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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.


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 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. It's best to cook or boil the fruits before using them.

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.


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  • 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.


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,


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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,


How to Choose the Right Herb for the Person + Situation (& an exciting announcement!)

Y'all know I love spreading some herbal love and today one of my favorite herbalism teachers is preparing to open up one of her information-packed herbal courses for enrollment. You may know Rosalee as the author of Alchemy of Herbs, a beautiful herbal book that was published earlier this year. Today she is bringing back the Taste of Herbs course through LearningHerbs and...I'm going to be blogging my way through the course with you and hosting a course-a-long in our AromaCulture Facebook group! This particular course is all about learning how to choose the right herb for an individual person based on their particular situation. We all know that choosing the right herb for something can seem like a complicated ordeal at times, but Rosalee, ever the outstanding teacher, makes learning this skill so easy. I think you're going to love this course!


What you need to know

Rosalee and John (from LearningHerbs) have made the first part of this online training free so that all of you can participate in it before the actual course opens for enrollment. This online training segment is such a helpful resource and, if you're on the fence about the actual course, will help you to see if the teaching style and course are right for you at this point. The free training segment also gives you access to the Taste of Herbs Flavor Wheel, which is an incredible tool that covers the 5 tastes of herbs that will be covered throughout the course. You can access the online training segment and the Taste of Herbs Flavor Wheel by clicking here. It's completely free - all you have to do is enter your email address to gain access. After we've all gone through the training video together, those of you who decide to enroll in the full course will be able to do so and then the fun part begins.

more about the extra fun part...

Something I've wanted to start doing here on the AC blog is share more of my thoughts with you as I actually make my way through courses. I'm always working on completing courses from different herbalism and aromatherapy teachers so that I can continue to grow in my own education and I want to start sharing my experience with them with you! I'm going to start doing that through this course by hosting a course-a-long. In addition to blogging periodically about my thoughts about the course here, I'm going to be posting weekly in our AC Facebook group about it. Those of you who are also going through the course will be able to jump into the conversation there in the Facebook group with me. We can encourage each other as we work through our homework assignments, share our "aha!" moments, and support each other as we all make progress through the course material. I'm really looking forward to it - I think it's going to be a lot of fun! =) I'll be posting a video about this particular course-a-long over in the Facebook group sometime today, so be on the lookout for that!

The First STep

The first portion of this course is generously being made available to all of you at no cost, so we all get to participate in this part of the training together. To get started, CLICK HERE, enter your email address, and you'll automatically be sent access to the first training segment and the Taste of Herbs Flavor Wheel. Once you've done that, check in to the Facebook group. I'll see you over there! =)

I'll be checking in with you with a course update in about a week. Happy learning!

Much love,


Disclaimer: I am an affiliate for Taste of Herbs. All opinions are my own.

Herbal Aromatherapy for Chiggers

I had never even heard of chiggers until my husband and I moved to Texas about a year after we were married. (We don’t live there anymore. We decided the West Coast better suited our lifestyle after a tornado hit our street, the whole year’s weather was altogether yuck, and we realized that the farmer’s markets…weren’t. No offense, but Texas just wasn't the favorite.) I was working part-time as a portrait photographer at the time and my work was focused on natural light and dreamy, outdoor settings. I spent one particular session sitting in the grass photographing a client and came home that evening wondering why my legs were so itchy. (I’m not allergic to grass.) I was thus introduced to chiggers. Nasty little things. At that time, the traditional remedy that was presented to me was to paint my skin with clear nail polish (which didn’t work). Fortunately, I don’t live in a place where I have to deal with chiggers any more, but if you do, here are some botanical remedies that may help you get through their assault on your skin and sanity.


