Aromatherapy has been practiced for hundreds of years, without the benefit of the fancy name. Generation after generation of homemakers prided themselves in creating the most fragrant and visually appealing decor to beautify their homes and provide relief for minor ailments, from headache and anxiety to insomnia and soothing cranky babies.
I will present just a few wonderful herbal home recipes. They are very easy to make and use things you probably already have around the house (ok, maybe not the orris root – the mix will do just fine without it, but the fragrance will not last as long). Treat yourself to these very affordable indulgences, after all, it’s the little things…
May they bring you comfort and relaxation, restful sleep and relief from bad dreams, worrisome thoughts and evil memories.
The herbal pillow (or dream pillow, as some call it)
In olden times, entire mattresses were made from aromatic herbs to induce peaceful sleep and keep away bugs and critters. The herbal pillows also served a medicinal purpose: they doubled as an air freshener and mild antiseptic to provide relief to people recovering from long illnesses. Nowadays the much reduced version of the herbal pillow is small enough to slip in the back of your pillow case (typically around 5″x8″ in size). It is usually made from cotton or muslin fabric and it should be smooth and flat.
Besides the fabric you will need:
– aromatic herbs of your choice (rose petals, lavender, hops, and chamomile are usually soothing and soporific)
– a few drops of essential oil to enhance the fragrances
– a fixative (usually orris root, it keeps the fragrance longer)
– filler (buckwheat, hops or plain cotton)
The proportion of filler to herbs is 2/1. Mix everything together well in a bowl, not forgetting to add a few drops of essential oil. Fill the pillowcase and sew the fourth seam. If you would like to know what is in my bowl – mint, basil, calendula, chamomile, goji berries and mint oil.
Place the dream pillow in a plastic baggie for 24 hours to give the scents some time to blend together. Enjoy.
If you replace the muslin with terry cloth (any colorful towel will do) and the filler with sponge, the mix makes for a wonderful bath pillow.
Place the herb mix and rolled oats in a cheesecloth baggie and drop it in the bathtub for an delightful bath tea. (Aromatic oils are a plus!)
The dried herb fragrant sachet
Featured above, it can be hung in your closet, slipped between linen sheets or placed in the drier (which fills the whole house with delightful aroma on laundry day).
What to mix is up to your preferences and available items, but classic sachets generally include rose, violet, verbena, jasmine, lavender and mint.
For a spicy twist try dried citrus peel, cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans, and cloves. The little baggie above is filled with apple cinnamon potpourri: dried apple, pear and strawberry slices, cinnamon sticks, cloves, vanilla, and dried crab apples. It’s a very welcoming scent for the upcoming holidays.
The eye pillow
Pretty much the same as the dream pillow, only smaller and using oats, hops or buckwheat as a filler. The weight of the pillow, combined with the aromatic oil, usually lavender, provides relief from insomnia and headaches.
For the little ones
A tiny sachet filled with lavender, chamomile and dill somewhere in proximity of the baby’s crib will help the little one fall asleep easier. The name “dill” is derived from a word that actually means “to lull to sleep”.
The clove apple
Choose a hard fragrant red winter apple; starting at the blossom end, stick cloves in it until the whole surface is covered, with the exception of the equator, where the ribbon will go. Roll it in a mixture of half orris root, half cinnamon, with a pinch of clove. Wrap it in tissue paper and set it in a warm place to dry for 10 days. After ten days it should have shrunk and dried. Tie the ribbon around it and place it in your kitchen, bathroom or closet, or offer as a gift.
And last but not least, don’t forget that any mixture that contains cedar chips or lavender will repel moths and keep your favorite cashmere sweaters free of holes.
– hard fragrant apples, pears and strawberries, sliced paper thin
– cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, vanilla beans
– a cup of crab apples
– dried mint and basil
– infused mint oil
Dip the apple, pear and strawberry slices in a bowl of salted lemon water for 15 minutes, so that they do not oxidize and fall apart when dried. After 15 minutes, strain them, pat them dry and place them on a cookie sheet in the oven at 150-170 degrees, until the peel starts curling up and the consistency is dry and leathery. Keep the oven door slightly ajar to ensure good air circulation.
