Lavendula stoechas essential oil is obtained by steam distilling the flowering tops of “Spanish” lavender. Like other plants in the lavender genus, this plant seems to have an identity crisis going by several common names: Spanish, French, Arabian, Maritime, Butterfly, Topped, Cotton or Crested lavender. It has been confused with other plants over centuries. For instance, this particular plant is believed to be the lavender cited in older texts (e.g., by Pliny the Elder), and the lavender we often think of (L. officinalis) arrived into the collective medicine chest later in time (Engels, 2007) (Grieve, 2019).
Lavandula stoechas is classified in the mint (Lamiaceae) family and native to the Mediterranean basin. It is a compact perennial shrub with linear gray-green leaves. Its characteristically dark purple flowers, topped by purple bracts, are on dense, oblong spikes reaching to 1.25” long. Unlike its relatives, it prefers the coastal (low altitude) arid climates of Portugal and Spain and thrives in siliceous and acidic soil versus the calcareous soil preferred by other lavenders. It also grows well on the southern coast of France and Corsica over to Greece and across the sea to North Africa. The essential oil is mostly obtained from plants grown in Spain, though it may also be obtained from plants grown in France and Greece.
Speaking of France, the Îles d’Hyères were so-called “Stoechades” by the Greeks as this particular lavender grew abundantly there during the time of Grecian dominance. As this herb made its way into Arabic culture due to colonization, Arabs residing in Andalusia knew stoechas as “ostokudus”—which has no reference to the “Stoechades” islands but instead meant “keeper of the psyche.” Stoechas was documented by Dioscorides in “De Materia Medica” and also by Pliny the Elder in “Naturalis Historia.” Galen further elucidated benefits of the plant for bites, stings and afflictions of the digestive tract. Later in time, stoechas was imported to Arabia and documented by Avicenna in “The Canon of Medicine”—L. stoechas continues to be utilized in Unani medicine and is included in “The Unani Pharmacopoeia of India.” (Farsam, 2016) (Govt of India, 2006)
Alas, beware as there seems to be rampant misattribution of the name “stoechas” to several other plants. After pursuing the history of stoechas, it is apparent that this plant was confused with several others in the Lamiaceae family such as L. dentata, L. multifida, Rosmarinus officinalis and even Artemisia abrotanum (Asteraceae). It is apparent that the word “stoechas” has been wrongly applied to several species other than the actual plant named as such. Regardless, stoechas has proven itself over time and has its rightful place in the canon of aromatic preparations.
Despite its playful looks and propensity to attract bees, L. stoechas is fresh, stocky and unapologetic. Compared to other Lavandula species, which favor higher altitudes and show off flowers in longer spikes, stoechas is short and rugged; it’s well suited to the maritime climates it thrives in. An ancient plant, stoechas is enduring and cuts through nonsense to foster confidence and self-acceptance. It embodies the mantra of “I’m okay with who I am.”
According to Holmes, Lavandula stoechas is a stimulating expectorant, excellent anti-bacterial, vulnerary and anti-inflammatory ally (Holmes, 2016). It may be called upon to assist in acute situations regarding pain and infections of the upper and lower respiratory tract and conjure states of deep relaxation. Following are key system affinities and associated indications:
- Musculoskeletal: Acute pain with general inflammation, spasms
- Respiratory: Anti-infectious, catarrh, notably stuck and sticky conditions like sinusitis and bronchitis and afflictions of the ENT
- Mood states: Modulating to stimulating the nervous system (i.e., increases circulation but calming to the mind), relaxing, clears funky-stuck states, embodies confidence and acceptance
Notes on physical impressions: Spending time with the oil really slows down time. It quickly asserts its effect as a nervous system depressant, pulling energy down to the earth while opening channels and supporting the diaphragm. My jaw consistently becomes heavy and clearing occurs in the sinus cavities. Stimulating: upper respiratory clearing, heart rate increases and I always start rocking forward and backward yet there is an internal feeling of verticality from my heart to throat, heart to throat. Though stimulating, it very much activates the parasympathetic response: heaviness (grounding) in the body, slowing down the mind and peristalsis is apparent.
Chemistry highlights: L. stoechas is incredibly rich in ketones (mainly fenchone followed by camphor) and the ether 1,8 cineole, supported by esters and monoterpenols. Note: I have several examples of the oil; country of origin (“terrain”) and the growing season (year) really matter regarding what components are expressed in relation to others.
Is Lavandula stoechas Oil Safe?
