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How to Make Yellow Rose Lotion Bars by Jan Berry

One of my favorite home herbalists and authors is Jan Berry. Her work is always beautiful and it is with much excitement that I am sharing one of her recipes with you here today.

Jan Berry is the author of 101 Easy Homemade Products and Simple & Natural Soapmaking. She writes about herbal crafting, DIY body care, and natural soapmaking on her website, thenerdyfarmwife.com. Her books are absolutely lovely; filled with inspiring recipes like this one. The books would make perfect presents for the DIY-er on your gift list! These pretty little lotion bars are positively giftable too. I hope you enjoy making them!

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 oz shea or mango butter

  • 0.75 oz beeswax

  • 0.75 oz sunflower oil, infused with rose petals

  • 15 drops sea buckthorn oil, optional

  • 15 drops rose absolute

  • 5 drops lavender essential oil

    *If you don’t own a scale, use around 2 tablespoons each of shea/mango butter, tightly packed beeswax pastilles, and infused sunflower oil.

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INSTRUCTIONS

Melt the beeswax, butter, and infused sunflower oil together in a double boiler over low heat. Once melted, remove the pan from the heat. Add the sea buckthorn oil, if you’d like added color, along with the essential oils. Stir well and pour into small silicone or candy molds. Allow the bars to cool completely before removing from the mold. Yields 2 lotion bars that weigh around 1.25 oz each, or several smaller bars.

Rub lotion bars over your hands, elbows, knees and feet at night to help nourish and soften dry skin.


This recipe was written by and shared with permission from Jan Berry. Photos provided by Jan. I hope you enjoy making a batch of these pretty lotion bars!

Much love,
Erin


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AromaCulture's 2017 Holiday Gift Guide

The people who are closest to me in my inner circle know that giving is my love language. I love to give gifts. Thinking through things I can make or purchase for someone to make them smile and help them feel appreciated, finding or making whatever I decide on, then packaging the items up prettily, with intention and care, and sending them off to their new home makes me so incredibly happy. When my husband comes home with a surprise 'just because' gift for me, or an unexpected and thoughtful gift arrives from a friend in the mail, I practically melt. So you can probably guess that Christmastime is one of my absolute favorite times of the year. I like to give gifts all throughout the four seasons, but Christmas gives me a major excuse to love on people a little extra (and all at once!) so I tend to have a lot of fun with it.

If you like giving gifts too (or if you're just trying to come up with some new ideas for your gift list/wish list this year), and are looking for some ready-to-gift items (my DIY list is coming later), I've put together a list of some lovely items from some of my favorite small businesses that would appeal to your plant-loving friends here for you today. A few of the features even include interviews with the business owners!

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Let's kick off the gift guide with a special announcement, shall we? We now have 6-month and 12-month gift subscriptions to AromaCulture Magazine available in our shop! Give the gift of AromaCulture Magazine to your plant-loving loved ones this year.


The first item I'd like to share with you today is a new travel diffuser that was recently made available by my favorite diffuser-making company, Organic Aromas. I love that most of their pieces are made by hand (you can watch videos of their diffuser making process on their Youtube channel) and are customizable, and that they are super committed to making sure that your essential oils never come into contact with plastic. This is something that's important to me, personally, so I really appreciate that this brand specifically creates diffusers that keep plastic parts away from my oils.

This family-owned small business' new travel diffuser is battery powered (rechargeable), can fit in the cup holder of your car, and is made with anodized aluminum and glass. It has a built-in timer and is super easy to pack in your suitcase, so it's perfect for travel as well.

I've mentioned in the past that I've never found a car diffuser/travel diffuser that I like, so I tend not to share them. This new little guy, though, has changed that for me. It's officially my new favorite for diffusing on the road and in hotel rooms, though it definitely doesn't need to be reserved only for traveling.

 
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While everything from Lotus Wei is absolutely lovely, I'm especially loving their Aura Mists lately. Their signature flower essence formulas are combined with aromatic essential oils in these delicate, yet potent energetic mists, which are available individually or in a set of 6 that includes their famous Joy Juice, Inner Peace, Infinite Love, Quiet Mind, Inspired Action, and Radiant Energy blends. I've had them on my desk for a little while now and I love spritzing them throughout the day. They have such intricately beautiful aromas. Joy Juice, Infinite love, and Inspired Action are my current favorites.

 
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My favorite organic, medicinal herb seeds come from Richo Cech and his family over at Strictly Medicinal Seeds (formerly Horizon Herbs). Richo is an herbalist, herb farmer, and master storyteller. His books are treasured volumes in my herbal library. My latest acquisition from his shop? A stash of Sweet Violet seeds ready for planting. (I can't help but sow a few packets of them every year! You can never have too many Violets.) I talk more about my experience with this brand in this blog post.

 
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It's no secret that people who love herbs and essential oils tend to like other gifts from the earth as well. Song Yee Designs is one of my favorite silversmiths / jewelry artists. She creates absolutely flawless gemstone jewelry made with sterling silver and fine silver and hand-selected stones. I've purchased several pieces from her throughout the years (both ready-made and custom pieces), including this White Buffalo Turquoise ring, and I'm always more than pleased with her work. Learn more about her pieces here. (She's also on Etsy.)

 
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Prices vary based on the piece.


Speaking of gemstones and gifts from the earth, Manukoa offers a wide variety of gemstones and semi-precious stones, both rough and polished, along with White Sage smudge sticks and gemstone jewelry. Visit the shop here and enter the coupon code AROMACULTURE at checkout to receive 10% off any purchase over $40. (US shipping only.)

 
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Shown: Aquamarine spheres. Prices vary.


Some of you already know that I like to collect handmade pottery - especially functional pieces like mugs and small bowls and dishes that I can use and feature in the magazine with all sorts of pretty herbal preparations. (Jon and I are actually learning how to make our own pottery pieces right now, too!) This sweet mug was made by Summer of Kilned with Kindness, who is currently my favorite potter. Her pieces always make me smile - perfect additions to any collection and a lovely gift for the tea or coffee drinking friend in your life!

 
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If you don't already, I highly recommend purchasing essential oils from small local farms whenever possible. Being able to visit the farm and see the plants and witness the distillation process will change the way you view and use your essential oils. If you don't have a farm near you, you can 'borrow' one of my favorites - this exquisite Lavender (angustifolia) essential oil is handcrafted by hand in a copper still by our friends Sue and Derek Owen of The English Lavender Farm. It's the finest, most beautiful Lavender oil I've ever encountered (and I tried dozens this year when I was writing my Lavender book!) and you can visit their farm next year during Lavender season! ;)

 
 

Lavender Essential Oil - 10ml, $21


Need a geometric shelf to act as wall art or to showcase your crystals and trinkets? Stewart Landing Co. is owned by an artisan woodworker (who also works here at AromaCulture!) who handcrafts geometric wall shelves and planters using reclaimed wood and hand-picked cedar and pine. His stains are made by hand without chemicals. Wholesale options are available. Enter the coupon code AROMACULTURE at checkout to receive 10% off any purchase over $40. (US shipping only.)

 
 

Handmade Triangle Shelf (other shapes and sizes available): $39


We've shared their products with you before and we'll probably share them again because we just love them so much. Moon Valley Organics offers high quality body and personal care items made with organic herbs grown right on their farm. This Oatmeal Sage bar is our long-time favorite soap from their selection.

 
 

If you've never heard of Juniper Ridge, beware. You'll probably swoon once you take a few moments to look through their product offerings and watch the videos about their process. They make the finest trail-formulated botanical fragrances (distilling on location!) that we've ever found. We're long-time fans of their products. Check out this collection of sample colognes, which makes it easy choose a favorite so you can order a full size bottle.

 
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Another jewelry artist that I've purchased from throughout the years is Mallory Wingo of Wingostarr Jewelry. She handmakes the most beautiful wire-wrapped and beaded gemstone jewelry and all of her pieces are unique (many are one of a kind) and vibrant. This citrine slice necklace is one of my longtime favorites from her shop. She now offers a chakra-aligning version of it that features several different gemstones!

 
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I first found Katelyn's jewelry shop on Instagram a few years ago (we were living in CA at the time) and purchased this ammolite necklace, one of my favorite pieces. Katelyn specializes in electroformed jewelry made with copper and/or sterling silver. Her birthstone + quartz crystal necklaces are beautiful.

 
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Prices vary.


