Aromatherapy Lavender

LAVANDULA OFFICINALIS Lavenders belong to a genus of as many as 39 species of blossoming plants in the mint family (Lamiaceae). It is generally believed that this genus is native to Asia, but over the centuries, it has been introduced in several regions, including the Mediterranean, Africa, Arabia, India and Western Iran. Lavenders include a […]

Lavender Fragrance and Fancies {How To Make Potpourri}

Making your own potpourri is a delightful hobby and easier than you may think….
The ancient and fragrant art of potpourri is one of the few truly civilized and civilizing processes left for the twentieth century inhabitant to partake of. This ‘preservation of garden souls’ is a work worthy of time and loving care and its products can bring delight not only to the maker but to so many others.
We will disdain the often quoted and unworthy translation of the French ‘rotten pot’, and proceed hastily to the fact that there are two distinct techniques for potpourri production, ‘moist’ and ‘dry’.
Moist potpourri is an old method of production and its presumably the source of the French title, for it is the fragrance, and most certainly not the appearance  that is the attraction with this variety. Moist potpourri are reputed to retain their fragrance for up to fifty years, so the process results in much longer staying power. They are made from floral materials that are partly dried, despite the name.
The peak time to pick any floral ingredient is just as it is coming into full bloom. Pick after the dew has dried but as early as possible on a sunny day. Dry the flowers on papers or preferably on screens, out of sunlight but in an airy place. For moist potpourri they should be only partly dried. leathery when finished rather than crisp. Aim for a very limp appearance. Around one third of their bulk will be gone.
We use large straight sided glazed pottery crocks with good fitting tops to hold and mature moist potpourris. These should really be set aside for the purpose as it takes a number of weeks to mature a batch. Never use metallic spoons to turn the mixture. Buy some long-handled wooden spoons and keep them for this purpose alone. To make your job pleasant the crock needs to be sufficiently large and wide-mouthed to hold all the ingredients comfortably during the necessary turnings and stirrings as the mixture ages. The shortest time needed to mature the mix is two weeks. This is really far too short. The best results come with longer maturation. We wait at least six to eight weeks, but in previous centuries, far more noted for their patience than our own, the crocks were left to stew for months.
The general principles are simple. Place a layer of ‘leathery stage’ petals at the bottom of the crock, then cover with a layer of common {not iodized} salt. Add another layer of petals, then salt, alternating them until the crock is about three quarters full. A batch requires at least two weeks ageing before the remaining ingredients are added. Weigh the mixture down with a plate on which is placed some heavy non-corrodible object. A large bottle of homemade preserves is an answer. A large glass jar filled with sand and tightly capped will do the job well too. Each day the mix needs to be stirred well from the bottom. A kind of ‘petal soup’ appears and should be mixed back into the petals. If a hard crust appears, remove it and allow it to dry. Reserve this for the final mixing when it should be crushed and added back.
Next the spices, ground roots, dried peels, fragrant leaves and fixatives are added and blended. Leave for one month, stirring daily and covering again, to mellow and mix the fragrances. Finally add whatever essential oils may be required and allow the mix to continue to ‘stew’ {the word is too appropriate to be avoidable}, stirring daily, for a few more weeks.
If all this sounds tedious in the extreme, interrupting a very busy schedule, you are probably one of those who would most greatly benefit from its therapy! The fragrance alone is sufficient reward as the mixture is stirred each day, and it is no more difficult to build this routine into your day than any other daily routine.
Now is the time to move the potpourri into its final containers. Remember how long it will give pleasure to its owner and choose something worthy of the contents. Old Chinese ginger jars, oriental porcelain jars, even old-fashioned tea-caddies and marmalade jars in fine pottery are suitable. Haunt secondhand and antique shops for suitable potpourri jars. The only provisos are that there is a solid cover and that it is made of glazed pottery of some kind. Once you are looking, it is amazing how many unusual and attractive old containers suggest themselves.
The mixture in its new container will still be a little raw in its quality of fragrance, but in a few weeks will be a delight. When you wish to scent a room, remove the cover and a delicious subtle fragrance will gently pervade the whole area. Otherwise keep the lid on the mixture.
Here are a few recipes for moist potpourri. Once you have mastered the basic technique you will be able to devise your own mixes.

Sweet Lavender Tisane.

Queen Elizabeth I reputedly consumed countless cups of this tisane.
3 tablespoons fresh English lavender flowers
2 cups boiling water
Honey
Allow the flowers to steep for 3 to 4 minutes, strain and serve with a slice of lemon and honey if liked.
If using dried flowers, halve the quantity used. A little mint or rosemary can be added for an interesting flavor variation.
The English long served their equivalent of the modern fruit salad with lavender flowers and on a bed of lettuce and lavender leaves. This is a delicious modern adaptation of that old idea.

Herbal Bath Bags.

