Reputed as Cleopatra’s secret weapon of seduction, lavender has its place in culture as an aphrodisiac. An important ingredient at the beginning of the French perfume industry, the smell of lavender is reputed to increase attraction, relax the mind, body and reduce general anxiety. Perhaps it is these relaxing properties that aid arousal.
A study by the Cognitive Psychology Unit at The University of Leiden investigated the role smell can play in promoting interpersonal trust and facilitating social bonds. The researchers placed participants in scented rooms, one smelling of lavender, one of peppermint, and one odourless room, then instructed them to play a behavioural trust game. Those who were in the lavender-scented room showed more trust than those in the peppermint and the odourless room. The researchers concluded that the smell of lavender has a temporary calming state on the mind which in turn, increases the extent to which people trust others.
The study also measured arousal levels, whilst they didn’t find that arousal was directly impacted by smell, it seems to support the idea that lavender placed in a sexual context would increase levels of arousal by way of its trust inducing properties.
Lavandula angustifolia, or lavender, is an evergreen shrub and part of the lamiaceae or labiatae family. It is found in dry grassy areas and prefers hilly terrain and full sunlight (it cannot grow in the shade). Lavender is recognizable by its purple bud-like flowers and distinctive scent.
While lavender is better known for its aromatic qualities than its medicinal ones, its relaxing effects on the nervous system are well documented. The flowering spikes can also be dried and used to make a tincture, as well as the more widely known essential oil. The flowers and leaves of lavender can be added to salads, soups, and stews, as well as baked goods. The flowers can also be crystallized in sugar as a sweet treat. Additionally, lavender is often used as an aroma in a number of household items, most commonly soap and shampoo.
Find more about this plant on Wikipedia.