Jen Tao is an Instagram-friend who I originally 'met' on instagram through our mutual love for succulents. (Her instagram feed is incredible if you love them too.) She has partnered with another small business owner this season to make limited edition succulent dreamcatchers. They
will only be available in a limited amount and for a limited time, but you can order one here if you love them as much as I do! Grab one while they're available - they'll go fast.

 
 

Succulent Dream Catcher: $65
(photo from Jen's instagram feed)


Now, for some small business fun!

- the next few features include interviews with the makers -


The bath teas formulated by Denise for Wholly Rooted, her small-batch farm apothecary are exquisite. The aromas are intoxicating and they are absolutely lovely with their vibrant, hand-harvested herbal blends of unsurpassed quality. Pick up a few for your loved ones' stockings this season. They'll be delighted! I like to add a little bit of violet-infused oil to mine to make them feel even more luxurious and then massage the tea bag into my skin in the bath.

 
 

Set of 3 bath teas: $32

interview with the business owner: denise

Note: Denise's full interview is featured in our December issue of AromaCulture Magazine.

  1. Hi Denise! Thanks for taking time to share with us today. Could you tell us a bit about your story? How/when did you start working with plant-based ingredients? What was it about them that drew you in?

    I have always been a very eco-conscious person from food to body and home products. I also have been an avid gardener for many years - and all of that seems to coalesce into working with my hands, growing my own food and medicinal herbs, making a lot of my own bath, body and home products - not only to be more green and environmentally sound, but also to avoid allergens, to use what is local, to use what I connect with. What we put into our bodies is as important as what we put on our bodies and in our homes. All of this has driven me to pursue more advanced level courses  in herbalism, holistic nutrition and aromatherapy. Health and wellness encompasses our whole life, not just our food or exercise. As a gardener, you get to work with a plant from seed to mouth, which is truly a profound experience. Plants, their actions, chemistry, and tenaciousness are fascinating and I love learning about my local plants, the changes in habitat and migration of plant species due to our changing climate, and the impact of soil on nutrition and gut microbiota. Plants enrich my life, and are a part of everything we do! I am currently working on completing my clinical hours to get the official AHG RH (Registered Herbalist) designation. I feel like I’m never done learning, and plants, herbalism, aromatherapy and holistic health have so much to teach us, and I love working with and helping people. Plants have also helped my own healing, and learning about plants is a lifelong evolution based on where I am at each moment, and what my body needs.  
     
  2. What does your creative process tend to look like? When you sit down to create a new product, do you go through a list of steps or do you tend to lean more toward creative expression and go with your gut?

    I love to make items based on a need at home or for a friend. I love blending herbs, essential oils, and carrier ingredients to find a balance and synergy that not only fits the physical need, but also has other purposes such as uplifting the mood, helping with focus, or calming the mind. I tend to use products on my family and myself for awhile before creating bigger batches.

    I love working in my herbal studio with the twinkly lights on, music playing, and a vast quantity of fresh ingredients to create with.

    Both. I love knowing the properties of plants and essential oils and working to create a harmony that works on both physical and emotional levels. So many people are stressed, busy, anxious, nervous, frazzled and tired. Aromatherapy can really uplift and support emotional wellness, while the herbs and oils can support the skin and body. 

    I make all products in small batches, by hand, in my herbal studio. I like working in smaller batches as I think products should change seasonally and I like to be inspired by new ideas and ingredients based on what I grow, harvest, forage or preserve.
     
  3. Tell us a little about the kinds of ingredients you like to use in your products.

    Many of the products with oils are infused with plants I have grown myself in one of my gardens - my hilltop prairie home garden or in the calm and peaceful rural garden where I grow many medicinals surrounded by chickens, goats and bees. My herbs are also in the salves, bath teas, body oils and serums. I grow many of the herbs from seed to bottle, grown organically (though not certified). I harvest by hand all summer, and carefully dry all herbs in dehydrators, and store them in my herbal apothecary. My dried herbs tend to have so much more color and aroma than commercially dried herbs, because of how I harvest and dry in smaller batches. I also distill some of my own hydrosols in my copper still, and all other hydrosols I purchase are organic.

    I source other ingredients based on quality, a transparent supply chain, and organic as much as possible. I don’t mark up my products as much as most people do, which is a fault I suppose, but I want those good quality ingredients as well as pricing that is accessible. I hand make everything myself and make items in small batches, so it is a labor of love in many ways.
     
  4. Which of your products do you use most often?

    We use the chest rub every single night with my son who gets sniffly when in his bed. I feel like we use the salves by the gallon - my kids call it salve-ation, so I now call one of them by that name. Any little bump or scrape or blister  - all get the salve-ation. Body butters are used just out of the shower. We diffuse and use sprays at bedtime. I have used the facial serum and glow facial toner for months on myself now. We carry aromasticks with us everywhere we go (great for kids who need help transitioning)  and we use inhalers and steams when we have a cold. We have rollerballs in our home first aid kit and in the purse - for various things.

    I make custom products for people as well, and some of my favorites that we also use at home include shower gel, hand sanitizer, lotion blends, and massage oils.

    At home, we also make all of our own tinctures, glycerites, extracts, teas and more. We keep looking for a farm with a commercial kitchen to expand our offerings (and life) in the future!
     
  5. Where can our readers find you online?

    WhollyRooted.com - That is where the online shop is along with my blog with recipes and gardening tips, information on consultations, custom products and more! I also love to write and have articles in AromaCulture coming up! Wholly Rooted is on Facebook: facebook.com/whollyrooted, at Instagram at instagram.com/whollyrooted and Pinterest at pinterest.com/wholly_rooted.

The Tulsi Rejuvenating Oil from Apoterra Skincare is lightweight and rejuvenating, just as it promises. It smells divine and slightly masculine and the aroma lingers throughout the day. If you love the smell of Tulsi as much as we do, we think you'll adore this body oil. Apply it just after showering to soak up all of its oily goodness. It pairs perfectly with Apoterra's Tulsi Luminous Scrub, which shares its delightful aroma and leaves our skin feeling perfectly polished and soft. One of our favorite giftable sets this holiday season!

 
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Tulsi Body Care Set (also available individually): $63

Interview with the Business Owner, Dominique

Note: Dominique's full interview is featured in our December issue of AromaCulture Magazine.

  1. Hi Dominique ! Thanks for taking time to share with us today. Could you tell us a bit about your story? How/when did you start working with plant-based ingredients? What was it about them that drew you in?

    I have sort of always been fascinated by plants and the power they hold. I remember as a kid going into my mom's garden to collect flowers, herbs and earth and mixing all of it with liquid hand soap to make a "better" hand soap. It was a total mess, but the curiosity and desire to work with plants was there.  I actually went to school in a totally different direction - I wanted to work in the arts because I thought I could be more creative in that world.  So I went to film school and became a lighting technician for major motion pictures and television. It loved working on big movies, but it wasn't as fulfilling and creative work as I had hoped.  At the same time that I realized I didn't want to continue with my film career, I had this calling to learn more about plants so I decided to start studying foraging and herbal medicine on my own time.  Then one day a friend gave me a soap making kit and I fell in love. I went on to study botany at NYBG, took an intensive herbalism program through the Herbal Bear School of Botanical Medicine, and became a certified aromatherapist the the Aromahead Institute (a NAHA and AIA approved program).
     
  2. What does your creative process tend to look like? When you sit down to create a new product, do you go through a list of steps or do you tend to lean more toward creative expression and go with your gut?

    I start with an inspiration jump off point - whether it be a specific need (like clearing acne), a kind of product (like a facial oil), an ingredient I am really interested in working with or a scent concept.  From there I brainstorm formulations and write down my ideas.  I do a lot of research and often times my concept for the formulation will change a lot until I find something that I am very excited about.  When working with essential oils, I love using the Aromahead Component Database as a resource to help me determine which oils are the best choice.  Then I will source the ingredients I need (if I don't have them on hand) and will start working in the lab. Sometimes the formulation only needs minor tweaks, but other times I go through many versions over many months to improve scent, color, texture and effect.  

    When it comes to creating scents, writing them down and thinking them through is not always where I start.  I usually prefer to start with a concept ("bright citrus with sweet floral notes" or "calming and empowering") and then I will take out my essential oils.  I will smell my way to choosing the ones I want to work with, and start blending that way.  Once I have a blend I like, if I want the blend to have a specific purpose I will look up the oils I chose to see if they align with what I want them to do.  

