Santolina oil is also known as santolina chamaecyparissus essential oil, santolina chamaecyparissus organic oil, or cotton lavender. There are many uses for this plant, both around the home and to help with health issues. The plant also makes a nice addition to an outside garden or as an indoor plant.
Santolina is a popular addition to gardens around the world, because of its scent and appearance.
Santolina is a low shrubby perennial from the Mediterranean with tiny yellow, button like flowers, grown for its distinctive aromatic foliage and used as edging in knot gardens. Flowers aside, the plant has a striking coral-like appearance and is visually a rather beautiful plant.
The botanical name is Santolina chamaecyparissus, and the plant originates in Spain. The major constituent is Artemesia Ketone at 33.7% with the aroma of berry, honey and a hint of mint.
The plant can be grown as a low formal hedge or used as an edging plant. The plant is very tolerant of shearing. In less exposed areas. the plants can be trimmed in the autumn, otherwise they need to be cut by early April if they are to flower.
Santolina plants can also be grown for ground cover. They are best spaced about 60cm apart each way.
Santolina plants must have sun. Only after it has several hours of bright sun during the day, will it accept some shade gracefully. It is not at all fussy about soil, tolerating light sand or heavy clay, as long as it is well drained. Shaded or poorly drained sites tend to promote disease in these plants, especially if there is also high humidity or poor air circulation around them.
Plant young seedlings in the evening or on a cloudy day to protect them from the harsh sun while they cope with transplant shock. There is no need to enrich the soil, just work it with a trowel to break up soil clumps and clear out rocks. Remove seedlings from their containers, disturbing the roots and soilball as little as possible. Dig holes wide enough and deep enough to accommodate the soilball so that each plant will be at the same height in the ground as it was in its container. Set the seedling in the hole, then press the soil around each plant gently and water. Water every day or two if there is no rain until the transplants are established and show no sign of wilt in the sun. Space transplants 3 feet apart for groundcover, closer for use in flower borders or as edging for walks or beds.
There are a number of products at the garden center that will help your newly planted or transplanted plants deal better with the stress inherent in the planting process. All healthy plants have beneficial fungi, called mycorrhizal fungi, living on their roots. You can buy these valuable additions to your plant’s ecosystem.
Santolina is the name given to several perennial flowering plants in the aster family, Asteraceae. The genus Santolina has several members, two of which are popular with gardeners, Santolina chamaecyparissus and S. virens. The Santolinas are generally referred to as ‘cotton lavender’ or ‘lavender cotton’ because of the wispy or cottony appearance of the foliage, which may also have a silvery look that reminds one of lavender plants.
chamaecyparissus is more commonly known as grey santolina or grey cotton lavender as the leaves are grey. It is an evergreen shrub or sub-shrub that grows well in arid and mountainous regions. It’s native to the Mediterranean region and was introduced to North America. Populations have established themselves in Massachusetts, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana and California where mountainous or sandy coastal areas may provide the habitat necessary for these shrubs to survive.
Green santolina, S. virens, is so called for its green foliage. This ‘green lavender cotton’ survives in more temperate areas than its grey cousin, and so, will be seen in residential landscapes more often. It is a perennial, evergreen herb. Crushing the foliage releases a burnt-pine aroma.
The plants form mounds that may reach a foot and a half tall and even up to three feet around, but that depends on the gardener’s zeal for pruning. The Santolinas take well to being cut back. They are often seen in rock gardens as perfect spheres as they can sometimes look scraggly without being pruned. The leaves are very narrow, measuring only 1/16 inch wide. The finely toothed leaves give the plants a feathery look.
Santolinas flower in mid-summer with bright yellow flower heads that rise several inches above the foliage. They appear like pompoms and these showy flowers really attract bees.
Santolina is used in xeric landscaping, especially in the southwestern United States. Xeriscaping is a form of landscaping for dry soils, areas that receive little rain, like deserts, and to conserve water usage. Santolina requires dry soil to stay a healthy plant, so it does well in rock gardens and in areas where water is at a premium.
