The flavour and aroma of herbs is provided by the essential oils that are found in the leaves, flowers, bark, roots or seeds of the plant. Essential oils are complex mixtures of aromatic substances that give the unique characteristic of each herb and are found in special cells in the plant called trichomes.
Almost all herbs can be grown for the production of essential oils but the yield of oil from each species dictates whether this is commercially viable.
England has historically been most famous for the production of lavender and peppermint oils and in the southeast of England both oils have been grown commercially since the 18th Century. Lavender it is now thriving there once again on the warm south facing limestone slopes in Kent, and it is also grown commercially in Jersey, Norfolk and on the Cotswold Hills. The Romans prized lavender oil for its fragrance and antiseptic properties but it was probably not introduced into the UK from the Mediterranean region until the 16 th century.
Today most peppermint and spearmint is grown in parts of the southeast of England. Fields of Angelica, Chamomile, Coriander, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme and Lemon Balm for the production of Essential oils use can also be found scattered across the southern half of England.
Essential oils are used for aromatherapy, fragrances and cosmetics as well as in therapeutic, medicinal and culinary use.