    (B) A little bit of both!  It depends on what I am focusing on.  If I am focusing on the results, I like to first go with instinct in the ingredients I choose to put in the formulation, but then I will do research and adjust the formulation based on my findings.  If I am focusing on something that is for enjoyment, such as an aroma, texture or color, then I learn more by being hands on and creative, and will make decisions more based on my gut instinct.
     
  3. Tell us a little about the kinds of ingredients you like to use in your products.

    I only source sustainable and clean plant + mineral based ingredients.  I am a huge fan of working with raw plants and clays, but I also see value in plant derived actives that are usually produced in a lab.  I don't see the world as black and white, but more as many shades of grey. So we use raw plants, pure clays and salts, hydrosols, essential oils, oil infusions, herbal extracts (water or glycerin substrate), but also proven safe and effective vegan and plant derived actives like hyaluronic acid, coQ10, and vitamin C.  When I source my essential oils, I always make sure they come with a GC/MS report so that I can be sure of they quality and effect.  I also am pretty stringent about having traceability as far as the country of origin, year of production and certifications regarding my ingredients because this tells me a lot about the quality and sustainability of our ingredients.  When it comes to the lab produced ingredients, I will only source ingredients from manufacturers that are transparent about the raw materials they use in their process.  I share a lot of this information on our website through our batch # system which you can look up to find out, for instance, what country the chamomile essential oil in your facial oil came from and what year it was distilled. 
     
  4. Which of your products do you use most often?

    My toners! I use them as my morning cleanser, mist them on before applying my facial oil or balm, and mix them with my Activated Puirfying Mask. In the summer I use the Neroli Clarifying Toner because I tend to be more break out prone then. In the winter I use our Rose Hydrating Toner.  I also love misting them on throughout the day for a refresher and for aromatherapy (I make them with organic hydrosol blends). 

  5. Where can our readers find you online?

    You can also keep in touch by following us on instagram or facebook @apoterraskincare  www.apoterraskincare.comYou can shop, check out our blog, and look up our product's batch #s on our website which is

Bella Vista Naturals is a small family-owned farm in Georgia. They offer handcrafted apothecary products (salves, lip balms, lotions and scrubs, soaps, etc.) made and formulated by herbalist Anne-Marie Bilella, who has been published in prior issues of AromaCulture Magazine. One of our favorite products this season is her Spa in a Jar Kit, which includes 5 different products all specially developed to help you feel relaxed and pampered through the season. The herbal bath tea in this kit smells absolutely incredible!

 
 

Spa in a Jar Kit: $30

Interview with the business owner: Anne-marie

  1. Hi Anne-Marie! Thanks for taking time to share with us today. Could you tell us a bit about your story? How/when did you start working with plant-based ingredients? What was it about them that drew you in?

    In 1990, my husband and I moved from New York to Georgia to our place, Bella Vista Farm. I worked for different companies for a few years and after our son was born, I knew I wanted to find a way to work for myself. My child ate fast food and drank diet soda at the babysitters, all before the age of 2 and at that time I realized we need to get a hold on eating better and using chemical free products. My dear friend, Cyndi Ball of the Lazy B Farm and President of the National Ladies Homestead Gathering, helped me to get on the right path of good health. She taught me about farm fresh eggs, local meat, how to make cheese and most importantly to try herbal remedies. During the first year of the Ladies Homestead Gathering, I learned about wild weeds - Chickweed was my first obsession! I couldn't believe that weeds in our yard could nourish and heal our bodies. I created my first product, a salve with Chickweed and Plantain. Yep, that was 2011 and I am still obsessed with wild weeds! 
     
  2. When you sit down to create a new product, do you go through a list of steps or do you tend to lean more toward creative expression and go with your gut?

    My brain has all kinds of ideas constantly running around in it. I see a need or an ailment and start brainstorming about what herbs and what type of carrier I use for this new product. Sometimes folks will tell me about a product they would like or one they saw a recipe for and then ask if I can create it. Most of my products are tested on my Herbal CSA members. They usually get first dibs on any new product or limited quantity products.
     
  3. Tell us a little about the kinds of ingredients you like to use in your products.

    All the herbs and mushrooms are organic, homegrown without chemicals or wild harvested. We use organic vinegars, organic coffee, organic milk powders, high quality oils, butters, waxes. Not every oil/butter is organic but they are non-gmo. Our beeswax is locally sourced. 
     
  4. Which of your products do you use most often? 

    I use everything I make but most often, The Pit Stick(deodorant), Peppermint Lip Balm, Lavender Body Butter, Super 10 Stock Powder (mushroom/herb blend) and Holy Basil Tea. 
     
  5. Where can our readers find you online?

    Our products are listed on Etsy as of now, www.etsy.com/Shop/BellaVistaFarm visit the blog at www.bellavistanaturals.com, on Instagram www.instagram.com/mybellavistafarm, Facebook www.facebook.com/BellaVistaFarm

You can't go wrong with herbal tea blends, especially when they're formulated by small local businesses using hand-harvested local ingredients. One of our favorite brands at the moment is St. Fiacre's Farm. Their Coastal Cranberry Spice tea is outstanding! It features organic Hibiscus flowers, locally sourced cranberries and spicy, warming herbs, hand-formulated in small batches on their farm. CeAnne has offered you 10% off purchases in her shop if you use the coupon code AROMA17.

 
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Full tin (other sizes available too): $15

Interview with the business owner: CeAnne

  1. Hi CeAnne ! Thanks for taking time to share with us today. Could you tell us a bit about your story? How/when did you start working with plant-based ingredients? What was it about them that drew you in?

    My husband and I hand blend artisan loose leaf tea on our micro farm of around 2 acres. We both live, work and homeschool our four adopted children here on our small farm. We have been married almost 16 years and have adopted from around the world including Russia, Bulgaria and right here in Oregon. 3 of our 4 children have special needs and so it is important to us that we have not only a school environment but work environment that allows them to grow with as much help as we are able to give them. The farm life has been a blessing in regards to helping their delays from orphanage life.

    I've been into herbs since high school almost 17 years ago starting with aromatherapy before it was popular. I really started diving deep in 2013, taking online herbal classes and reading book after book on herbs and their medicinal qualities. Growing up a city girl compared to my husband, who grew up the son of a ranch hand in Montana, I wasn't much into gardening. The more I learned about herbs, the more I realized how easily accessible they are and easy to plant or forage. I found my love of gardening during that time and we started St. Fiacre's Farm and our line of herbal teas, lip balms and salves.

    The things that drew me into herbs most was their ability to assist in healing naturally without the side affects of chemical drugs (which I'm highly allergic to), how easy they are to access and how available they are to almost anyone. From foraging in the yard (think dandelions and blackberry leaf) to just grabbing herbs out of the produce section (basil & thyme), baking aisle (cinnamon, cardamom) or our own spice cupboards!
     
  2. When you sit down to create a new product, do you go through a list of steps or do you tend to lean more toward creative expression and go with your gut?

    Our products are created in a few different ways. We start with the reason we are creating it: Is it a request from one of our customers? Is there a local ingredient we have access to that we want to feature? Or is there a flavor we are going for? When I went to create our Coastal Cranberry Spice blend I had a mulled wine flavor in mind. It's such a lovely holiday flavor, warm and fruity with lots of spice. I'm allergic to alcohol and this tea blend gives those who can't or don't want to consume alcohol an option during the holidays. It tastes similar, looks similar, but the health benefits are much more. We were able to access cranberries from the Bandon, Oregon area which makes it that much more tasty!

    Our Farmer's Wife Raspberry blend on the other hand was made with women's health in mind and so the basis of that tea is herbs that are especially beneficial for women. Then there are customer favorites such as our Cascade Earl Grey, a lavender earl grey, which is a standard amongst black tea drinkers. And our Cherry City Chai which was created because I love Chai! But we wanted to feature a local farm in the area too and Cherry Country out of Rickreal is just wonderful. We toured their cherry factory and their chocolate room and are so excited to offer an heirloom cherry from Salem, the Royal Ann, in this blend.

    A little creative expression does show up because not only do these teas have to taste wonderful, but the artist in me insists that they look beautiful and we get many compliments on that at the farmer's market. 

    With our monthly tea club, I get to be more creative and create blends monthly for our members. These blends get to feature even more local ingredients because they are a smaller batch blend and can be highly seasonal without the demand from our wholesale accounts to have them year around. Our October blend was an Apple Pie Chai with Queener farm apples and our November tea club members received a Pumpkin HazelNOT Coffee that included pumpkin, marigold and calendula grown right here on our farm. It was so fun to blend because we know the story of those ingredients. Not only did we watch them grow here on the farm ourselves from seed to harvest, but our viewers on our Youtube channel got to watch the whole process too! They got to see where their tea came from and that is what gets us excited!
     