I kept the crab apples in the oven the same time until they shrunk and became hard and completely dry.
Mix the fruit with crushed cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, cut up vanilla beans, and dry herbs. Ad a few drops of infused oil, to keep the aroma longer.
Place in a bowl and rustle occasionally to release the scent.
The purple cone flower (echinacea) is largely known to boost immunity. All parts of the plant can be dried and used medicinally. The tea brewed from purple cone flowers will relieve colds, mumps and arthritis, or any afflictions of the respiratory system (the plant is good for easing congestion). Echinacea will provide light pain relief for stings, cuts or burns, eczema, toothaches and minor skin irritations.
In order to obtain the best immunity booster effects, use echinacea tea for two weeks at most. Continuous use will significantly diminish the medicinal properties.
Purple cone flowers are one of the few cone flower varieties that will come true from seed. When you harvest seed for next year, don’t forget to leave some seed heads for the finches and the cardinals, they absolutely love them.The seed heads won’t look very pretty in winter, but the birds will.
Purple cone flowers are generally considered sun loving plants; mine receive part sun under a pine tree and are thriving. The partly shaded spots keeps the leaves green and healthy and discourages Japanese beetles from attacking the flowers.
Echinacea is native to the eastern part of the United States and will thrive without any help if it finds a good spot. It tends to spread, so be sure to either provide enough space or control the spread.
If you are looking for a good carrier oil for massage or a way to care for sensitive, irritated skin, calendula oil is a perfect choice. It doesn’t have much aroma in itself, so it can be mixed with other infused or essential oil for fragrance.
Due to its high carotenoid and flavonoid content calendula is highly effective for cellular repair; the oil seals and hydrates sores and hard to heal woulds, and its regenerative properties have been documented in multiple studies.
It soothes cracked, dry, irritated and oversensitive skin, and helps with skin ulcers or spider veins; it doesn’t sting and will help heal burns and eczema. It is gentle enough for babies’ delicate skin and can be used to prevent and eliminate diaper rash; will soothe cracked nipples for breastfeeding mothers. (please make sure to ask the doctor’s advice before using for this purpose).
To make infused calendula oil, fill a glass jar with dried flower petals and add enough good quality oil such as grape seed or sweet almond to cover it. Cover the jar with a clean cheesecloth or coffee filter and leave in a sunny window for at least 10 days.
Perfume is made by blending your choice of essential aromatic oils in proportion of 1 to 3 % with a good quality base oil such as grape seed or sweet almond oil. Please make sure not to exceed the recommended dosage of essential oil, since it can be irritating to the skin in higher concentrations.
Every good quality perfume must contain these three basic components:
– the base notes: rich, lingering scents that will last on the skin after the other two components have faded. They are usually given by jasmine, myrrh, or patchouli.
–the middle notes: the perfume’s main fragrance. This will be the fragrance of your choice, and will determine the character of your perfume, light floral, fresh, herbal, or incense.
–the top note: the first burst of fragrance that hits your nostrils when you first come in contact with the perfume. It generates the immediate quality of the perfume and it is usually a fresh, sparlky fragrance, like eucalyptus, lemon or basil.
There are six basic groups of fragrances: woody (cedar wood and pine), herbaceous (rosemary and sage), citrus (bergamot and lemon), floral (geranium and rose), resinous(frankincense), and spicy (cinnamon, ginger).
Some fragrances have mutually enhancing qualities. Generally speaking, fragrances from the same plant family blend together well. Some oils, like rose, jasmine, or lavender, will enhance any other fragrances.
A good perfume generally has a dominant note or a theme. It can be one specific fragrance such as rose, lily of the valley or linden flower, or a more general theme such as herbal, or citrus. A perfume will benefit from unexpected mixtures of fragrances that give it character and contrast each other.