Herbal Applications

Plantain (Plantago sp.) – Plantain is a drawing herb with a reputation for quickly soothing insect bites and stings. It helps to draw out the source of irritation and inflammation quickly bringing relief to that itchy, irritated area. The leaf can be applied directly to the skin as a poultice. Either chew up a leaf, then pack it onto the area that’s itching, or crush the leaf in your fingers until it looks thoroughly wet, then rub it into the area. Follow up with another crushed leaf, spread out over the area. It will stick like an herbal bandage. In my experience, it’ll stay there until it’s no longer needed and then naturally fall off once its job is done, but if you’re especially active at the time, you may need to apply several leaves throughout the day. Plantain leaves can also be brewed into a strong tea (try double or triple infusing for added potency) and applied via a compress. In a pinch, the tincture can be applied topically as well.

Chickweed (Stellaria media) – Chickweed is a cooling herb that is commonly infused into a carrier oil that is then made into a salve for hot, irritated, inflamed skin ailments. It’s soothing and emollient and can also be used as a poultice applied to the affected area. You can make a double or triple infused tea and apply it topically with a compress as well. Tincture made from the fresh plant can be used when you don’t have access to the fresh plant.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) – Yarrow is another cooling herb that acts as a disinfectant and can be helpful for cleansing the area. A liniment can be made by infusing the Yarrow leaf and flower in Witch Hazel and this can be applied topically to the affected area. The hydrosol and essential oil can also be utilized in topical applications for their anti-inflammatory, skin-soothing effects. The hydrosol especially helps to soothe the skin and reduce irritation.

Nervine herbs can be taken in teas or tincture form to help your relax through the irritation.

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Aromatherapy Applications

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – The first aid kit of essential oils, Lavender is proven to be anti-inflammatory, skin-soothing, and can help to reduce the irritation and redness caused by the chiggers. It can be applied neat, sparingly, for short-term, acute use, or it can be applied diluted in a carrier.

Rose (Rosa sp.) – Rose essential oil, though pricey, goes a long way and is wonderfully rejuvenating for the skin. Adding it at a very low dilution to your topical aromatherapy blend can help reduce irritation and may even help the skin to recover more quickly.

Helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum) – The essential oil is incredible for helping the skin to recover from a wide variety of ailments and injuries. Add it to your topical aromatherapy blend in a low dilution to help soothe and support the skin.

Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) – Peppermint essential oil applied at a low dilution can help relieve the incessant itching caused by the chiggers.

Valerie Worwood recommends diluting 10 drops of Thyme ct. linalool essential oil in a teaspoon of carrier oil and applying it to the affected area throughout the day, then following up with a few applications of Lavender essential oil over the following days.

Other Applications

Adding a bit of raw apple cider vinegar to a full or local bath is one home remedy that many people swear by, while others prefer adding a bit of sea salt to the bath instead.

Clay packs – Clay is renowned for its drawing ability. You can hydrate it with a hydrosol or Witch Hazel and apply it to the irritated area the same way you would a clay face mask. Wrap the area with a warm towel to keep the clay moist throughout the application and rinse off when finished. Allowing the clay to dry may increase irritation instead of helping to reduce it, so make sure you keep that towel warm and wet (wring it out so it's not dripping).

What do you use to help you deal with the dreaded itch caused by chiggers? Let me know in the comments section below.

Much love,


Ask the Panel: Top 5 Essential Oils for Beginners

“I am just starting out with essential oils and I have no idea what to buy first. Could you recommend an assortment of 4 or 5 oils that you think would get me off to a great start?” This is one of the questions I am often asked as an aromatherapist, so I thought I would compile a list of the professional panel’s answer to this question here for you. Feel free to share it with friends who might find it useful. =)

Which 5 essential oils would you include in a beginner's starter kit? Let me know in the comments section at the end of this blog post.


