Category: Medicines - plant based
Introduction and description
Santolina is a genus of plants in the chamomile tribe within the sunflower family, Asteraceae, primarily from the western Mediterranean region.
Within this family one particular plant is of especial interest - Santolina chamaecyparissus syn. S. incana (cotton lavender, lavender-cotton), native to the western and central Mediterranean.
The specific epithet chamaecyparissus literally means "like Chamaecyparis" (cypress), though it is not closely related to that plant. Nor is it closely related to either cotton or lavender, despite its common name "cotton lavender".
The Santolina family as a whole are small evergreen shrubs growing 10–60 cm (4–24 in) tall. The leaves are simple and minute in some species, or pinnate, finely divided in other species, often densely silvery hairy, and usually aromatic. The composite flowerheads are yellow or white, produced in dense globose capitulae 1–2 cm in diameter, on top of slender stems held 10–25 cm (4–10 in) above the foliage.
Santolina chamaecyparissus is a small evergreen shrub growing to 50 cm (20 in) tall and broad. Densely covered in narrow, aromatic, grey-green leaves, in summer it produces masses of yellow, button-like composite flowerheads, held on slender stems above the foliage. The disc florets are tubular, and there are no ray florets.
It emits a scent that brings back memories of gentler climates than those in the north of England, azure seas, and glasses or rose under a beach umbrella, it is a warm evocative scent that is extremely compelling.
This plant is valued in cultivation as groundcover, or as an edging plant for a hot, sunny, well-drained spot, though it may be short-lived. It dislikes winter wetness. We have it in our garden despite the fact we live quite far north in the UK. Our land is steeply sloping and terraced and it thrives on the edge of one of the terraces in extremely poor but neutral soil in full sun. The terrace faces south and at no time is it in the shade. We trim the plant occasionally and it has lasted years and years.
Numerous cultivars have been produced, of which 'Nana', a dwarf form growing to 25 cm (10 in), has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
Cotton lavender has many potential uses. In some herbal medicines, the flowers and leaves are made into a decoction used to expel intestinal parasites. An oil used in perfumery can also be extracted from the plant. Branches may be hung up in wardrobes to repel insects, and leaves are also suitable for use in pot pourri and in herbal tobacco substitutes. In cosmetics it is used as a tonic.
But as you will see from the observations it also has some other very interesting uses
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Santolina chamaecyparissus L. (Asteraceae) -- Lavender Cotton 019407
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antiosteotic activity 018450