I gave a small eulogy at my Nana’s memorial service. I talked about a sense memory that has never left me though it is over 40 years old. Whenever I smell freshly squeezed orange juice, I am instantly transported to my Nana’s breakfast nook, I am 4 or 5 years old and she is serving me breakfast, as always with a small juice glass of orange juice. One of those juice glasses from the 70’s that had the brown and orange dots or stripes on them. Do you remember those?
Scent is so powerful. For each of us there is some scent that resonates with us so deeply, as a memory, as a spiritual or sacred connection, as a communication with a loved one here or gone, or as part of our healing path. Instinctively, we know we are somehow connected to this scent, or need to be connected to this scent. It is sometimes said in herbal writings that if a plant smells foul to you, it may be that that plant won’t work for you. The opposite being also true, that if a plant smells good to you, it is possible that it may be a good match for you. The sense of smell should be taken into consideration on your healing herbal journey.
Citrus: bright and cheerful scents to energize and perk you up
Floral: floral essential oils are evocative and transport one to gardens of childhood
Herbal: fresh and healing, they invigorate, calm and improve focus
Spicy: sensual and warming, a little goes a long way with these
Woodsy: earthy scents that are grounding, strengthening and balancing
This fragrance wheel by renowned fragrance expert Michael Edwards can help you organise scents into categories and keep the information clear.
Bright– 2 drops bergamot, 4 drops sweet orange, 1 drop grapefruit, 3 drops rosemary
Sweet– 2 drops neroli, 6 drops Damascus rose, 2 drops ylang ylang
Grassy– 3 drops rosemary, 2 drops mint, 4 drops lavender
Sensual– 3 drops cardamom, 2 drops cinnamon, 1 drop clove, 5 drops patchouli
Earthy– 3 drops patchouli, 4 drops hinoki wood, 1 drop vanilla, 2 drops cedar
Forest– 1 drop mint, 2 drops rosemary, 2 drops lemon, 2 drops sage, 6 drops pine
Heaven– 2 drops lemon, 3 drops lime, 5 drops vanilla
One day, I would love to make soap from scratch. You know, get out the lye, the safety goggles and the industrial gloves and get to work. But I have so many projects going right now that soap making from scratch is on the back burner, as is making my own essential oils in a copper distiller…..sigh….
For right now, I use a much simpler method for soap making. Using ready made soap bases allows for anyone to make soap anywhere and anytime you like. I appreciate that I can still come up with amazing recipes for soaps with zero stress.
This season’s soaps are full of hopes for spring gardening, for when the blossoms start to pop out and the bees again buzz around. I spent the day in my workshop just adding things to these soaps that came to mind and I really like how they turned out.
My absolute favourite from these is the Green Tea-Hinoki soap. The scent comes alive in warm water and I find that I am using it exclusively now. I will make a few batches just for myself, I think.
This recipe will make 12-15 soaps depending on your mold shape and size. I use a common silicone muffin mold for some of mine and a proper silicone soap bar mold for others. It really depends on you and your taste and access to materials. I started with the muffin mold because it was what I had at the time. This is so cool that you can use what you have in the kitchen and not have to buy many extra things.
I try to steer clear of molds that are small, seperate ones for individual soaps. I find them too fiddly and inefficient for large batches.
Silicone molds need no perparation save for whatever plant material you would like to add to your soaps. If you would like plant material only floating at the top of your soap, put the material in the bottom of the mold before you pour in the soap. If you would like plant material running throughout the soap, you must pour in the soap and add the material to each mold after the soap is already in, slowly stirring while it is cooling so that it is evenly distributed. If you would like to add material to the soap only as decoration, simply sprinkle it on directly after pouring the soap into the molds.
The idea of wearing the fragrance of my garden or the essence of the healing herbs that will nourish me during my day began with making healing blends for headache, joint pain or insomnia. Though these fragrances were used medicinally, there was no doubt that they were more vibrant and delightful than most perfumes I had worn before.
After making my first blends strictly based on fragrance, I thought it would be amazing to combine the use of essential oils medicinally and the idea of wearing a fragrance daily. The idea of choosing a perfume based on your physical, emotional and spiritual needs that day is compelling. I was bewitched by the plant material deftly swirling in the liquid when gently shaken. The whole thing is magical to me.
I am keen to put together over the course of a few articles a complete process for creating and choosing a fragrance that can be beneficial on many levels.
We know in our family that if you are stressed, experiencing a panic attack or in shock, that you reach for lavender essential oil, a couple of drops in your hand and deeply inhale. So, a formula with lavender would be useful for a day when you feel delicate, easily over stimulated, or going into a stressful situation.
The art of perfume making is mastered over years, yet the process of blending essential oils for healing and fragrance can, and should, be available to all of us. It is at its heart a simple process.
Choose your essential oils based on healing needs and fragrance. Using the blending factor chart, add no more than 10-12 drops of total EOs into the 10 ml glass bottle. Swirl the bottle around to thoroughly combine the oils then fill the rest of the bottle with a carrier oil of your choice. replace the cap and swirl again.
The oils will bloom over time. After a week or two, the scent will really begin to shine!