Sweet Orange, Lavender, Tea tree, Siberian fir, Peppermint Andrea Butje

I would include Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Mandarin (Citrus nobilis), Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) and Peppermint (Mentha x piperita). The saying ‘if in doubt use lavender’ is, in the main, true. True Lavender has a wide range of therapeutic effects. It is analgesic, anti-bacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, sedative, cardiotonic and hypotensive. It is best known for its stress-relieving properties, treating headaches, burns, wounds, irregular periods, asthma, eczema, acne, candida, aches and pains and high blood pressure. in a starter kit it can be safe to use on most people and most conditions so no mistakes are likely! Use 4 drops for a massage to help relieve stress and anxiety. Mandarin is antispasmodic, calming, digestive and hepatic. It is used for stomach cramps and spasms, indigestion and constipation, as a liver tonic and for excitability. Best of all, as a beginner's oil, mandarin can be used with children for restlessness and insomnia. Just one drop of oil on a tissue near the crib can help to send baby off to calm sleep. Roman Chamomile is anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, calming, digestive and menstrual. It is used in particular, to address eczema, arthritis, inflamed skin, headaches, indigestion, menopausal symptoms and conjunctivitis. A soothing massage using almond oil with 4 drops of this oil can really help to calm eczema and dermatitis, and is also useful for allergic reactions. Geranium is antiseptic and antiviral. It is most often used for childhood ailments (chickenpox, mumps, measles, common cold), but is also useful in other viral situations, such as herpes or shingles. Geranium helps to reduce breast congestion, fluid retention and cellulite, as well as menopausal and menstrual problems, so this oil is popular with most women. For skincare, geranium oil is regenerative and moisturizing. Peppermint has a wide range of therapeutic uses and is very useful in a starter kit. The oil is analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-migraine, antispasmodic, antiviral and digestive. It is used for painful situations such as period pain, arthritis, headaches and knocks, while also being very calming for the digestive system. Use diluted peppermint next time you knock yourself where it hurts and feel the pain disappear! Please remember that all essential oils should be used with care, and if there are doubts about how to use them, a trained aromatherapist should be consulted.Penny Price

Lavandula angustifolia, Citrus sinensis, Melaleuca alternifolia, Pelargonium asperum, Boswellia carterii - Rhiannon Lewis

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), geranium (Pelargonium graveolens), sweet orange (Citrus sinensis), spearmint (Mentha spicata), and ginger (Zingiber officinale) Sharon Falsetto

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica), Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis), steam distilled Lemon (Citrus limon), Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides). These have the least safety precautions and have so many good uses. - Robin B. Kessler

It REALLY depends on who is the beginner. A young mom with young children? Someone concerned about skincare? An older person dealing with chronic pain? There is no one size fits all recommendation. Having said that, lets start with an effective antibacterial - most folks would say Tea tree, but I would prefer Manuka (gentler, aromatically softer, and, in my experience, more effective across the board.) Other effective germkillers are Geranium and even Palmarosa. A relaxant: perhaps a true Lavender, but perhaps Roman Chamomile or Sweet Marjoram, or even Petitgrain. (All are calming, relaxing, may help induce sleep, and are "child safe.") Third, some citrus for freshening the air and uplifting the spirit. Sweet or Blood Orange have a wide range of uses. Fourth, something for respiratory effects, perhaps Eucalyptus globulous or radiata for stuffy noses with an adult, but if the house has babies and/or toddlers I would suggest a conifer, instead. Not as effective, but perhaps more appropriate. Let's say Siberian Fir but your choice of conifers would do. That's four categories; we have done germkillers, relaxants/anti-insomnia, a citrus for mood elevation and "clearing the air", something to unstuff clogged sinuses... let's look at something not normally considered a 'beginners' oil, but, in my experience, the single most healing oil in our aromatherapy arsenal... Helichrysum italicum from Corsica. Amazing for bruises, anti-inflammatory for nerve and joint pain, helpful for problem skin (we use in blends for acne and rosacea), amazing healing for scars, sometimes used for meditation, it's an oil that is well worth splurging on. I would not be without it, and would rather see people invest in amazingly effective oils than some that are less costly, but also less effective. Having said all that.. if someone is dealing with a LOT of pain... I would want them to have Kunzea ambigua, from Australia, the most effective pain reliever I have found. If there are babies in the house, I would want German Chamomile in there, it's one of the first three oils for use with babies and toddlers. So there is truly no one size fits all list.  - Marge Clark

