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August 09, 2011
In June a miracle happens in northern Provence.
Row after row of spiky green start to turn purple and by the third week in June, the valleys are well, completely lavender.
It's quite a sight.
By now, much to the displeasure of the local bees, Lavandula angustifolia has been harvested, off for dozens of uses.
One clue might be in its root, lavare, which is Latin for "to wash."
During the Middle Ages, the herb was used as an aphrodisiac.
The very least that came out of it was that you would fall in love with the plant itself.
John Parkinson, a 17th-century London apothecary, wrote that lavender is "especially good for all griefs and pains of the head and brain."
Turns out he was on target.
Recent research shows that the sweet aroma eases anxiety and insomnia.
In one study at Britain's University of Southampton, half the participants slept in a room where lavender essential oil was diffused in the air throughout the night.
The researchers found that lavender increased slow-wave sleep, the deep slumber in which the heartbeat slows and muscles relax.
A touch of it in cooking?
Anything rosemary can do, lavender can do too.
Then there's always lavender honey.
There's not much, it appears, it can't do.