A blending factor is basically a scale from 1-10 that rates oils on the intensity of their scent. Using blending factors allows you to create blends where one oil doesn’t overpower the rest. This blog post about blending factors from A Mountain Hearth Witch is amazing at explaining the math behind the art of blending perfumes.
Bright: notes of bergamot, sweet orange, grapefruit and rosemary
Forest: notes of mint, rosemary, lemon, sage and pine
Sweet: notes of rose, neroli and ylang ylang
Grassy: notes of rosemary, mint and lavender
Sensual: notes of cinnamon, patchouli, clove and cardamom
Earthy: notes of patchouli, hinoki wood, vanilla and cedar
Heaven: notes of lemon, lime and vanilla
The cooler days mean sleepy bees. This one makes a vague suggestion of annoyance at the end by half-heartedly lifting one leg at me.
It’s been a long time since I’ve done yoga, maybe fifteen years. I used to really like doing yoga, it suited me and I remember my little girls bending, folding and stretching with me occasionally.
I’ve talked before about how I battle with stress and the effects with which it comes. I work with herbs in my daily life and these help to keep me grounded. I try to get out into the forest every day. This also helps.
As I get older, I’ve been noticing my joints creaking (yikes!), my knees feel delicate and, in general, I feel less flexible and more achy. After some thought, it seemed like a great time to pick up yoga again. If not for anything else but to get more flexible and to spend some quiet time breathing. Sounds like a great idea, no?
Upon buying a proper yoga mat, I started my first day of a 31-day program online. No way was I going to march my old butt into a yoga studio. No one wants that….no one.
It feels super comfy at home in my pjs doing yoga. I’ve been yogaing and breathing every morning before work and it really seems to be helping my mental state. I get into to work with my body coursing with blood that is properly oxygenated, mental clarity and an appropriate sense of detachment from the intensity of other people’s issues that would’ve normally stuck to me like glue.
Just saying…seems to be a good decision. Knees feel better, too!
Here’s where I’ve been doing my yoga:
Need an energy boost? Feeling dull due to the change in weather? Now is the perfect time to harvest these gorgeous plants!
Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) are in their second growth right now. Catch them before their catkin-like flowers start to dangle. I harvest the top 10-15 cm of the plant and dry them in batches in my dehydrator. I absolutely love them fresh as well. During this change in season, and the stress of starting school again after a luxurious summer holiday, we make nettle tea each evening in order to have a strong brew ready in the morning. I fill our two large French presses 1/2 full of fresh nettles (or 1/3 full of dried), cover them with water that has just boiled and leave them overnight. In the morning, I press them and pour them into glass bottles to be drunk throughout the day. A great tonic, energizer, full of minerals and nutrients and an overall detoxifier!
Something that sets my herbal remedies apart is the connection they have with my daughter Rebekah. I began my herbalism journey in order to find a natural path of healing for her and her serious health issues (read more here) and she has partnered with me in designing my labels as well as illustrating all of the designs.
I wanted to share with you the design process. It is truly a delight to watch.
Step 1: We talk together about the remedy, its name, the ingredients and what it is for. She asks some questions, I give a few ideas and then she’s off to do a pencil mock-up.
Step 2: Once I’ve approved the designs and she’s made any necessary corrections, she moves on to inking the designs. Typically, she inks in the remedy titles first. I love this part, it’s like watching them come to life.
And more inking….
Step 3: Once the inking is done, she moves on to colouring. Using high-quality coloured pencils, she breathes life into the designs.
Step 4: Final look at the new batch of labels!
Step 5: My youngest daughter Roxie is also a valuable part of my herbal business. She is in charge of formatting and processing the digital images in order to get them ready to go to the printer.
Step 6: Rebekah then takes the digital images and gets them printed on waterproof, removable sticker paper.
Step 7: The mind-numbing task of cutting out the labels often goes as well to Rebekah. Binge watching a TV show goes well with this task.
Step 8: Filing away the pre-cut labels along with their ingredients stickers and keeping it all organised is super important.
Step 9: Affixing the labels on to new products. I am so proud of Rebekah and her designs!
These are the ways of our ancient grandmothers, the ancient ones who still live. These wise women are one with all life as they tread the ever-changing spiral. Every pain, every plant, every stone, every feeling, every problem is cherished as teacher: not teacher who grades, but teacher who guides. Night is loved for darkness and the stars. Day is loved for light and the sun. Uniqueness is our treasure, not normalcy. Our universe includes it all; it is ‘both/and,’ not ‘either/or.’ This is the Wise Woman way the world ‘round’
Photo credit: design-dautore.com
Day 1: Walking into the kitchen, I slipped and banged my wrist on the corner of the wall, hitting the bone in such a way that it took my breath away. I am using it as an opportunity to show the power of arnica in these situations. I applied my Bye Bye Bruise Salve which contains arnica-infused olive oil, beeswax, and rosemary, lavender and fennel essential oils. This salve has rubefacient, vulnerary and analgesic actions.
If put on directly after an injury, it is really helpful!
Day 2: no pain and looking better
Day 3: almost all gone!
Day 4: wouldn’t even know it had happened!
This salve is a staple in our home first-aid kit.
Would you like to buy it directly from me? Shop here.