Cajeput, Sweet Marjoram, Orange, Blue Tansy, Vetiver – Ken Miller

For the perfect starter kit, I'd consider a person's lifestyle. Do they have kids? Allergies or other health concerns? Are they athletic, with muscle or joint overuse? The all-purpose list below includes popular multitasking oils distilled from different plant parts that blend well together, while addressing issues we all deal with: colds and flu, muscle or joint aches/pains, relaxation and sleep, focus and concentration, or skin care. I've selected affordable oils that are not over-harvested. Note: "kid-friendly" = safe for kids ages 2 and up (if conservative, 5 and up), unless otherwise stated.
1. Cedarwood (I prefer
Cedrus deodara or Juniperus virginiana) - calming/grounding, respiratory congestion, muscle tension, astringent, hair and skin care, good in bug sprays. Kid-friendly.
2. Eucalyptus globulus - energizing, supports mental focus, respiratory infections, congestion and mucus, aches and pains, headaches. Avoid for kids under 5, caution for kids under 10 (instead, try Rosalina or a conifer such as Siberian Fir).
3. Lavender - deeply calming/soothing, supports sleep, aches and pains, spasms/cramps, antiseptic, great for skin care and burns/bites. Kid-friendly.
4. Sweet Orange - uplifting and cheering, antiseptic, supports immunity, helps digestion or nausea, sore muscles, freshens air. Kid-friendly, a non-phototoxic citrus.
5. Tea Tree - uplifting, helpful for allergies, respiratory infections, general anti-infectious and immune support, skin eruptions or minor cuts, freshens musty air. Kid-friendly.
Michelle Gilbert

1. Lavender
2. Lemon
3. Peppermint
4. Tea Tree
5. Helichrysum Amy Emnett

Lavender, lemon, tea tree, peppermint, and ginger – Lora Cantele

Lavender, bergamot, eucalyptus, frankincense, and tea tree. - Nyssa Hanger

My own Top 5 list for beginners would include: Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis), Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica), Peppermint (Mentha x piperita), and either Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana) or Rose Geranium (Pelargonium asperum).

I hope these valuable answers from this panel of professional aromatherapists and aromatherapy educations have been a help to you. Feel free to pin this post for later use or share it with friends who might also find it valuable.

Which 5 essential oils would you include in a starter kit for beginners? let me know in the comments section at the end of this blog post.

Much love,

Have a question to ask the panel? Submit it for consideration below.

Name *


How to Make and Use Mullein Flower Oil

You can’t miss Mullein! It sends its beautiful flowering stalks straight toward the sky and brightens up the environment with its sunny yellow blooms. Most people know of Mullein as the ultimate earache herb. The flowers are commonly infused into olive oil and used for relieving the pain of an earache. While this is the most well-known use for Mullein oil, it is beneficial for a variety of other applications as well.


To make your own ear oil, you’ll need to find a Mullein plant cluster (not on private property and not next to a roadside) from which you can harvest a jar’s worth of Mullein flowers. After you’ve harvested your flowers, follow the steps in this blog post to create an herbal infused oil. The best time to harvest the flowers is in the morning after all of the dew has evaporated. The entire plant must be dry (fingers and your jar too) if you are going to pour the oil over your flowers right away. Alternatively, you can lay the flowers out on a screen or tea towel and allow them to wilt for a few hours before infusing.

Once your Mullein oil is finished and strained, you’re ready to start using it. I like to double or triple-infuse my Mullein oil to increase its potency, so the process takes a couple of months for me, but you could always use the quick stovetop method if you need it quickly.

Mullein flowers have analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, calming, and sedating properties. It’s a good idea to reserve a bottle of your finished Mullein flower oil in your medicine cabinet or herbal first aid kit for earaches, but there are other ways you can use Mullein infused oil too.

7 Ways to Use Mullein Flower Oil

  • in first aid salve recipes for skin issues / inflammation
  • in chest rub recipes, especially for spasmodic cough
  • in a homemade cream for any kind of inflamed skin issue or dry, cracked skin
  • in a burn salve
  • use it plain for rheumatic joint pain (some say it’s helpful for TMJ)
  • as a base for a calming aromatherapy massage oil
  • as a massage oil for infected piercings (per Jim McDonald)

How do you use Mullein flower oil?