  3. Tell us a little about the kinds of ingredients you like to use in your products.

    We love to source local first. That could mean that we grow it here on our micro farm or it could mean that we source it from other local farms. Our ideal is that the bulk of our ingredients are sourced this way. We have plans to increase local ingredient usage even more in the next year. For the time being we have a few ingredents that come off of our own farm and most of our berries and fruits are local from Oregon. As mentioned earlier our cherries come from Cherry Country, apples from Queener Farms in Stayton, lavender from Eagle Creek Lavender Farm, cornflowers from Floating Petal Confetti in Shaw, aronia berries from Mt. Hope Farms in Molalla, haskap berries from an OSU test farm in Corvallis, and hazelnuts from King Fresh Hazelnuts in Silverton. We are always looking for new local farms to utilize when sourcing our ingredients.

    In the coming year we hope to increase our own plantings here on the farm. We ran some test plots this year as we completed the building of our tea studio (our work space for creating and manufacturing our teas on the farm). When we can't source the ingredients locally, we make use of organic bulk herb suppliers such as Mountain Rose Herbs and Starwest-Botanicals. Local first and then quality Organic, both at once is ideal but not always possible.
     
  4. Which of your products do you use most often?

    The products that we use most often around are farm are our medicinal salves from arnica, calendula and plantain salve to our lip balms. When we are sipping tea we rotate based on our mood or need. Our Ma's Tummy Tea when we need some digestive assistance, Farmer's Wife Raspberry daily in the mornings, Cherry City Chai when we need a pick-me-up, Mountain HazelNOT Coffee when we need a dark, deep, rich drink without the caffeine, and Willamette Berry Pie for dessert!
     
  5. Where can our readers find you online?

    Our farm store is online at www.StFiacresFarm.com and we are also all over social media. Facebook and Instagram are our most popular locations. We also have a Youtube channel where we V-log weekly about our farm and include DIY farm life tutorials which include anything from how we built our 42 foot long green house to how to use herbs like borage and lemon balm. We share a little glimpse of our life here at the farm with our family. We also have a website dedicated to teaching others about growing herbs, using them and of course how to create their own tea blends at www.GrowCreateSip.com That membership is opening shortly.

Happy gift-giving! Share some of your favorite small businesses in the comments section below to spread some small business love this season.

Much love,
Erin


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Disclaimer: The new travel diffuser by Organic Aromas was sent to us by the company to share with you. Our review reflects our true opinion about this company and its products. They are truly our favorite diffusers and we can recommend them to you without reservation. The products that are accompanied by interviews with their makers were also sent to us by the business owners, who were awarded an opportunity to be featured in our holiday gift guide. All opinions shared are our own. The Lotus Wei aura mists were sent to us as a gift recently and we loved them enough to feature them here. All other products featured in this gift guide were purchased by us over the years and we are happy to recommend them to you.

How to Source High Quality Herbs, Essential Oils, & Herbal Products + Where I Buy Mine

I am often asked where I like to buy herbs, essential oils, and other herbal products. I tend to be a little vague when answering this question and give people several options to choose from because I try lean toward a brand-neutral presence. That said, this is a question I receive so often that I decided to open up to you about it today. Let’s put aside the business side of things for a moment and talk as if you are sitting in my living room and we are just having a friend-to-friend chat about the companies from whom I personally choose to purchase products for my own home. Okay? If you were to come over for a visit and raid my stash, this is what you'd find.

Note: This article is not an endorsement of any company.
It is simply a look at what I have in my own apothecary.

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FRESH HERBS

I try to grow as many of my own fresh herbs in our organic garden as I can (we currently grow 70+ varieties, not counting lavenders), but if I need to source a batch from somewhere else, I always try to purchase locally first. Friends in my own local herb community are sometimes open for trade and many of our local farms grow organic herbs that can be purchased in bulk. If you’re unsure of where to find local farms that grow herbs, start asking around at your local farmer’s market. Many farms will even contract grow a crop for you if you let them know what you want to purchase (and how much of it) ahead of time. An online search for organic farms near you should also produce some results for farms that you might not have known about. Additionally, the master gardener’s extension office in your area is a great resource for finding people and farms who might be able to sell you what you’re looking for.

If I am unable to source a fresh herb locally, I will order it online from an organic farm that ships fresh herbs the day they are harvested. Pacific Botanicals in Oregon has been my favorite company to source fresh herbs from in the past and I have personally visited their beautiful farm several times. They will harvest an herb, pack it with ice, and ship it overnight to you the same day. Overnight shipping cost may be a deterrent for some, but if you absolutely can’t find what you need near you, this is an option. Pacific Botanicals sells herbs wholesale, requires orders of at least one pound of herb at a time and does have an order minimum. You can see their fresh herb selection here. Zack Woods Herb Farm on the eastern side of the US also ships fresh herbs, but requires a minimum of 10 pounds per species for most herbs. You can view their selection here.

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DRIED HERBS

If I don’t grow an herb in my own garden (the best way to source the highest quality herbs) or need more of it than I was able to harvest in its growing season, I’ll order dried herb by the pound from Pacific Botanicals. They are local to me and I love the quality of their products. I recommend ordering dried herbs from a farm that is local to you if at all possible. People often ask me how I am able to source such vibrant, high quality herbs for the products I make and photograph for the blog and the magazine and the truth is – growing them yourself will give you the best results, but when ordering herbs, as long as you are ordering freshly harvested and properly dried herbs from nearby, you should be able to source herbs that are high quality.

If I cannot find an herb locally or at Pacific Botanicals, I will turn to small farms who make their dried herbs available for purchase online. If it's a harder-to-find herb that I'm after and I absolutely can't source it from a small or local farm, I will turn to Mountain Rose Herbs and then try to add that herb to my garden the next year.

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HERB SEEDS

My most favorite place to order organic herb seeds is Richo Cech’s companyStrictly Medicinal Seeds (formerly Horizon Herbs). I have had successful germination rates with his products and he has such a wide selection available that I have to whittle down my shopping cart contents every time I go to purchase something from their website. They will also ship plant starts when seasonally appropriate and they offer excellent customer service. Richo’s books are all excellent, enjoyable, entertaining reads with a wealth of information about growing herbs and using them to make plant medicine.

I also purchase herb seeds from Renee’s Garden, which was a local-to-me seed company when I lived in California, but they also sell online on their website. Their flower and pollinator plant seeds are outstanding.

Botanical Interests is another favorite source for organic herb seeds (and veggie seeds) and their products are available at most garden stores, co-ops, and online.

There are many other companies that offer organic herb seeds for sale, but these 3 are my personal favorites and are the ones I most often purchase seeds from. I also enjoy trading seeds with like-minded local gardeners who I know and trust and I recommend saving your own seeds from your garden whenever possible.

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HERB PLANTS / STARTS

I will sometimes purchase an organic herb plant or start from a local grower if I want to get a head start on a plant. My favorite source for organic herb and pollinator plant starts is Goodwin Creek Gardens. They specialize in Lavender varieties, but also offer hundreds of varieties of organic herb plants. Their nursery is certified organic and they do offer mail order plants. The owners are planning to retire soon, so I’m not sure how much longer the company will be selling plants, but their plants are amazing. The owners are super sweet – we always love visiting them. I have never ordered from them through the mail – I have always picked up plants from their nursery or at the farmer’s market, but they do offer shipping. I would call ahead first to see what’s available for shipping if you plan to order plants online, as their online catalog lists most everything they offer, but not necessarily what is currently in stock for shipping.

Strictly Medicinal Seeds also ships organic herb plants / starts seasonally and offers a wide selection. The plants that I have picked up from them in person are all happily thriving in my garden.

Several organic local farms sell organic herb and veggie starts in the spring and early summer. Many of the ones near us sell both on-site at their farm stands/stores and at our local farmer’s market.

Our local chain of co-ops sells organic herb and veggie starts from local farms, including the ones we purchase directly from at their farm stands and Goodwin Creek. Your local co-op may be a great place to find organic starts too, but you’ll want to ask them about how they manage pests at their location. Our co-ops are pretty good about keeping organic plants separated from non-organic plants (and we are in a non-GMO county, which also helps), but not all garden departments are the same. If you’re planning to save seeds from your plants and you want them to be organic, I’d recommend purchasing directly from an organic farm or nursery or growing the plants from seed yourself.

