The oil isolated from Lavandula latifolia Vill. (fam. Labiatae) is one of the most important essential oils of Spain.
To obtain a general and proper impression about this oil one should consult the existing literature. In addition to the publications cited we will discuss more recent publications, our own investigations and ideas about the subject. The history, botany, isolation methods, physiochemical properties, chemical composition, olfactive properties and application and production and trade of the essential oil of spike lavender will be treated. Because during the last ten years up to 350 constituents have been detected in the oil, the chemical composition will be discussed in more detail.
Some species of the genus Lavandula have been known since ancient times. It is probable that Lavandula plants were brought over from Greece to the islands of Hyeres, off the French coast near Toulon and Marseille as early as 600 years before Christ, The plants could have spread out from these islands to France, Spain and Italy. The name lavandula stems from the Latin verb “lavere” which means (to) wash or (to) purify because some types of these plants are used to perfume water for bathing. The eldest known species are L. stoechas and L. spica. According to Dioscoridis, the word “stoechas” stems from the “stoichades,” the Greek name for the islands of Hyeres. According to Font Quer “stoichades” also means, to be or to stand in a line, which could stand for the islands, lying in one line, as well as for the flowers of the Lavandula species. The word “spica” originates from Latin, and simply means spike or top of a plant in spike form, that is, the manner in which the flowers of most of the Lavandula species are settled on the plants at the end of a stem.