What is Lavender 40/42?
Not long ago an anonymous reviewer claimed Lavender 40/42 was “adulterated”, being only 5% pure lavender and 95% synthetic. The belief that Lavender 40/42 is adulterated or synthetic, or in some other way is not “real” lavender oil, or is simply low quality is very commonplace and incorrect.
Lavender 40/42 is made up of 100% natural lavender oils blended to produce an oil containing 40% linalool and 42% linalyl acetate, which are the two primary aroma compounds occurring in Lavender. This is done with the intention of creating a standardized Lavender aroma, which presents a minimum of variation between batches. The scent of Lavender oil can vary tremendously from lot to lot, from season to season and from growing region to growing region. Small changes in rainfall, atmospheric and soil conditions and cross pollination as well as events occurring during distillation all have an impact on the scent of the oil. Because Lavender oil is such an important ingredient, frequently making up a large percent of a finished manufactured product, variation in the Lavender’s aroma can have a dramatic effect on finished goods. Therefore, many manufacturers count on the reliably consistent aroma of Lavender 40/42.
Lavender 40/42 is a blend of Lavenders consisting of Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender), Lavandula hybrida (Lavandin Grosso), Lavandula latifolia (Spike Lavender), Lavandula stoechas (Topped Lavender), etc. The producer of Lavender 40/42 will select oils distilled from these various Lavender species, blending them together to produce an oil that both meets the 40/42 standard, as well as one that economical, which is the other attraction of Lavender 40/42. As lovers of Lavender know, the cost of Lavender oil can run very high some years. If the harvest of Lavandula angustifolia in Bulgaria or France is 25% less than expected, the price skyrockets, driving up everyone’s costs and eating into all of our profits. Selective blending of these various Lavender species allows for the production of Lavender oil with a cost less affected by an unpredictable fluctuating market.
The most highly prized Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia, commonly called English Lavender, is also sometimes referred to as “True Lavender”. This unfortunately leads some to conclude that the other 38 Lavandula species are not real lavenders. That is false. All Lavandula species are real lavenders. Lavender 40/42 is 100% real Lavender oil, but it is not 100% Lavandula angustifolia. This may be dissatisfying to some natural perfumers, who can contend that only Lavandula angustifolia is suitable in perfumes as well as some aromatherapists who can contend that only Lavandula angustifolia is adequate for aromatherapy. I am also a purist in some ways, but I think the superiority of Lavandula angustifolia can be just slightly exaggeratted at times.
It is important to note that Lavender has been prized for perfumery, cosmetics and natural medicine for thousands of years in many nations. Lavender was one of the fragrant herbs used to make the anointing oil mentioned in the Bible. However, this would have been Lavandula stoechas, not Lavandula angustifolia. The Romans used Lavender in perfumes, cosmetics and herbal remedies. In fact, the word Lavender comes from the Latin “lavare”, meaning “to clean”. However, the Romans would more likely have been using Lavandula latifolia than Lavandula angustifolia. Lavender was also prized for its scent as well as for its medicinal properties in ancient Persia, but the Persians had Lavandula coronopifolia, not Lavandula angustifolia. When Tutankhamen’s tomb was opened, urns were found which were believed to contain cosmetics scented with Lavender. Lavender was indeed used in ancient Egypt and across northern Africa, but it would more likely have been Lavandula multifida than Lavandula angustifolia. Egyptian Lavender was good enough for the personal care products the Pharoah would be using for all eternity…how inferior to Lavandula angustifolia could it possibly be? If one was to research the use of Lavender throughout the ages, I am confident that most of the information found would refer to Lavandula species other than Lavandula angustifolia.
Lavandula angustifolia has definitely become the gold standard for Lavender in modern times, but this seems to have had the effect of reducing the other 38 species of Lavender to “second rate” status, even when it is reluctantly conceeded that they aren’t adulterated or synthetic. The belief that Lavender 40/42 is low quality, unsuitable for aromatherapy or perfumery and only good enough for soap or candle making is an unaccountable viewpoint that seems not to take into consideration how highly valued all these different species of Lavender have been to diverse cultures throughout the ages. It is the Lavandula genus in general that has been so important to the history of perfumery and natural medicine, and in no way Lavandula angustifolia in particular. The celebration of so-called “True Lavender” is a relatively new fad in the very long history of natural medicine and aromatic art. Even if Lavandula angustifolia is the finest Lavender, and it may very well be so, why Lavender 40/42, which is really just a blend of these wonderful Lavender oils from around the world should be so scorned, I cannot say.
Essential Wholesale & Labs offers a high quality sweet and floral French Lavender 40/42. For those who prefer a pure Lavandula angustifolia we offer a beautiful certified organic Buena Vista Lavender oil distilled here in Oregon. The Buena Vista Lavender oil is a relatively recent addition and has been a great success. Since we first added it to our offerings in September 2011 we have sold out four times and purchased progressively larger volumes with each order to meet increasing demand. It is our plan to continue adding more certified organic oils to our catalogue. I can only hope they are as well received as well as the Buena Vista Lavender.