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HERBAL TINCTURES

When I don’t make them myself, I usually purchase them from Herb Pharm and will buy them from iherb or vitacost because they are sold at a slight discount there. I’ll also pick them up at our local grocery co-op if I don’t want to wait for shipping. Herb Pharm is an outstanding company – I’ve visited their location as well and have always been pleased with the quality of their products.

Gaia Herbs also sells beautiful herbal tinctures – I’ve tried a couple of theirs and have been pleased. There are several smaller companies that offer tinctures as well, but these two are the brands I purchase from most often. Local herbalists often carry their own line of tinctures too.

FLOWER ESSENCES

The Bach Flower Remedies are probably my most purchased (when I don’t make them myself), but I have also been impressed by the flower essences from Lotus Wei. Several smaller companies sell a wide variety of them as well and you can often find a unique selection at a local herbalist / apothecary.

ESSENTIAL OILS

I have been able to work with many brands of essential oils over the years, but for the purpose of this blog post, I’m going to feature the ones I most often purchase from at this time.

Please note: There are obviously many other brands that produce quality essential oils. Please don't take this as a "These are the only good ones" kind of list - it is simply a glimpse into my own apothecary. I often recommend other brands as well, but that is not the purpose of this post. It is simply a, "Sure, come take a look in my fridge and I'll show you what I have right now."

I'm an advocate for choosing essential oils and related products that are produced from organically cultivated plants whenever possible – regardless of whether or not any contaminants make it through the distillation process (there are mixed reports about this), essential oils represent a lot of land mass. Choosing organic is supporting organic land (caring for the planet and the soil and future generations) and protects our pollinators.

I am also a huge fan of home distilling. If you’re able to purchase or build a still to use at home with your own plants, I highly recommend doing so. I’ll be writing a lot more about distilling at home and becoming part of the process in a deeper way in the coming year.

If you can’t tell by now, I’m also a huge advocate for purchasing from local sources whenever possible. I try to purchase essential oils from local farms and artisan distillers whenever I can, especially if I have had the opportunity to visit the farm first and see their distillation process firsthand. Small farms are often able to craft their essential oils with so much more love and intention than a commercial farm and that is something that I personally believe makes a big difference in the subtle nuances of the end product. Whenever I can, I try to purchase essential oils from small farms who distill their organically grown plants with mindful intention and lots of love. My favorite essential oils have come from these small farms.

When I purchase essential oils online from a larger brand, the company I most often purchase from at this stage of my life is Aromatics International. They offer a beautiful selection of essential oils from organically cultivated, wildharvested, and conventionally grown plants. This brand offers batch-specific GC/MS reports for every essential oil they sell and the sales page for each oil includes basic chemistry information about the oil as well as its date of distillation and some suggestions for use. Their customer service is excellent. They follow the NAHA and AIA guidelines for safe use.

Other brands I have purchased from and been pleased with include Stillpoint Aromatics and Eden Botanicals, both of which offer batch specific GC/MS reports on their websites (and sample sizes!). I have also liked Snow Lotus' products.

CONCLUSION

If you were to come over and go through my stash of herbal products, this post summarizes what you would find, aside from my homegrown goodies. When it comes to herbal remedies, body and personal care products, and cleaning products, I make most of them myself at home. This post isn't by any means a comprehensive guide to all of the great brands out there. It's simply a glimpse into my own apothecary, as if you were sitting here with me and asked if you could take a look at what I have.

Where do you purchase herbal products? Do you grow your own herbs and make your own remedies? Let me know in the comments below.

Much love,
Erin


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Using Pine Therapeutically + a Couple of Recipes (How to Make Pine Pitch Salve + Pine Needle Serum)

When my husband and I first moved to the PNW, we immediately began to explore the vast wilderness areas around us so we could get to know our native plants here. One of the first things we started noticing about the trees in one particular area was that they had been drilled by woodpeckers and the resulting holes were full of gorgeous, aromatic resin. Those fragrant little pockets of sticky medicine are still one of the first things we point out to visitors who come to see us and want to know about some of our local plants. Pines are plentiful here.

Pine trees have been partnered with to support health and healing for many generations. Traditionally, they are symbols of wisdom, peace and longevity. The pitch, bark, needles, hydrosol and essential oil of many varieties of Pine are used medicinally. Note: There are a few varieties of Pine whose needles are toxic, so be sure you know how to identify the species prior to wildcrafting or ingesting needles.

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Pine Pitch

Pine pitch is sometimes referred to as resin or sap. It is often used in survival situations to start fires and in first aid situations to help keep a wound clean and protected until it can be addressed more thoroughly (another herbal bandage, so to speak). It is often melted down into carrier oil and made into Pine pitch salve or ointment, which are common first aid preparations used to address minor cuts, scrapes, and wounds. The pitch is also a drawing substance, so it can be used to help pull splinters out of the skin.

If you’ve ever collected a bit of Pine pitch, you know that it’s incredibly sticky. It’s often referred to as nature’s glue and can be used as a type of natural glue when living off the land. It’s often melted down and applied to baskets, boats and shoes to give them a waterproof coating as well.

Pine resins can be mindfully harvested and used to formulate infused oils, salves, lotions and butters that can be valuable additions to your home apothecary. Native Americans used Pine resin in poultices and salves to help draw out splinters and other toxins, seal and protect [clean] wounds, and increase circulation to injured areas of the body. It is still used in first aid applications for these same purposes today. It's not uncommon to see Pine drawing salves even in conventional stores. Pine resin possesses antibacterial and possibly even anti-inflammatory properties, but is quite warming, so it can sometimes increase irritation if the area where it is applied is already red and inflamed. Use discernment when choosing which herb is best for your case, but generally speaking, Pine resin salve can be a wonderful ally for your first aid kit.

Traditional uses of Pine Resin Infused Oil:

  • in a chest rub when feeling congested
  • in a warming salve for achy muscles, joints, and areas where increased circulation is needed
  • as a base for herbal / aromatic perfumes and colognes
  • in drawing salves, sometimes combined with activated charcoal and Plantain (great for splinters, etc.)
  • in lotions and creams for skin issues and skin care (in low dilution for skin care products), usually with Violet leaves or Comfrey leaves also infused into the oil to help soften its effect
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INGREDIENTS FOR MY PINE PITCH SALVE RECIPE

  • 2 ounces of mindfully harvested Pine resin
  • 4 ounces of organic olive oil that has been infused with Violet leaves, Plantain leaves, and Comfrey leaves
  • 1/2 ounce of organic beeswax
  • organic essential oils (optional)
    SUGGESTIONS:
    For chest rub applications - Cedarwood, Rosalina, Black Spruce or Siberian Fir
    For skin care or first aid applications - Lavender, Helichrysum, Vetiver, or Rose
    For warming, circulatory applications - Ginger, Lavender, Chamomile, or Black Pepper

To make your own Pine pitch salve, place 2 ounces of Pine pitch in a quart sized mason jar and set the jar into a saucepan of water over low heat on the stove (double boiler method). Add 4 ounces of herb infused carrier oil - I’ve used Violet leaf, Comfrey leaf and Plantain leaf infused oil as my carriers for this particular batch. It will take a little while for the pitch to melt into the carrier oil. Stir it occasionally and make sure the heat is kept very low. 1/2 ounce of beeswax melted into the mixture will help the salve to solidify once cooled. Once everything has been incorporated, strain the mixture through a coffee filter, a piece of muslin cloth, or a fine mesh sieve, pour it into a jar and let it sit until cool.

Notes

  • Preferred species of Pine for use of the resin include White Pine (P. strobus) and Pinyon Pine (P. edulis), but all of the Pines will produce usable resin. Some of them are stronger than others.
  • Mindful, respectful harvesting of resins is paramount. The tree produces resin to protect itself from infection when it has been injured or compromised. Be mindful of the size of the wound you're collecting from. Does the tree need the resin to stay there in order to protect itself in that area? Harvest elsewhere if needed. Don't harvest large pieces.
  • Pine resin is super sticky. You can use olive oil to remove it from your hands if needed. I prefer to keep a separate jar and utensils just for working with resins. You may want to adopt this practice as well.
  • Don't ever leave resins unattended while they are heating. Always use a double boiler method.
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Pine Needles

Pine needles are commonly used to make baskets and were traditionally used to stuff cushions and mattresses as well. They can be used to create a sort of soft bed on the forest floor and provide a great mulch for the garden.

