There are over 20 different species of lavender and on top of these are several cultivars and hybrids brought by its popularity and extensive history of cultivation. The three most common and most popular lavender oils available commercially are:1
• True lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) — Also known as common lavender or English lavender, it produces clumps of beautiful, pastel purple, scented flowers above green or silvery-gray foliage
• Spike lavender (Lavandula latifolia) — Dubbed the Portuguese lavender, it is a coarser plant with broader leaves and spiked flowers. "Latifola" is a Latin term for "broadleaf" while "Lavandula," its genus name, simply means lavender.
• Lavandin (L. x intermedia) — Also called the Dutch lavender, it is a hybrid version of the result of a natural cross-pollination of true lavender and spike lavender
Read on and discover why, among these three types of lavender oil, spike lavender oil is preferred by most herbal oil producers and enthusiasts.
What Is Spike Lavender Oil?
Spike lavender is native to the western Mediterranean region, including central Portugal, northern Italy, Spain and Southern France. This flowering plant from the Lamiaceae family grows from 30 to 80 centimeters (11.8 to 31.5 inches) tall. It has pale lilac flowers that grow on spikes, which blossom from June to September, depending on the weather.
While true lavender grows naturally at high altitudes, spike lavender thrives more at lower altitudes. According to experts, this difference in growing environments explains why spike lavender oil contains more camphor, the chemical responsible for its sweet herbaceous smell, while true lavender oil has very little to none.2 Produced through steam or water distillation of its flowering tops, spike lavender oil has a fresh, slightly spicy, floral and camphoraceous scent and is typically clear or yellowish in color.
Uses of Spike Lavender Oil
Spike lavender oil has similar applications as true lavender oil. It's also frequently used in the fragrance industry, specifically in soap formulations. Due to its stronger camphor content, spike lavender oil is said to provide more potent analgesic and expectorant properties, which makes it an excellent choice for headache relief when used in a diffuser. Topically, it may work as an insect repellent and as a salve to help ease aches, pains and other discomfort caused by arthritis.3
Composition of Spike Lavender Oil
The major components of spike lavenderoil are L-linalool, d-borneol and their esters. Geraniol, d-terpineol, d-camphor, d-camphene, d-pinene, cineol and n-hexanol have also been found. The quality of spike lavender oil is evaluated through the levels of alcohol content in it. It must be free of alcohols and must not contain too much borneol. This is determined through infrared spectroscopy.4 Spike lavender oil blends well with other essential oils, including cedarwood, clary sage, clove, eucalyptus, lavender, oak moss, patchouli, petitgrain, pine, rosemary and sage.
Benefits of Lavender Spike Oil
Spike lavender oil has powerful antiseptic properties that help soothe and heal cuts, burns and damaged or scarred skin. It may also have beneficial effects for the following conditions:
Because of its relaxing and stimulating effects, spike lavender oil may help in regulating sleep, calmness, mental alertness and stress-related conditions, including depression. Spike lavender oil produces higher yield compared to other lavender varieties, making it an inexpensive essential oil to make. Steam or water distillation is the most common process of extraction used for this aromatic essential oil. To produce a high-quality lavender spike oil with excellent levels of natural esters, experts recommend picking fresh flowering tops in morning dew and distilling it directly.5
How Does Lavender Spike Oil Work?
According to the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, spike lavender oil was traditionally used for headaches, rheumatic pain, colic and dyspepsia. In modern aromatherapy, spike lavender oil shares some of true lavender's properties. However, it is slightly stronger and should be used more sparingly.6 Applied topically, spike lavender oil can improve allergies, athlete's foot, dandruff, dermatitis and sunburns. It can also work wonders when added in baths, diffusers, inhalers and mist sprays.
Is Spike Lavender Oil Safe?
Spike lavender oil is generally safe if used appropriately. As with all essential oils, I do not recommend the use of spike lavender oil for pregnant or nursing women without seeking expert medical opinion first. In addition, I advise against using it topically without diluting it in a mild carrier oil. Always perform a skin patch test on a small portion of your skin to check for any skin sensitivity. Avoid contact with the eyes or mucus membranes.
Side Effects of Spike Lavender Oil
Due to its sleep-inducing effects, I suggest that you avoid using spike lavender oil before driving or operating any machinery to prevent any unfortunate accidents.