L. stoechas is potent; suitable for overall healthy individuals suffering acute, mucky situations (e.g., respiratory infection) over a short time period. Its abundance of ketones lends itself to prudent use; it is a cumulative neuro and hepatic toxin if used with constancy in large amounts (especially the internal route). Ketone rich oils should be avoided (all routes) by women who are pregnant or nursing and by children.
Blending with Lavandula stoechas Essential Oil
Lavandula stoechas immediately communicates its rugged and bold personality conjuring a green, fresh and blue maritime landscape. It smells as though it is dancing with rosemary as overtones of musty, musky, camphor hover in the air. Notes of earth, mushrooms and old closets are mixed with an ever-so-faint floral quality. Quite cooling and balsamic on the nose, throat and lungs, stoechas is springtime-cool. Midway on the dry-down it maintains its cool wetness. “Pizza” spices like marjoram and oregano come to mind—maybe they were growing nearby. The end is still cool and balsamic as the tenacious ketones linger and hover with a surprising softness.
Stoechas blends well with the Lamiaceae family in general (Salvia sclarea, Melissa officinalis, Rosmarinus officinalis (all chemotypes), Origanum majorana), Helichrysum italicum, Inula graveolens, Angelica archangelica (seed), Citrus aurantium var amara (leaf), Boswellia sp., Commiphora myrrha.
Creating Wellness Products with Lavandula stoechas
Support Joy and Clear The Muck: Mood Lifting Stock Bottle
5ml bottle (approx 120 drops)
60 drops Petitgrain (Citrus aurantium var amara (leaf))
40 drops Lavandula stoechas
20 drops Clary sage (Salvia sclarea)
**How to use: Add 25-30 drops to blank personal inhaler or 10-12 drops in a rollerball with a base of jojoba. Add 10-15 drops in water diffuser, or 2ml in nebulizing diffuser.
Balance and Stabilize: Chill-Out Mood Mist
2 oz. glass bottle with spray top
15 drops Lavandula stoechas
12 drops Hops (Humulus lupus)
5 drops Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides)
**How to use: Add essential oils to the glass bottle and swirl them around to combine. Fill the bottle to its “shoulders” with distilled water. Affix the cap and label your spritzer. Shake the bottle each time before using.
Gently Relieve Catarrh & Congestion: Respiratory Stock Bottle
5ml bottle (approx 130 drops)
40 drops Rosalina (Melaleuca ericifolia)
35 drops Frankincense (Boswellia sacra)
30 drops Lavandula stoechas
25 drops Inula (Inula graveolens)
**How to use: Add 25 drops to blank personal inhaler. Add 10-15 drops in water diffuser, or 2ml in nebulizing diffuser. Add 3-5 drops to a bowl of hot water for a steam inhalation.
Warm and Soothe Cold-Dull Pain: Herbal Pain Oil For Acute Flare Ups
2 oz bottle with flip top
1.5 fl oz of Arnica herbal oil
0.5 fl oz of Sesame oil
20 drops Lavandula stoechas
15 drops Black pepper (Piper nigrum)
10 drops Plai (Zingiber cassumunar)
10 drops Sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana)
5 drops Clove bud (Eugenia caryophyllus)
Some oils can be “scary” to work with, such as those high in ketones, like our friend stoechas. Keep intention in mind. How did people work with the plant in the past? Lore has it that stoechas was used to cleanse and ward off evil (Grieve, 2019). It is potent, spiritual, cleansing and grounding. Many cultures have their version of Lavender stoechas. In the North American southwest we have white sage and further north and east are the majestic Thuja occidentalis. I firmly believe we should not be afraid of plants and their beautiful oils—it’s a matter of having a relationship with the plant and understanding when to call upon it. This is something I’m learning everyday—an ongoing conversation if I remain open.
Thank you for spending time with Lavandula stoechas and me.
Engels, G. (2007). HerbalGram. Retrieved from The Journal of the American Botanical Council: http://cms.herbalgram.org/herbalgram/issue73/article3096.html?ts=1555511399&signature=b07d6be1842bbb83424015b6193174c3
Farsam, H. &.-A. (2016). The Story of Stoechas: from Antiquity to the Present Day. Journal of Research on History of Medicine, 5.
Govt of India, M. o. (2006). Unani Pharmacopoeia of India. Part-I. New Delhi.
Grieve, M. M. (2019, 4 16). Lavenders. Retrieved from Botanical.com: https://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/l/lavend13.html#dessto
Holmes, P. (2016). Aromatica A Clinical Guide to Essential Oil Therapeutics. London: Singing Dragon.