In herbal medicine, they are mainly used to support the respiratory and immune systems. Coughs, congestion, sore throats, lung ailments, etc. are all situations for which Pine needles could be used. The needles are often used to make cough syrups and teas and are rich in vitamins A and C, among many other nutrients.

To make a Pine needle serum that can be used topically, infuse dried Pine needles into a lightweight carrier oil for 4 to 6 weeks, then mix that carrier oil with a skin-rejuvenating essential oil (optional) at a 0.5 to 1% dilution. This serum can be used as a facial serum and as a body or massage oil (2% dilution).

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Pine Cones

Pine cones can be used to start fires and yield seeds that we know as Pine nuts, which are a valuable wild food for humans and wildlife. Nuts can be harvested in late fall.

Pine Pollen

Pine pollen can be gathered in the spring and is a nutrient dense super-food that has long been considered a sacred medicinal by native peoples. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, is rich in flavonoids and essential fatty acids, and is a potent androgen. It can be tinctured (1:5) or sprinkled into food.

Pine Hydrosol

Pine hydrosols are incredible skin tonics. I like to use them as facial toners and incorporate them into my herbal skin care regimen. I also use them when I'm making back lotions and creams for sore muscles. They're perfectly suited for that purpose and leave the formulas smelling forested and fresh.

Pine Essential Oil

Pine essential oils are mainly used to support the respiratory system and the musculoskeletal system. They have analgesic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antispasmodic, circulatory and expectorant properties and smell uplifting and refreshing, like walking through a pine forest and stopping to take a few deep breaths. Energetically, Pine essential oils are balancing and help us to feel like we are grounded deep into the earth with a clear, focused mind. 

Pine’s Test Results

Pine extracts and products have been tested in various trials in recent years and are starting to become more popular as the test results continue to show promise. Here are a few noteworthy examples of Pine's test results.

Have you ever used Pine in your apothecary?

Much love,
Erin


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Two Ways to Prepare Ginger + a Closer Look At the Herb

Note: Portions of this article have been excerpted from an article originally published in November's issue of AromaCulture Magazine.

If you give my husband a jar of candied Ginger, it'll be gone within a couple of days. A 4-pack of his favorite Ginger soda? Three days later all evidence of its existence will have vanished. A jar of Ginger spread in the pantry? He'll pop that thing open and add Ginger to all of the meals for the next week and there will be no remaining trace of it by the next shopping trip. He really loves Ginger. It might be his favorite thing ever. I like to say he has a supercharged cold constitution because he has such an affinity for the hotter herbs. He can brew his Ginger tea twice as strong as I could ever tolerate mine and he’s been known to eat Cayenne peppers fresh off the plant, whole. So, as you can imagine, he was pretty excited when I planted up a bed of Ginger in our garden this year.

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Ginger is a warming herb that stimulates circulation, helps to relieve nausea, and gets stagnant energy flowing again. It contains over 450 different constituents, yields a vibrant essential oil, and is one of the most versatile pungent herbs in the apothecary. I'm going to share two different ways you can preserve it here today: candied Ginger and pickled Ginger, and then I'm going to share some other ways you can use it and a few of Ginger's noteworthy test results.

HOW TO MAKE CANDIED GINGER

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Slice your peeled Ginger rhizome thinly (about 1/8") and as evenly as you can. A mandoline can be set at the proper measurement and used to keep all of your slices the same thickness, but a kitchen knife will do if you don't have a mandoline. Place the Ginger in a saucepan and cover it with water so that the water sits at least an inch or two above the top of the Ginger slices. Place the saucepan over low heat, covered, and simmer for at least 30 to 45 minutes, or until the Ginger has become tender. Strain the Ginger, reserving the liquid decoction. Weigh the Ginger, then place it back into your saucepan with an equal amount of organic sugar by weight, and add about half of the Ginger decoction back to the pan (save the rest). Place it over low heat and stir until the Ginger basically looks like a big sticky mess in the middle of the saucepan. At that point, strain the Ginger again (reserve the liquid) and spread it out on a cooling rack or cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Separate each slice and toss it in sugar, then leave it to dry overnight before storing. The first batch of reserved liquid can be weighed and added to a saucepan with an equal amount of sugar to create Ginger syrup, which can be added to lemonades and sodas (or even drizzled over pancakes) and the second batch of reserved liquid is already a Ginger syrup and can be used the same way.

HOW TO MAKE PICKLED GINGER

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Slice your  peeled Ginger rhizome as thinly as possible, then sprinkle sea salt over it and leave it to set in a bowl while you prepare your pickling liquid. Combine equal parts pure water and vinegar (either rice vinegar, which is traditionally used, or raw apple cider vinegar) and a tablespoon each of organic sugar and sea salt for each cup of water you've used. Bring the liquids to a boil and dissolve the sugar and salt in the mixture. Transfer the Ginger to a heat-safe jar, then pour the freshly boiled vinegar mixture over it into the jar until the Ginger is completely covered. Let it cool, then store it in the fridge for at least 2 to 3 days before eating (it's safe to eat before then, but the flavor won't be fully developed yet). Consume within a month or two and keep refrigerated.

THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT GINGER

  • Growing Ginger is pretty easy and the plants are vibrant and tenacious. They're always buzzing with beneficial insects and can live outdoors year round in growing zone 10, but in all other growing zones, it can be grown in a large pot and brought indoors during the cooler months. I planted mine in a raised bed this year, left it outside during our hot seasons and potted it up and brought it indoors for the winter.
     
  • Ginger can be used in cooking to add a layer of depth to the flavor of your dishes. I like to use a bit of the fresh rhizome when I cook, removing it from the dish just before serving, because it adds a hint of warmth and spice that leaves people saying, "This is so good! What did you put in here?" It adds some zest and energy to the dish without making everything taste recognizably like Ginger.
     
  • Perhaps most well-known for its ability to help soothe an upset tummy, Ginger stimulates the digestive system (and related organs), helps us to better digest proteins, and can be used to relieve nausea, indigestion, motion sickness, morning sickness, and a wide variety of other digestive complaints. One study found that it significantly reduced the severity of chemotherapy-related nausea symptoms for patients who were undergoing treatment.
     
  • As a stimulating expectorant herb, Ginger is often included in formulas that are useful when dealing with a cold or flu, sinus issues, lung complaints, and sore throats. It also boosts the immune system, which is especially helpful when dealing with symptoms of imbalance or illness. Ginger is often included as a catalyst in cold and flu remedies such as Fire Cider and Elderberry Syrup and I personally enjoy using it in facial steams when I’m feeling a bit stuffy or as if I might be coming down with something.
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GINGER'S TEST RESULTS
(references are linked)

One study of Ginger extract, combined with the extract of Garlic, found that they had an antibacterial effect that shows potential for use against multi-drug resistant pathogens, while another found that Ginger extract was notably antibacterial against two different strains of Streptococcus bacteria.

Ginger capsules were used in a study involving 120 college students who had primary dysmenorrhea and the results indicated that the use of Ginger significantly reduced the severity and duration of painful symptoms.

Widely studied for its possible use in the treatment or prevention of diabetes mellitus and related symptoms, one study found that Ginger could protect against the degeneration of renal cells and reduce the severity of damage caused by certain medications, while another study found that it decreased inflammation in patients with type 2 diabetes. Yet another found that Ginger significantly reduced structural abnormalities in the hearts of diabetic rats. Diabetes patients using Ginger have experienced a significant reduction in blood glucose, triglycerides, total cholesterol, LDL and VLDL cholesterol, while also finding that Ginger helps to protect the liver and kidneys, as well as from other diabetes-related complications.

Additionally, Ginger helps people to feel fuller faster, demonstrates antimicrobial and antifungal effects, effectively decreased sperm DNA fragmentation in infertile men, and, in one study, was found to have a potential anti-addictive effect against the chronic use of morphine. It’s also thought to help improve mental function in middle-aged women.

Ginger is consistently tested for anti-carcinogenic effects and has been studied for possible use to prevent / treat such cancers as colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, endometrial cancer and cervical cancer.

Practical Applications and Favorite Uses

Ginger can be taken as a tea when dealing with menstrual cramps that feel better when you apply a heating pad to your abdomen. Many people like to add Chamomile to the tea to make it even more effective. A warm compress dipped in Ginger tea or a poultice can also be applied to lower abdomen for the same purpose. To make Ginger tea, pour freshly boiled water over a piece of Ginger about the size of the tip of your thumb (you can also mince or slice the piece or use a bit of dried Ginger powder or a prepared tea bag), cover the mug, and let it steep for about 10 minutes.