Much love,


Herbal Aromatherapy for Smoke Inhalation

The Pacific Northwest has been covered in smoke for a few weeks now. In our area, we have reports of over a dozen fires burning nearby and we’re also dealing with smoke from fires in other states as well. There’s a mountain very near our home that we can’t even see this morning [at the time of writing this] because of the thickness of the smoke and our area has repeatedly been placed in the “unhealthy” and “hazardous” air quality categories over the past few weeks. One of the closest fires is currently being sized at over 182,000 acres, has over 1600 personnel working to contain it, and isn’t expected to be contained until mid-October (it’s currently 5% contained). I saw a news article yesterday that said over 320,000 acres of Oregon are currently on fire [at the time of publishing, this number is closer to the 500,000 range]. When faced with circumstances like this, what can we do to support our health while dealing with the smoke (and stress) produced by such conditions?


Lifestyle Adjustments

Stay indoors in an air conditioned building as much as possible. Keep your doors and windows shut and reduce your exposure to environmental toxins (cigarette smoke, propane, etc.) as much as you can. Allow yourself to swap vigorous fitness routines for more gentle, relaxing ones on the most smoky days. Limit vigorous outdoor activity or avoid it all together if you are in the sensitive groups category. Listen to your body – if you’re experiencing headaches, fatigue, or respiratory symptoms, take it easy and support your body with home remedies. Seek medical care if you have any cause for concern and, of course, follow your physician’s instructions, especially if you are a heart or lung patient. Allow yourself some extra space for relaxation while you’re dealing with all of the smoke in the air.

Environmental Support

Run air purifiers throughout your home. We were able to purchase a few HEPA allergen filters (we use this one, this one, and this one in our home) at the beginning of our fire season here and they have made such a noticeable difference. Running them at night has been especially helpful. I was waking up in the middle of the night with lots of congestion and discomfort before we started running them, but ever since we’ve had them going, that has virtually gone away. Himalayan salt lamps can also be helpful, but I would not rely on them solely.

Try to limit your exposure to allergens by running the vacuum a little less often (it can stir up dust and allergens), setting aside your smudging ritual for the duration (use Sweetgrass and/or White Sage hydrosols instead), and reducing your exposure to cigarette smoke or the smoke from incense.

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Herbal Support

My main allies throughout this fire season have been Hawthorn and Plantain (Plantago sp.) tincture. A dropperful of Plantain every couple of hours on the worst days has been helping to clear my symptoms quickly and on more mild days, a dropperful in the morning and one in the evening has been sufficient. After we come in from doing our garden chores in the mornings, I take a dropperful in orange juice and it has been tremendously effective for me. You could also consider using Nettle tincture, Mullein, or Marshmallow. The Plantain helps to soothe the mucous membranes and break down the excess mucous that accumulates because of the irritation caused by the smoke and inhaling other particles in the air. There are other herbs that can be used, but I have found that keeping it simple has yielded the best results for me, personally.

Daily herbal steams (or baths) can also be helpful. I usually include herbs like Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Thyme, Calendula, and Lavender in mine (one at a time or combined in a blend). Once the water from the steam application has cooled completely, you can use it to water the plants in your garden and add the spent herbs to your compost pile.

When you need an extra dose of respiratory support, a homemade herbal chest rub can be of great help. The recipe for my favorite formula was featured in March’s issue of AromaCulture Magazine. You can find that here.

Aromatherapy Support

Essential oils that help to open up the sinuses will be beneficial in steam applications, smelling salts, or topical applications like chest rubs. Sometimes using an oil that helps you to feel calm and relaxed will be just as helpful for you as any other remedy. Essential oils for respiratory support throughout fire season can include: Cedarwood, Lemon, Ginger, Eucalyptus globulus or Eucalyptus dives, Siberian Fir, Black Spruce, Norway Pine, Rosemary ct. verbenone, and Peppermint. Use 1 drop in a bowl of freshly boiled water for an aromatherapy steam application, include a blend of your choice in a jar/bottle of smelling salts, or dilute them in a topical application that you can massage into your chest and neck as needed.


