lavender sammysoap uses in premium bar soaps and collections. L. angustifolia is grown in many countries, and location is important for reasons such as climate and type of soil. The best in 2014, 2015, and so far in 2016, hails from Bulgaria. Connoisseurs want essential oils distilled on the farm where the plants were grown. Pure, therapeutic lavender is always gentle and healing. It has a camphor rate of less than one percent, making it effectively soothing for delicate skin tissue. The natural habitat for pure, therapeutic Lavandula angustifolia is high altitude, over 3000 feet. This gives it small, greyish purple flowers and a very sweet flora aroma, complex and subtle, wonderful alone, or easily blended with everything from spice to citrus. Any unstandardized oil will naturally vary in chemical composition depending on the growing conditions and weather. Reputable growing agents know the exact day and even what time of day their crops should be harvested for maximum benefit. Like fine wine, lavender oil will change as it ages, and with a shelf life up to five years it can improve during its bottled lifespan if kept in a cool, dark environment. There exists a slightly different aroma profile with each batch. In its pure, unadulterated form, this lavender oil stands apart from its cousin lavenders, consistently earning the respect of perfumers and aromatherapists who understand its extensive range of therapeutic applications. Headaches may disappear when you massage a tiny amount of lavender on your temples or the nape of your neck. A drop of lavender can clean and ease the pain of a burn or cut. Lavender soothes all skin types and treats skin problems—acne, scars, blisters, abscesses, furuncles, warts, eczema, and sunburns. It is a deodorizing, antiseptic, anti-fungal, insect repelling, rejuvenating, and anti-inflammatory. Oh, and did I mention that it calms, relaxes, and soothes? Some would say real lavender improves its user.

Have fun with lavender! Experiment. People and pets universally respond to lavender's scent and healing oil. You'll discover that which ever lavenders you try, true lavender and lavender essential oil is welcome in any environment.

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