Ginger can be infused into a carrier oil that can be used as a base for warming massage oils (think muscle aches and pains), salves and creams (warming, circulatory applications for cold hands or feet), or even scalp massage oils.

I love to add Ginger to hand and foot baths (or even full body baths), especially during the cooler months, to encourage healthy circulation, warm me up, and provide a little immune system boost.

A variety of smoothie chains offer juiced Ginger (you can make it at home too), which can be taken plain or used in Ginger lemonades and  sodas.

Candied Ginger can be stored in an airtight jar and kept in the pantry or your purse. If you deal with carsickness or food-related nausea, it’s a handy remedy to keep on hand. When you make candied Ginger, you also end up with Ginger syrup, which can be added to lemonades, sodas, apple cider and other drinks, or drizzled on pancakes, cornbread or muffins.

Include a bit of Ginger in herbal formulas as a catalyst that helps to boost the effectiveness of the other herbs in the formula. It’s wonderful for encouraging a quick-acting herbal synergy.

Ginger for Dogs

Sprinkle a tiny bit of powdered Ginger in with your dog’s dinner to help encourage healthy digestion. It also works especially well for dogs that are experiencing pain or symptoms of cold in their limbs. I like to use Ginger in my homemade dog food for our German Shepherd – adding it when I’m cooking up proteins, or even adding a piece to the water when I’m making the rice for her food is an easy way to incorporate Ginger into her meals (remove the chunk of Ginger before serving).

Ginger-infused carrier oil can make a great base for topical salves and creams that are massaged into the skin when dealing with symptoms of pain that are relieved by heat.

Note: If you have a dog that already leans toward a hotter constitution, Ginger may not be the best choice for your pup.

NOTES ABOUT SAFETY

Ginger is generally considered a very safe herb, but some herbalists recommend using it only in small doses when pregnant and others recommend avoiding it when experiencing symptoms of heat in the body or when using blood thinning medications.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you like Ginger? Let me know in the comments section below.

Much love,
Erin


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How to Make Hawthorn Pumpkin Bread

This recipe was first published in the November 2017 issue of AromaCulture Magazine.

So adding Hawthorn to autumn-spiced baked goods has turned out to be one of the best decisions I've made all season. The first recipe experiment with it worked out so well that Hawthorn has been showing up in all of my cozy weather recipes lately. It's just that good. This Hawthorn Pumpkin Bread is no exception - it's perfectly moist and fluffy, yet dense and warm and spicy all at the same time. And, it's marvelously egg-free! Success! I definitely know what I'm bringing to all of the holiday season gatherings this year (and maybe every year after this).

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INGREDIENTS FOR MY HAWTHORN PUMPKIN BREAD RECIPE

  • 3 cups of organic whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup organic Hawthorn berry powder
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of Himalayan pink salt
  • 1 tablespoon of organic Cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of organic Cardamom, Clove, and Ginger powders
  • 1 can of organic pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup of raw, organic, unrefined sugar
  • 2 mashed, ripe organic bananas
  • 1 tablespoon of organic Vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of organic olive or coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup or organic honey or maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup of organic milk
  • 1/4 cup organic plain, unsweetened yogurt

To start, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whisk together your dry ingredients in one bowl and your wet ingredients in another bowl, then stir them all together until thoroughly combined. Bake in buttered-up loaf pans for 55 minutes.

While it's tempting to eat this bread straight out of that ever-fragrant oven when it's done baking, it's best to let it cool for 20 minutes or so before serving...but if you want to slice it up right away and slather some raw butter on it and let the whole bite just melt in your mouth while the bread's still fresh from the oven, I won't judge. ;)

Watch the video below to SEE HOW I MAKE THIS RECIPE

What is your favorite thing to bake during the holiday season?
Let me know in the comments below. =)

Much love,
Erin


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Herbal First Aid Recipe Roundup

We're celebrating our one-year anniversary of AromaCulture this month! Our very first issue was first released in November of 2016 and our extra spicy Anniversary issue is now available! I'm so excited to hit the one year mark and I'm immensity grateful for your support.

I thought I would spread a little bit of herbal love today with a recipe roundup post. Basically, a mashup of outstanding blog posts from other authors that I think you might enjoy. =) (With a couple of our own thrown in too.) The focus for this roundup is first aid remedies that incorporate herbs / essential oils and that you can make at home. You'll find the links to each person's original blog post with instructions for making their remedy below each group of 4 photos.

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Top row, left to right, then bottom row, left to right:

Fire Cider  |  Pine Resin Salve via TheHerbalAcademy  |  ElderBerry SyrupCalendula Comfrey Salve via Mother Earth Living

Happy remedy-making!

Much love,
Erin


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How to Dry Cayenne Peppers

I grew up in a house on a mountain. Our neighbors had kids that were the same age as my next-oldest brother and I and one of the things I remember about their house was that their mom always had chili peppers drying in her kitchen. As a child, I just thought she had chosen chili-themed kitchen decor, but now I wonder if she just really loved peppers and hung her surplus to dry in the kitchen. I guess I'll never know! Every time I sit down to prepare my peppers for drying now, I think of her. Let's talk about how to dry your own Cayenne peppers and then process them for your apothecary.

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What You'll Need:

  • Cayenne peppers
  • cotton thread
  • a sewing needle
  • a mortar and pestle or a stainless steel screen
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INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Clean your peppers. Rinse them with clean water and then towel dry them.
  2. Sort your peppers. Set aside any that have bruises or blemishes. You want to choose the ones that are firm and vibrant. Any peppers that have spots or are feeling a bit flimsy don't make the cut.
  3. Thread your needle through the green stem of each pepper, pretty close to the base. Leave a little bit of space on the string in between each pepper.
  4. Tie the two ends of your string together to form a large loop and then hang the strand somewhere dry and away from direct sunlight for 4-6 weeks, or until the peppers are completely dry.
  5. Once dried, you can remove the peppers from the string and crush them in your mortar and pestle or rub them through a stainless steel screen. You can either process them to the texture of red pepper flakes (like the kind used in cooking and in pizza shops) or you can grind them down into a powder. If you're going to be using the Cayenne for medicinal or topical purposes (not just cooking), you will want to remove all of the seeds before processing the peppers with the mortar and pestle.

7 Ways to Use Cayenne

  • In an herb-infused warming salve meant to help stimulate circulation.
  • In your seasonal batch of fire cider.
  • As a catalyst in herbal tinctures, liniments, etc. (You can also use Ginger.)
  • In remedies for immune support during cold and flu season.
  • In heart tonifying formulas.
  • In topical preparations for joint pain.
  • In digestive stimulant formulas.

Note: Very little Cayenne is needed in any recipe - use it very sparingly for best results.

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How do you like to use Cayenne?

Much love,
Erin


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How to Make Elderberry Syrup + How to Use It

Elderberry syrup is practically a treat in our house. Fresh batches never stick around very long and I find myself making more often. I tested a lot of recipes when I first set out to develop one and finally settled on this one as my absolute favorite. Elder is one of the herbs that is associated with a rich history of folklore in seemingly every culture, perhaps because it is such a noteworthy and powerful herbal ally.

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The Elderberry used for medicinal purposes comes from the Sambucus nigra tree-like shrub, which produces clusters of dark purple berries in late summer to early autumn. It can grow to be up to 20 feet high and wide, but is often found at heights as low as 3 feet. The plant has a pith-centered stem and compound leaf structure with 5-9 serrated leaves. I have come across a few people groups who still hollow out the branches and use them to make flutes like this one. The branches produce clusters of small, cream-colored, twinkle light-like flowers that are also used medicinally, in food and skin care recipes, and that turn into the well-loved clusters of fruit valued by humans and birds alike.

Elder is fairly easy to cultivate and can be propagated by seed or with cuttings. It can thrive in almost any kind of soil, but does like moisture and some good compost. I like to plant Red Clover near its base once the plant has established itself to help nourish the soil. Elderberry seeds seem to have a higher germination rate when stratified (though I know some herbalists who don't think it's necessary) and can be planted in the fall season when they would naturally fall to the earth. Expect fresh little Elderberry seedlings to pop through that soil sometime in early spring.

