We all know that herbs can make an incredible difference to a dinner dish but herbs can also be used around the home in all sorts of ways. Herbalism is an age-old skill that is as valid today as it’s ever been.
Lavender is one of the most popular herbs to use around the house, partly for its lovely smell but also for its relaxant and insect repellent qualities. It’s also easily grown and in plentiful supply.
Place in a clothes’ drawer or hang in your wardrobe.
Make a small bag, about 10-15 cm square, out of left-over bits of material or fine net. Fill with dried lavender flowers. Fold over and sew a wide hem at the top and thread with pretty-coloured ribbon to make a drawstring. Pull tight and knot the ends.
Alternatively, cut out a circle of material, about the size of a side plate. Fill with lavender flowers and tie a ribbon around to make a pouch.
- Lavender bags are often given as gifts or as wedding favours.
- Use material and ribbon to match the wedding colours.
- Buy tiny embroidered flowers to decorate the bags.
Lavender promotes sleep.
Using spare material, old cotton pillowcases or material bought to match your bedroom colour scheme, sew up 3 sides of a large bag, 25 – 30 cm, and fit in 2 foam pads or toy stuffing. Place a lavender bag in between the pads. Seal the final side using Velcro. Decorate with a frill or extra ornamentation.
- Place the pillow on a radiator to warm before use to draw out the perfume.
- Add rosemary to the lavender for an effective pillow to ease a headache.
- Squeezing the lavender bag or pillow will refresh its scent.
- The lavender bag or pillow will retain its potency for about 3 months. After that replace the flower heads.
Warm Wheat Pillow
Choose a fairly strong material for this, and choose the shape you want: square – for placing on the small of your back, for example – or a narrow rectangle -for putting around your neck.
Sew 3 sides and then fill with wheat mixed with a few drops of lavender oil. Don’t overfill: it should be floppy not too firm. Sew the top carefully.
Place the pillow in the microwave to warm it before use – but don’t let it overheat.
To perfume your home
- 1 part dried lavender flowers
- 3 parts dried rose buds and rose petals
- Rose and lavender essential oils
- Orris root powder (available from health food shops)
Mix the dried flowers with a few drops of essential oils and a small amount of orris powder. (Orris powder is a fixative: it helps make the fragrance last.) Place in an airtight container and shake thoroughly. Leave in a warm, dark place for about 6 weeks to allow the perfume to develop. Shake the container occasionally.
One of the simplest ways to enjoy a herbal bath is to hang a lavender bag under the tap while the bath water is running. Alternatively you can buy a metal infuser – available from kitchen stores – and fill it halfway with herbs of your choice, depending on your mood, and let that hang from the tap as your bath runs.
If you use a bag of herbs, you can squeeze it and rub it gently over your body when you’re in the bath for extra effect.
Halfway through your bath add to the water 1 tablespoon olive oil to which you’ve added 1-2 drops of your favourite essential oil. Then lie back and let the oil do its healing work on your dry and tired skin.
Herbal Bath Vinegar
As well as being good on chips, vinegar can be good for you too! Used as a base for a herbal wash, it’s said to reduce foot odour and relieve sunburn.
Bring 1 litre apple cider vinegar to the boil. While that’s happening mix 2 cupfuls of your favourite herbs, chopped. (You can use fresh or dried.) Calendula, comfrey and yarrow make a good all-round skin-nourishing mix.
Pour the boiled vinegar onto the herbs and leave, tightly covered – cling film is best to ensure it’s airtight – on a sunny windowsill for 10-14 days, shaking occasionally.
Strain the mixture into a clean container. Use a cupful per bath.
If you have sensitive skin and shop-bought shaving oil doesn’t agree with you, or you want to create a personally scented shaving oil for yourself or the man in your life, give this simple recipe a try.
- Base oil – Olive, sweet almond or jojoba oil
- Perfume – 5-10 drops of your chosen essential oil per ounce of base oil
- Optional – 2 drops glycerin per ounce of base oil
Mix together thoroughly and store in a cool, dark place. Shake well before each use.
- Replace the base oil with cocoa butter for a shaving cream.
- Perform a patch test on the inside of the wrist before using on the face.
- Try sandalwood, geranium, thyme, lemon, lavender, chamomile, orange, rosemary, patchouli. Use singly or experiment mixing them.
- Don’t use essential oils if you are pregnant or convalescing.