When you think of lavender, the first thing that comes to mind is soap with the typical flowery smell. Many people do not know that lavender is considered edible. Since the ingredients within the varieties are concentrated at different levels, caution is advised when using them in the kitchen. In addition to Lavandula angustifolia, spike lavender and French lavender come into consideration as culinary herbs under certain aspects.
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Tolerance is species dependent
Although all types of lavender are considered non-toxic, not all herbs are fully edible. While real lavender is classified as well tolerated, other varieties should be used sparingly as a herb. They quickly lead to a bitter or soapy aftertaste and can cause stomach and intestinal problems. Spiky and French lavender in particular can have neurotoxic and spasmodic effects or damage the liver if consumed in excess. Sensitive people and children should avoid consuming the herbs. Pregnant women should not eat lavender because of its abortifacient effect.
The ingredients of the species differ in terms of their concentration. Therefore, side effects can occur if the plant parts are consumed in large quantities. The main active ingredient is lavender oil, which is mainly obtained from the flowers of the plant. It is non-toxic but should not be used by sensitive individuals or on children under the age of four. Children between the ages of four and ten can drink lavender tea to which no more than one gram of lavender herb has been added.
They have an antioxidant effect and possess antiviral and antibacterial properties. Lavender contains the so-called Lamiaceae tannins to protect against herbivores. The active ingredients affect digestion because they can deactivate proteins. They hinder the absorption of iron and calcium. Excessive consumption of tannins has a flatulent and constipating effect.
This secondary plant substance serves as a defense against fungi and bacteria. They store it in the vacuoles of leaves and stems to protect themselves from predators. Rosmarinic acid has tanning properties and can have an antidepressant effect.
The essential oils of lavender flowers have an estrogenic effect and can promote breast growth in children. Adults use lavender oil against restlessness, anxious mood and sleep disorders. It can have a healing effect on functional upper abdominal complaints. Applied externally, it helps with tension and exhaustion. Lavender oil consists mainly of linalyl acetate and linalool. In small amounts, lavender oil contains the following active ingredients:
- Camphor relaxes the bronchi and has an anti-inflammatory effect
- Cineol has an expectorant and bactericidal effect
This substance belongs to the ester group and is responsible for the medicinal effect of lavender oil. The higher the lavender growing area, the higher the linalyl acetate content. True lavender has a greater concentration of active ingredients compared to related species. Linalyl acetate is responsible for the typical smell of lavender. It has numerous positive effects on the organism:
- calms the nerves and protects against sensory overload
- calms excessive emotions and gives courage
- increases well-being and quality of life
This active ingredient has antiseptic and antimicrobial properties. It has an anti-inflammatory effect and has a floral smell. The spike lavender has the highest content of linalool compared to other types of lavender. It is used for respiratory diseases and colds, skin diseases and can be used as a disinfectant.
use of the plant parts
All parts of the Lavandula angustifolia plant can be dried or used fresh in the kitchen. The lavender blossoms have a mild and sweet taste and refine salads and desserts. They can be used to bake cakes and cookies. The leaves are also edible and are characterized by a resinous taste. Their aroma is slightly tart than that of the flowers. Be sure to harvest young leaves. The older the leaves are, the soapier their taste becomes. In French and Italian cuisine, however, lavender is an integral part of herbal mixtures. Braised dishes, ratatouille and stews get a special touch with lavender herb. It goes well with lamb and game as well as various fish dishes and can be served with goat and sheep cheese.
- French lavender (Lavandula stoechas): as a spice, use sparingly because of the intense taste
- Wooly Lavender (Lavandula lanata): Used for tea infusions
- Spike lavender (Lavandula latifolia): used in small quantities as a herb
- Real lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): goes well with various dishes
- Hybrid lavender (Lavandula × intermedia): is of inferior quality and is only suitable for cooking to a limited extent