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South of France Travel Guide to Luberon Coeur de Provence: Lavender Museum, Chateau du Bois
After exploring the medieval city of Lourmarin, we were excited to visit the Chateau du Bois Lavender Museum to pick up some great scented products. Little did we know, we would actually leave with an eye-opening education in the world of lavender, its beneficial properties, and how to spot the real from the fake!
The first thing we learned honestly blew our mind: The “true” lavender (aka lavande fine or fine lavender), can only be grown in specific regions in France, and this lavender is the only one with beneficial properties (more on those below).
There are many lavender-scented products sold in the U.S. and internationally which claim to help you relax, get to sleep, etc., but many of those are a hybrid plant (lavandine) which is much cheaper to cultivate and made only to simulate the scent of lavender, without any of its beneficial properties. Crazy, right?
The dark purple on the map above shows where the fine lavender is grown in France. Check for the “AOP” label to ensure that you’re buying the real deal! Others (in the light purple area) cultivate the hybrid lavadine, which has a similar scent but with none of the benefits. It’s cheaper to make, which is sadly driving out the real lavender industry.
Fine lavender in the form of 100% pure and natural essential oil is said to help with the following:
Insomnia (2-3 drops on your pillow)
Irritability (sprayed into the air)
Headaches (massage on temples)
Stress (5-6 drops in the bath)
Cuts, burns, bedsores, sunburn, insect bites (1-2 drops)
Eczema (2-3 drops on cotton wool smoothed on patch)
Colds (1-2 drops)
Sore throats (1-2 drops on sugar cube or spoonful of honey)
Cramps and rheumatism (rub in several drops)
These are the outfits that were worn to gather lavender centuries ago.
Copper still from the 16th century.
Fun fact: The method for distilling alcohol is the same as that for distilling essential oils like lavender. So provincial farmers would make alcohol in the winter and essential oils like lavender in the summer.
Napolean called for no tax on alcohol, but when that changed, French police shot holes in the copper stills to make sure no one was secretly making it on their farm. This in turn affected the lavender industry since they were no longer able to use their stills for essential oil distillation either. In the pictures above you can see the bullet holes in the stills.
Hope you enjoyed learning about the lavender industry as much as we did! Be sure to check your lavender products for the A.O.P. label to make sure you’re getting the real deal!
Comment Challenge: Have you ever tried real lavender? How did you like it?