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Tenerife herbs: Canary Lavender has no perfume
"Lavender's blue" goes the old rhyme but I always think it is more of a purple-blue or lilac, however, whatever colour its flowers are it is certainly a very well known herb. Lavender is so popular because of its powerful scent and gets used to make pot-pourri, in perfumes and in lavender bags.
What isn't so widely known is that the Canary Islands have their own endemic species, which in Spanish is known as Mato Risco or Lavanda, whilst botanists would recognise the plant as Lavandula canariensis.
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Canary Lavender photo
Canary Lavender is found growing on the islands of Tenerife, Gran Canaria, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro. It tends to be found on waste ground, coastal areas, hillsides and dry, rocky ground. When it flowers in spring it is very noticeable because of the colourful clumps of foliage and blossoms it creates that stand out vividly against the surrounding scrub-land.
Canary Lavender is just as pretty as the Common Lavender (L. angustifolia), and as well as its purplish-blue flower-heads it also has dainty pinnate leaves. Attractive as it may be the Canary Lavender loses points for not having any perfume to it though.
Nevertheless, Canary Lavender has many uses in traditional folk medicine of the Canary Islands. It is a common herb with a lot of medicinal properties.
David Bramwell, in his book Medicinal Plants of the Canary Islands, says the plant can be used as a relaxant, to reduce fevers, and as a carminative vermifuge (to expel parasitic worms). He also states it has anti-parasitic and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as being potentially of use in preventing and combating cancer.
Infusions of the whole Canary Lavender plant are used to treat stomach problems and to bring down fevers. In this form it can be used to disinfect the skin and also taken internally to drive out parasites.
The leaves and flowers that have been steeped in olive oil make Lavender Oil that can be used in massage treatments for relaxing the muscles and relieving aches and pains. The dried plant can be stuffed into herb pillows and is thought to help fight insomnia and to relax anyone using it.
It can also be used as a remedy for insect bites and stings.
Other species of Lavender
The Canary Lavender is not the only species found in the Canary Islands. The species L. buchii, L. minutolii and L. pinnata are also natives of the islands but have a much smaller range of distribution.
The much better known Common Lavender and the French Lavender (L. stoechas) are also commonly seen growing in gardens. These plants are, of course, very popular in British herb gardens as well as being grown in many parts of the world.
Culinary uses of Lavender
Lavenders can also be used in the kitchen. Flowers can be used to add colour and flavour to sugar used in making cakes, biscuits, meringues, ice-creams and other desserts, and they can be added to jams, marmalades and vinegars.
Lavender blossoms can be tied in muslin bags and cooked with blackcurrants and other soft fruit, according to Jessica Houdret's The Ultimate Book of Herbs & Herb Gardening, which is a book I can personally highly recommend.
Lavender is a herb that certainly has very many uses as well as being a pretty flower.
Copyright © 2011 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.
Tenerife herbs hub links
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