Pray for our firefighters and for lightning-free rain!

I hope you see smoke-free days very soon. What helps you to feel better when you’re dealing with fires in your area? Let me know in the comments section below.

Much love,


Why I Stopped Using Aromatherapy Inhalers ( + What I Use Instead)

A couple of years ago, our little family started to transition away from single-use plastic products. I had been advised to stop drinking water from plastic bottles to help facilitate healing in a certain area of my body and had recently seen a documentary that was all about plastics and their effect on the environment. I’m a bit of a research nerd, so I did a lot of reading about plastics and their impact on health and the planet. Ultimately, we decided that the right move for us would be to start to replace the plastics in our lives with non-plastic alternatives that would be more friendly for our bodies & more sustainable for the earth. It wasn’t easy (plastics are in a lot of things!), but moving away from single-use plastic products was a good start.

One of the last things to go in this single-use plastic category for me was aromatherapy inhalers. Aromatherapy inhalers are little plastic tubes that house a cotton wick that holds essential oils. They are sometimes referred to as aromasticks. They’re discreet, personal use items that make using essential oils convenient when you're on the go or in public. The trouble is that you can only use them once. They might last for a month, but once their effect starts to dissipate, they’re usually just tossed in the bin. If you’re lucky (or determined) enough to be able to pry the outer shell apart, you might be able to recycle the tube, but it’s not very easy to take apart and you can't recycle them without removing the cotton wick from the inner tube.

The first alternatives I turned to were glass / metal aromatherapy inhalers that are fully reusable. I really wanted to love them, but they all smelled metallic (not in a nice way) because of an odd coating on the applicator and I always thought they were going to spill on me (some of them did leak). They didn’t last nearly as long and I was going through essential oils much more quickly with them than I was with plastic inhalers. They just weren’t good enough to win me over. Carrying a cotton ball or hankie around in my purse for inhalation purposes on the go worked well as an alternative option, but it didn't solve the "not everyone wants to smell my essential oils" dilemma.

I finally settled on an option that really works for me: smelling salts. I filled a 5ml amber glass bottle with some rough, chunky Himalayan salt (which actually brings its own therapeutic effects to the table – have you seen the Himalayan salt inhalers that are available now?), dropped in a bit of herb, added some essential oils, and tested out this “new” old idea. I think you know where this is headed. Ummm, I love this method. It’s pretty, it feels good, the jar / bottle is totally reusable, and it’s still a personal application method that won’t leave the whole room smelling of your oil(s) of choice. I completely recommend giving this method a go if you're interested in a more sustainable inhalation option.

Once in awhile, I'll place a blend in a 1 ounce, clear glass jar to add a bit of 'pretty factor' to the blend (just keep away from sunlight) and it's turned out to be a great conversation starter. I also really appreciate that inhaling an aroma from a glass bottle or jar looks a lot more normal than inhaling an aroma from a tampon-esque plastic inhaler does. ;) (Yes, I have really had clients think the plastic models were tampons.)

If you're interested in moving toward a more sustainable, earth-friendly option for convenient aromatherapy inhalation, I highly recommend giving smelling salts in small glass containers a try. The blends I've been testing have lasted impressively well.

A Few Key Points About Safety

  • 5ml bottles with orifice reducers are a good alternative for children's inhaler blends - the orifice reducer will allow the aroma to escape, but keep the salt inside the bottle so that the child isn't tempted to taste it. Use a chunky Himalayan pink salt that won't come through the orifice reducer and the child can use the smelling salts the same way they would use their custom aromatherapy inhaler. *Children should only use essential oils under adult supervision. Take care to use the smelling salts in an area where the bottle will not break if it falls.
  • Smelling salts should still be kept away from pets.
  • Keep your jars / bottles clearly labeled and include safety information, such as, "For inhalation purposes only. Not for internal use. Non-edible. Not for use with pets or children."
  • Use common sense, as always.

