Lavender is a short, flowering shrub in the mint family that grows in temperate parts of Europe, Africa, Asia and India. The plant gets its name from the distinctive color of its flowers, which make it a popular ornamental plant.
More than just a pretty face, however, lavender has been used for centuries in cooking, for medicinal purposes, to make soap, as insecticide and even in religious rituals. Lavender oil is both antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, and has been used to heal insect bites, burns and headaches. Western medicine has found that certain compounds in lavender oil help reduce anxiety and can help some people sleep better and more restfully.