LAVENDER (Lavendula Angustifolia): it's native across the globe - from North and East Africa to Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, and as far as India. It's also grown throughout the western world in similar climates. The ancient Romans used lavender in their wash to smell great and act as a natural anti-bacterial - in fact, the latin name of the plant has the same root (no pun intended) as our word "laundry." (The Greeks called it "nard," but I guess that wasn't as catchy and didn't make it big in etymological circles). Its essential oil has been used to heal, to calm, and to keep pests away.
If I had my way, lavender would be in every product we make, since I love it above all other oils. It's a flower but doesn't smell too floral; it's got a certain 'green-ness' to its scent, and it blends so well with most other oils - kind of a universal essential oil to bring a sense of well-being and health to the whole of the universe.
Cardamom keeps popping up - there must a reason. Pondering this earlier this week, I realized it was time to get this blog up and running again, and cardamom was the entry point. Years ago, when my BFF starting a baking business, she made cardamom shortbread, which was out of this world (I miss all those bags of baked goodies that used to come my way). Then I discovered cardamom ice cream at that great Indian place on Valencia St (the one that was just closed by the Health Dept, but we won't talk about that). Then the first time I visited my ex-boyfriend's apartment, there was a photo of an African boy in front of a cardamom plant. I figured this must all be fate.
It's also amazing that it pops up in regional cooking in such far-off places as Sweden and India - between which there hasn't been much historical cross-pollenation. It's been used over the centuries as an anti-bacterial, an anti-inflammatory, a digestive tonic, and even a snake serum antidote! But it smells spicy and clean, and goes well with other 'spicy' essential oils, such as pepper and bay laurel.