Here are some compatible fragrance blends to try (please don’t forget 1 to 3 % essential oil only for all the fragrances combined). You may of course experiment with any fragrances that appeal to you:
lemon, rose, chamomile, orange blossom
cypress, cedar wood, sage
gardenia, jasmine, tuberose
peppermint, lavender, lemon
nutmeg, orange, geranium
clove, rose, vanilla, bergamot
This is a simple way to make infused oils. As a variation on this process, you can add a whole dried stem of basil or thyme, together with other seasonings, like sea salt and crushed pepper flakes, to a bottle of olive oil to get an aromatic mix that will look great on an open shelf and taste even better on your salad. You can even take this a step further and seal the bottle with colorful wax for a fancier look.
Infused oils can be used in salves, creams, and other topical products. In this case I used mint, but other medicinal dried herbs can be used ( a few examples – calendula, saint john’s wort, basil, thyme, etc.). Make sure that all containers you use are clean and completely dry.
|Pick off only the leaves from the dried up mint stems.||Crush them into a powder.||Pour the content into a clean, dry jar.||Add a good quality oil (I prefer the ones without a strong flavor).|
|After 10 minutes check the jar and add more oil if needed to cover the plant material.||Cover with a coffee filter or clean cheese cloth and leave in a sunny window for at least 10 days.||Strain through a filter or cheesecloth.||Enjoy! Use in home made remedies.|
The easiest way to dry herbs is to tie them up in bunches and hang them in a hot dry place with good air circulation, like a well vented attic. When they are dry, crush them into a powder and store them in paper bags, properly labeled. Flowers like goldenrod, calendula and chamomile should be dried on a paper towel placed on top of a grille or rack, so that there is good air circulation underneath. These dried plants are the basic components of your teas, balms and infused oils, so make sure to select clean healthy plants
Basil is a special sacred herb, with uses from scenting of holy water and dressing up icons to seasoning tomato sauces and filling fragrant sachets for linen closets. Girls of older times used to place basil flowers under their pillows to dream who they would marry. This sun loving annual plant with its intense incense aroma has been traditionally used to infuse cooking oils, which is a healthy way to spice up your salad, since basil provides excellent benefits for your digestive tract. It is a wonderful companion plant for tomatoes and peppers, plant them together and they will all thrive and become more flavorful. Pick up the flowers before they ripen because after growing and spreading its seed, the plant will die. The highly fragrant basil flowers, which range in color from white to pink to lavender and purple, will spice up a bath sachet or a linen closet and keep moths away. Keep reading the “Fragrant Sachets of Dried Herbs” section for ways to dry and use basil.
INGREDIENTS: (1) cup of infused oil (see instructions below), (1) ounce of beeswax.
To prepare infused oil, fill a glass jar with the dried aromatic plant of choice ( in this case dried calendula petals mixed with dried crushed mint leaves) and pour enough good quality oil in the jar to completely cover them. Place a piece of cheesecloth or an unbleached coffee filter over the mixture, secure it with a rubber band and place the jar in a sunny window for 10 days. Do not put a lid on the jar, or you might need to paint the ceiling sooner than you planned. After 10 days strain out the plant material to recover the oil. Good oils to use are almond oil, coconut oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil.
To prepare the salve, warm but don’t boil the infused oil. Separately melt the wax and pour it into the warmed oil. Pour a drop of the mixture onto a plate and put it in the freezer until it cools completely. After it cooled, try it on your hands for consistency. If it is too thin, add more wax. If it is too thick, add more oil. Pour the warm liquid in small tins or glass jars and allow it to cool down completely before covering. Keep it in the refrigerator for up to a year.
Calendula, or Pot Marigold, is a herbaceous annual famous for its skin soothing properties. It is used in salves, lotions, tinctures and compresses for minor cuts, scrapes, and skin irritations.
Plant outside from seed; germination is very reliable. Harvest only the flowers immediately after they open for best medicinal properties. Make sure to pick the flowers before they ripen. When all flowers have gone to seed, calendula will die. Allow the crop of flowers before the frost to produce seeds for the following year. More on seed harvesting and storing in the “Seeds, Roots and other Cuttings” section.