Lavender v. Lavandin ... what's the difference?
What we commonly refer to as 'lavender' is more than one species -- there are tons of them! There is much confusion over what is and is not lavender, including sorting through the many Latin names. The two most popular varieties are Lavandula Angustifolia (what we call 'Lavender') and Lavandula Intermedia (what we call 'Lavandin').
Lavender is also commonly referred to as English lavender because historically it was developed for the English perfume industry. Lavandin is also commonly referred to as French lavender because historically it was developed for the the French perfume industry. Do not let this fool you into thinking that only English grows in England and French grows in France! To the contrary -- both are grown everywhere.
Each variety has a different scent and preference is a matter of choice. Both varieties:
are believed to help you relax, sleep, relieve body aches, relieve anxiety, and may encourage blood flow.
are considered to be an antiseptic and can clean the body and the home
can help repel moths, spiders, and other bugs
Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia
Called English lavender because it formed the basis of England’s lavender oil industry in the 1700s. The most popular and hardiest garden lavender in North America. Lavender species (e.g. Munstead, Hidcote, Royal Velvet, Vera) are from the "true" variety and have the most medicinal properties. This is the better lavender for cooking purposes but not all varieties work well in cooking. It has sweeter scented flowers because it contains less camphor (than French). Lavenders are used more for therapeutic properties and are believed to help with digestion, tension headaches, bug bites, burns, and minor skin irritations. Some of these properties have been well studied -- others have just been observed and therefore the scientific evidence is lacking.
Lavandin, L. x intermedia
Lavandin species (e.g. Grosso, Provence, Giant Hidcote, Phenomenal) are a cross between the Lavender and spike lavender varieties. Abrialii was a mainstay of the French industry until 1970s when it was ravaged by a disease. Grosso was discovered in 1972 and is now the dominant cultivar. Quickly emerging however is Phenomenal. The variety called Provence is considered the only French lavender suitable for cooking. Lavandins are bigger plants (producing more lavender per plant). Aroma is sweet with slightly camphorous scent. Lavandins are used more for their aromatic properties and considered good in cleaning products and products designed to freshen your home. Because of their high camphor content, lavandins may help with sinus and snoring issues. It is believed that lavandins should not be used by pregnant women in the first trimester nor by individuals with epilepsy.
There are other varieties of lavenders. For example, 'spike' varieties in Ontario (Lavandula stoechas and Lavendula latfolia) are also referred to as Spanish lavender. Spanish is less hardy and in some places (Australia) is considered a noxious weed. With little therapeutic properties, it has the highest camphor content and its oil has been used in painting.