Elderberries are a powerful peoples' medicine but they are usually best used after they have been cooked. The raw fruits can cause nausea and digestive issues when consumed because of the chemical composition of their seeds.

Elderberries are most well known for their starring role in Elderberry syrup - a traditional home remedy that is renowned for its ability to help people feel better faster during the cold and flu season. They have been studied a lot in recent years and some of the results of these scientific studies have been impressive, bolstering Elderberry's reputation even in western circles. Elderberry is indicated for a variety of cold and flu symptoms, respiratory infections, sinusitis, fever, coughs, and more. Energetically, it's a cooling and drying herb.

ELDERBERRY STUDIES

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INGREDIENTS FOR MY LAVENDER ELDERBERRY SYRUP RECIPE

  • organic Elderberries
  • organic dried Ginger root
  • organic Lemon juice
  • filtered water
  • raw, organic Sucanat (or whatever organic, raw, unbleached sugar you prefer to use)
  • organic Lavender buds (They must be English Lavender buds from certain varieties of Lavandula angustifolia plants - look for Lavender buds labeled as culinary Lavender, like these, which come from a friend's beautiful farm.)

Watch the video below to learn how to make it.

Notes

You can also make herbal syrups with honey instead of the sugar. For a long time, I did this because I prefer honey to sugar, but I ultimately ended up deciding that the consistency and shelf life of syrups made with sugar is so much better (in my opinion, anyway) that we now make them with raw sucanat (a type of unbleached, unprocessed sugar that is, essentially, dehydrated sugar cane juice) here in our house. Yay for nice thick herbal syrups! =)

What do you like to include in your Elderberry syrup recipe? Have you ever made any for your family?

Much love,
Erin


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Herbal Aromatherapy Case Studies for Restless Sleep

Reading through case studies is one of my favorite ways to learn from other herbalists and aromatherapists. Case studies help me to be able to see how the practitioner thinks when he/she is evaluating a client, which helps me to expand the way I think when I am listening to someone who is telling me about what's going on with them. Case studies introduce new thought patterns and ideas and help me to reason through and understand why someone chose a certain herb or essential oil to address something instead of just telling me what they chose or giving me a recipe to follow. They reinforce the idea that clients are individuals who are all different - two different people who are experiencing the same thing could possibly need completely different kinds of remedies to help bring them back into balance. Since I find case studies so valuable for my own learning, I thought I would share a couple of my case studies here with you today. All of these case studies are related to improving restless sleep.

Note: These case studies are being shared with the clients’ permission.
Their names have been changed to ensure their privacy.

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THE CLIENTS

Client Number One, Jeffrey, is a 30 year old married male in excellent health. He has no major health concerns and leads an active lifestyle, eats organic whole foods and supports his health with various holistic activities.

His sleep quality had been dwindling when he came to me. He had gone several weeks without sleeping soundly through the night. The cause of this change was unknown, but Jeffrey believed the traffic noise on his street may have been contributing to the issue, as it would sometimes wake him up in the middle of the night.

Client Number Two, Sharon, is a 27 year old married female. She had some lingering health concerns that she was working through with her team of medical professionals when she came to see me and was under a heightened level of stress. She had been experiencing a general lack of quality in her sleep, often waking up several times each night. The lack of restful sleep was affecting her state of mind and her overall health. 

Client Number Three, Chrissy, is a 21 year old female who lives with her elderly grandparents. She was in excellent health when she came to me, but had been having trouble getting to sleep in the evenings because her housemates enjoy conversing with each other at late hours and the sound was keeping her awake, which would leave her frustrated and restless, sometimes affected how she felt the next day.

All 3 clients wanted to utilize herbs and/or essential oils to help improve the quality of their sleep.

THE CHOSEN APPROACH

For Jeffrey (#1) and Chrissy (#3), I chose to use an aromatic inhaler application. (This was before I moved away from using aromatherapy inhalers.) I wanted to support the sense of relaxation and letting go that comes with preparing for bed without complicating their evening routines. Both of them were experiencing a lack of sleep affected by outside sources of noise, so my goal was to help the mind settle down for the evening regardless of sounds they had no control over. I was hoping that by combining calming and grounding oils with a hint of something sweet and uplifting, the mind would be able to relax instead of anticipating interruption in sleep, or in Chrissy’s case, the difficulty in being able to fall asleep.

For both Jeffrey (#1) and Chrissy (#3), I included the essential oils of Cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana), Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis), Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Sandalwood (sustainably harvested Santalum paniculatum), and Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides) in a blend meant for inhalation. The clients were instructed to spend a few minutes relaxing before bed each evening, breathing deeply with their inhalers.

For Sharon (#2), I chose to go a different route. I wanted to add an element of self care to her evening routine that would give her an opportunity to mindfully do something that was calming for her. She enjoys applying moisturizing body butters, so I used a body butter base with herbal infused oils for her blend and included the essential oils of Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana), German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita), Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides) and Rose (Rosa damascena). Taking a few moments to stop and do something for herself instead of going about her busy routine and worrying about everything that needed to be done would hopefully encourage her body to transition into a more relaxed state so she could sleep a bit more soundly than she had been. The stress she was under and the anxiety she was feeling about her lack of quality sleep led me to use very calming, comforting, grounding essential oils in her blend. She was instructed to mindfully massage the butter into her arms and chest each night while she was getting ready for bed and to take time to breathe deeply while she was doing so.

RESULTS

Both Jeffrey (#1) and Chrissy (#3) haD similar experiences with their aromatic inhaler blends. After using the inhalers for a few days, they each reported, “I love the smell, but I’m not sure yet if the blend is doing anything.” I asked them each to use the blend for 7 days, then take 1 or 2 days off and not use the blend for those days to see if they noticed a difference. Both of them contacted me after the allotted period of time to report that they noticed a significant difference on the days that they didn’t use the blend. They went back to using the inhalers each night, sometimes taking a night off and later reported that they had been able to see a gradual increase in sleep quality. Both clients have since ordered refills of their blends.

I checked in with Sharon (#2) each week after she started using her blend. The first week she hesitantly said that she thought it was helping a little bit. Two and three weeks in, her reports grew increasingly positive. She eventually said that both she and her husband were using the butter and that it was their new favorite thing - that they both were experiencing great sleep whenever they used it. Her comments included such statements as, “I sleep like a baby when I use it!” and “It’s like a good drug!” (Note: The latter was said in jest. She is not a substance abuser.)

All three clients seemed to experience a gradual improvement in sleep quality with consistent use of their blends.

FURTHER TESTING

I have tested the aromatic inhaler recipe on several other clients who all report similar experiences as detailed above. My husband now uses it as well and has me make him new batches of it when his starts to wear out.

THOUGHTS

In Jeff and Chrissy’s inhalers, the Cedarwood provides a grounding, calming effect while the Sweet Orange is sweet and uplifting, bringing in a sense of lightness and facilitating a letting go of stress. The Cedarwood is warm and helps to counteract stress and the Sweet Orange also acts as a subtle sedative. The Sandalwood is rich and comforting, ushering in a sense of calm while quieting the mind. Vetiver grounds everything, acts as a CNS sedative and tells us it’s time to rest in safety. It’s often indicated in cases of restless sleep. The Lavender brings everything together with its deeply soothing, sedative properties, promoting restful sleep and calming the nervous system.

Sharon’s sleep butter included Lavender, the classic essential oil for promoting restful sleep. It soothes the muscles and relaxes the mind, acts as a CNS sedative and is deeply calming. It has anti-inflammatory properties, lending itself to calming inflammation in the mind. For example, I might be stressed about a project at work and the deadline in which I have to complete it, which causes it to become bigger (inflamed) in my mind. Lavender could be helpful for reducing that mental “inflammation” and bringing back a calm sense of peace. Cedarwood was included as a warm, soothing, comforting aroma. Sharon loves woodsy scents. It’s also grounding and supportive for her taxed immune system. The German Chamomile is calming and anti-inflammatory, especially suitable for relieving stress. It’s soothing for the nervous system and specificially supports healthy sleep patterns. Vetiver is deeply grounding, ushering in a peace of mind and a sense of calm. It has sedative and restorative properties - both excellent for sleep. Rose was included purely for its affinity for self care and love. It’s comforting, anti-inflammatory, emotionally supportive, anti-stress and is also indicated for restless sleep. It soothes tension and mental agitation and ushers in pure love energy.

What is your favorite blend, product, or ritual for supporting restful sleep? Let me know in the comments below.

Much love,
Erin


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