There are two species of santolina, or lavender cotton, that work very well as bonsai subjects. Gray santolina (Santolina chamaecyparissus) has beautiful soft foliage with an almost woolly appearance and narrow, fringed leaves. Green santolina (S. virens) has bright, shiny green leaves that are so narrow they appear threadlike. The two have similar environmental needs, although the green variety will survive colder temperatures.
Santolina likes bright light and will look best in a southern exposure. It will survive low-light conditions such as an east window through the winter but will send out lots of weak growth that stretches for the light. A regular “haircut” will keep your specimen in shape. Santolina does well in a warm winter house and needs more water in that situation. It does even better in a cool, bright environment. Cuttings root easily and are the best method of propagation, although seeds are available, too. Santolina is one of the best herbs to grow as bonsai because of its easy care and beautiful, strongly scented foliage.
Santolina has been popular since the 16th century.
Flowers and leaves were once used to make tea for expelling intestinal worms. Folk medicine also saw use of santolina tea for an eye wash.
Santolina is still used today to repel insects. It is placed in sachets in clothing or linen drawers, or entire branches may be hung in wardrobes for repelling moths and insects.
To deter moths, cut 10 centimeter squares of muslin or cotton material and place 1 tablespoon of the dried herb in the center along with 1 teaspoon crushed cinnamon stick to act as preservative. Tie up with ribbon to make the moth bags.
Dry and crumble the ingredients, mix together and place in a muslin or cotton bag.
Or you can try an herbal mixture in the bags by adding equal quantities of dried mint, lavender, sage, rosemary or thyme leaves to the cotton lavender.
It’s also hung in pantries and kitchens to keep insects away from food stocks and is a common practice among the Amish of Pennsylvania.
Uses of santolina oil around the world
The Arabs are said to use the juice of this plant for bathing the eyes.
In North Africa, the plant is used as a remedy against intestinal worms and as a spasmolyticum, amongst other uses. In Mediterranean areas, the plant is commonly used as a ‘chamomile’ tea for digestive disorders. The inflorescences of S. chamaecyparissus are widely used in Mediterranean folk medicine for their analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, bactericidal, fungicidal, digestive and vulnerary properties, and is used in phytotherapy for different kinds of dermatitis.
It can be used in flower arrangements for its blue-grey textured foliage and to bring its pleasing odor into the house. But bear in mind that the flowers do not smell as pleasant as the foliage, so when used in fresh bouquets, count on taking bits of it when not in bloom.
Limbs of ferny foliage can be dried with or without flowers for use in wreaths of mixed herbs or for pillows of sweet-smelling potpourri placed in chest-of-drawers as an effective moth repellant lacking the dangerous toxicity (and disgusting odor) of mothballs.
The dried and crumbled leaves also make a pleasant spice, or can be used fresh in such dishes as barley soup. As a medicinal plant, it has been used fresh-picked to rub on insect bites to relieve the sting, or taken internally for upset stomach. Essential oils from the flowers & leaves have been used by perfumeries.
Santolina Grey (which is yet another name for santolina) has aromatic leaves that may be used for flavouring soups, broths, stews, sauces, meat and fish or grain dishes. It should be used sparingly so taste is not too strong. The leaves and flowers may be harvested in summer and dried for later use.
For digestive issues, its properties are similar to the rest of the camomiles, favoring digestion in those cases when flatulence, stomach ache, gastritis, hiatal hernia, heartburn, etc., appear. For these issues, infuse 7 flowerheads in a cup of boiling water. Two cups a day.
For vermifuge (to get rid of intestinal worms), 2 to 4 grams of seed powder mixed with honey. Also, 20 drops of essence melted in a lump of sugar.
For amenorrhea (a temporary lack of menstruation), infuse a teaspoon of flowers in water. Two glasses per day.
For external use, cotton lavender can be used to prevent baldness and make hair more fair. Wash hair with the decoction of 60 grams of flowers per liter.
Not enough is known about the use of lavender cotton during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Lavender cotton may cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to the Asteraceae/Compositae plant family. Members of this family include ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, daisies, and many others. If you have allergies, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before taking lavender cotton.
Santolina oil is useful both as a home remedy for health problems and to get rid of annoying insects. It is also a lovely addition to a home garden, or even for use as an indoor plant.