Have you experimented with a different sustainable option for aromatherapy inhalation on the go? Share it with me in the comments below.

Much love,




Herbal Aromatherapy for Back-to-School Season

I'm a bit of a germ freak. Not in a weird, "Get away from me, I don't want to touch you," way. Just in a, "Okay, please stop coughing in my hair," kind of way. I once spent a few extra minutes in a long line at a local Michaels craft store during the holiday season and the whole time I stood there, a sick woman and her friend stood behind me coughing, sneezing, and sniffling the whole time. They apparently didn't think covering their mouths was necessary because I could literally feel the wind coming out of them blowing through my personal bubble. I caught whatever they had and spent the holidays sounding like a bullfrog and feeling like a bear. Since we're fast approaching the season of increased exposure to vast amounts of [possibly ill] strangers (at school, at the mall, standing in longer-than-usual lines, at the airport, etc.), I thought this would be a good time to talk about supporting your body's natural defense system with herbs and essential oils.


Use Herbs Daily

Herbs are full of so many beneficial compounds that help support our well-being and including them in our cooking is one easy way to incorporate them into our everyday routines. Chop fresh herbs from your garden or the farmer’s market and add them to your meals. As the weather cools and your herb garden slows down, try adding dried herbs to your dishes instead. They add complex layers of flavor that brighten up (or warm up) our food while also helping our bodies to be at their best.

Drinking nourishing herbal infusions each day can also help build up our body’s ability to stay well even when we’re exposed to people who aren’t. Susun Weed has made nourishing herbal infusions famous in the herbal community and part of the reason that they’ve become so popular is because they really work! Good herbs to try include: oatstraw, nettles, and red clover. Learn how Susun makes her nourishing herbal infusions each day here. On days when you’re feeling like you need a little something extra, have some Echinacea and Ginger tea or a spoonful of Elderberry syrup.

Treat yourself to an herbal foot bath (or full bath) each evening.  Adjust the herbs you use based on how your day went and how you’re feeling when you sit down to choose your herbs. Relaxing herbs like Lavender, Chamomile, and Rose almost always make it into my blend. I also like to add flower essences that I choose based on how I’m feeling that evening to my bath blend. For example, if I’ve spent a long day working and can’t get my get-it-all-done brain to shut off and relax, I reach for Oak flower essence and add a dropperful to the bath after I’ve brewed my herbs.

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Utilize Essential Oils As Needed

Especially during cold and flu season, I like to keep a jar of smelling salts in my bag. The formula I use varies, but it will always include some sort of antibacterial, antimicrobial essential oils. It’s helpful to have it on hand when I’m around a lot of people (i.e. a high risk area) or when I’m noticing that a lot of people around me are sniffling / coughing. It’s also a lifesaver for those moments when you’re standing in line and the person standing behind you is hacking a lung up into your hair. Whip out that jar and breathe in those anti-yuck essential oils to help counteract all of the other who-knows-whats that you’re breathing in at that moment.

Using tonifying essential oils throughout the season can also help to strengthen your body’s defense system. Try incorporating regular facial steams into your routine. Put together a massage oil that you can apply to your skin after you step out of the shower. Create a diffuser blend or two that you can use on days when you feel like you need a little extra boost. Make a foot lotion that you can massage into your feet at night to help you relax after a day of work. My approach to essential oils throughout this season is to use them to nourish and tone the body. I don’t use them everyday, but I do use them as needed to help me feel good, strong, and relaxed. Stress adds to the likelihood that you’ll become sick if you’re exposed to something, so keeping your body and mind in a healthy state of relaxation can do wonders for supporting your immunity.

Take Care of Yourself

Protect your sleep quality as much as possible. Lose the screens and electronics in your bedroom and resist the urge to stay up late finishing that book you just can’t put down. Craft a ritual around your sleep habits that keeps that time of the day protected from distractions so you can do all you can to make sure you get a good night of quality sleep each day.