Lavender has a relaxing effect on the peripheral nervous system and has long been used to treat headaches originating from nervous tension. Not surprisingly with these medicinal properties combined with its sweet clean smell, lavender has long been a constituent of bath bags. These are made from squares of muslin or voile. A cupful of the mixture is placed in the center of the square, the sides drawn up and tied into a bag with appropriate colored ribbon.
Lavender Mist Bath Bags
 
1/2 cup dried sweet cicely
1/2 cup dried sweet woodruff
1 tablespoon dried valerian roots
1/4 cup dried lavender leaves
1/2 cup dried lavender flowers
1/4 cup dried angelica leaves
1 1/2 cup medium ground oatmeal
1/2 cup almond meal
20 drops oil of lavender
Divide the mixture into 3 equal portions and tie into bags as previously described.
Soak the bag thoroughly in hot water at the bottom of the bath before topping up with cool water.
Squeeze the bag repeatedly until no more milkiness emerges. The water will now be silky soft and fragrant.
Use the bag as a final gentle skin scrub. The bag is reusable once provided it is used the next day.
Aromatic Bath
 
This recipe is adapted from the Toilet of Flora published in the seventeenth century.
Combine half a cup of each of the following dried herbs: lavender, sweet marjoram, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, wormwood, peppermint, pennyroyal, lemon balm.
Add the mixture to two litres of water in an enamelled pan, boil for ten minutes, then allow to cool.
Strain through a double layer of cloth and add half a bottle of brandy.
Bottle. Add a little to the bathtub when bathing.
The Beauty Bath
 
Ninon de Lenclos was a celebrated and exceedingly beautiful French courtesan of the seventeenth century.
She died at the age of 85 {rare indeed at that time} and reputedly retained her smooth youthful skin and curves until the end. She attributed this to her special daily herbal bath.
Here is her secret recipe.
1 handful crushed comfrey root
1 handful dried lavender flowers
1 handful dried mint leaves
1 handful dried rosemary leaves
1 handful dried Centifolia rose petals {recommended by famous French herbalist Maurice Messague for its anti-wrinkle properties}
Mix together, tie in a muslin bag and place in a large bowl. Pour boiling water over the herbs and leave to steep for 20 minutes. Pour the resulting infusion into a warm bath, squeezing the bag hard to extract all the active principles.
An Eighteenth Century Sweet Bath
 
This bath is refreshing, antiseptic and deodorising.
1 cup dried rose petals
1 cup dried orange flowers
1 cup dried Jasminum officinalis flowers
1 cup dried bay leaves
1 cup dried mint leaves
1 cup pennyroyal leaves
1 cup dried citrus peel {yellow part only}
6 drops essential oil of lavender
6 drops essential oil of musk
6 drops essential oil rose geranium
Mix well and store in a glass jar.
To use, tie 2-3 cups of the mixture in a muslin square, place in a bowl and pour boiling water over the herbs.
Allow to infuse for twenty minutes, remove the herbs squeezing the muslin bag firmly to extract all the herb extract, and add this concentrated infusion to a warm bath.
The Ultimate Tranquility Bath
 
Save this bath until evening.
You will find yourself unwinding wonderfully with this fragrant bath.
1 cup dried lavender flowers
1 cup dried linden flowers
1 cup dried chamomile flowers
1 cup dried valerian root chips
1 cup dried sweet marjoram
1/2 cup dried angelica leaves
1/2 cup dried lemon verbena leaves
Mix well together and use in the same way as the previous recipe.

Lavender Antiseptic Washes & More..

Lavender Antiseptic Wash.
This is a favorite treatment for eczema, cuts, acne and minor burns.
Take a good handful of the flowers and boil together with half a liter of water for ten minutes. Filter and allow to cool before using.
Since Roman days this has been used in hot baths, to relax the body, and it is known to have a marked effect on the peripheral nervous system. It has also been widely used as a gargle for sore throats and sore or infected gums, due to its antiseptic properties and relaxant effect on the nervous system.
Hungary Water.
1 gallon brandy or clear spirits {equal to 16 cups}
1 handful of rosemary
1 handful of lavender
1 handful myrtle
Handfuls are measured by cutting branches of the herbs twelve inches long. A handful is the number of such branches that can be held in the hand. After measuring, the branches should be cut up into one-inch pieces, and put to infuse in the brandy. You will then have the finest Hungary Water that can be made.
Four Thieves Vinegar.
This antiseptic vinegar is attributed to a gang of four thieves who robbed the bodies of victims of the plague in Marseilles in 1722. They washed their bodies with it, frequently disinfecting their hands, and sprinkled it on their clothes and around their houses. It is said that all four survived without infection.
Actually it is not surprising that this famous aromatic vinegar was so successful. Many of its ingredients are among the most powerful natural antibiotics in the world. Another case of empirically gained knowledge long preceding that obtained by scientific investigation.
*Infuse garlic cloves, lavender flowers, rosemary, sage, calamus root, mint, wormwood, rue, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a glass flagon of wine vinegar and leave sealed in the sun for 3-4 weeks to release the powerfully antibiotic oils into the vinegar. Filter, pour into smaller bottles, add a little camphor and seal until ready for use.
Soothing Massage Oil.
1/2 cup safflower or sunflower oil
Dried pot marigold petals
12 drops essential oil of rose geranium
12 drops essential oil of lavender
10 drops essential pine oil or oil of cypress
Place the safflower oil in a glass jar and add as many freshly dried pot marigold petals as possible.
Cap the bottle and place in the sun for 4-5 days. Filter off the petals and squeeze out any retained oil from them before discarding. The oil will now be deep orange and fully charged with the active healing principles of calendula. Mix the other essential oils into the infused oil of marigold, bottle and store in the refrigerator.