Stay active. A little bit of exercise (even gentle exercise) each day helps to keep your lymphatic system functioning at an optimal level. On days when you can’t work in a full workout or a few laps around the block, set an alarm on your phone to go off every hour on the hour. Whenever the alarm goes off, turn on one of your favorite upbeat songs and take a little break for a dance party and some herb-infused water. I try to take dance breaks every hour throughout the day when I’m working from home. If I don’t, I’ll get lost in my computer screen and forget to get up and move at all except to refill my water bottle and visit the loo. Dancing helps me get moving and releases endorphins that help me to feel happier when I sit back down to keep writing. Win-win.

Allow yourself some space to relax each day. It’s okay to say ‘no’ to the things that want to distract you from your purpose. It’s okay to leave something to be done the next day. It’s okay to take care of yourself and the other people who rely on you too. Schedule non-negotiable relaxing time into your day, every day. Trust me – it helps!

Take care of yourself, my friend. I want you to be healthy!

What keeps you feeling great during the germy seasons? Let me know in the comments section below.

Much love,


Herbal Aromatherapy Care for Poison Oak / Poison Ivy

While the best option when it comes to dealing with poison oak / poison ivy is obviously to avoid coming into contact with it at all, there are times when we realize we're standing in a patch of it just a few seconds too late. Let's talk about some of the ways we can use herbs and essential oils to aid recovery and ease symptoms.



Learn to identify poison oak and poison ivy (or poison sumac, if that's what grows in your area). Practice identifying it and being aware of it when you're outside in an area where it grows. Wear clothing and shoes that cover your skin and bring a pair of gloves along if you think there's a possibility that you'll be touching wild plants.


Sometimes people will never develop a rash, but since many do, it's important to watch for developing symptoms over the next few days so you can deal with them as soon as they are noticed.

Wash your skin as soon as possible with cool water and soap (one that is not oil based - think lard-based soap or dish soap). It's a good idea to have a soap made specifically for poison oak exposure on hand so that it's there when you need it. Wash clothing as well.

Apply Jewelweed to the affected area as soon as possible. The leaves can be juiced, blended, made into a strong tea, or pounded and applied as a poultice. It's a good idea to tincture some when you find it and keep the tincture on hand so you have it when you need it, since the tincture can also be used. Alternatively, you can brew it as a strong, double or triple infused tea and freeze that instead. Store the Jewelweed ice cubes in an airtight container in the freezer until needed.


Once you have a rash, your main objective will be to soothe the itching and irritation while you wait for it to run its course. Fresh Plantain leaves (Plantago spp.) that have been crushed between your fingers or whole Burdock leaves that have been boiled and pounded can be applied as a poultice or be juiced / blended and applied as a compress or wash. Fresh chickweed and cleavers are options as well. Alternatively, you can prepare a strong tea with the same herbs, perhaps adding in skin-soothing herbs like Calendula, Lavender, Marshmallow, and Chamomile, and use the tea for a compress. Aloe vera gel may help soothe and cool the area and some folks claim that adding Apple Cider Vinegar (raw) to an herbal wash or even a cool oatmeal / baking soda bath is helpful. When the itching is severe, a clay poultice can be helpful.

Support your body internally with alterative herbs like Burdock and Dandelion. They can be taken as teas or in tincture form. Stick to bland foods for meals and snacks, as acidic and spicy foods will make symptoms worse.

Keeping yourself distracted as much as possible will help you get through the worst of it without losing your sanity. Try to incorporate herbs that help you relax, like Valerian or Kava, into your day (or night).


During the last stages of the rash, when it's more dry, you can start to incorporate essential oils into your topical applications. Diluted Lavender, Helichrysum, and Chamomile essential oils can all soothe irritation while helping the skin recover. It's best to still avoid oil-based carriers during this stage, so continue to use other options until the rash is entirely gone. (Oil spreads the irritating compounds and, thus, the rash.)


If you exhibit any symptoms of an allergic reaction, fever, or of the poison entering your bloodstream, seek medical care right away.

Do you have any other tips for managing a rash caused by poison oak? Leave them in the comments below.

Much love,