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Beauty

Guide to Growing, Foraging, and Using St. John's Wort

You know that speechlessness that takes over your brain when someone asks you what your favorite herb is? That, "Umm, how could I possibly ever choose one? I have no idea how to answer that question!" So you scramble to think of one that you like more than the others and about a dozen different plants pop into your head and you're still standing there like, "Hmmmm...uh..." Yeah, I know the feeling.

But there are a couple of plants that are just so incredibly special to me that I could definitely call them my favorites. Lavender is one, as you know. Hawthorn. Calendula. Roses. Tulsi. (Okay, I guess my list is kind of long, but thank goodness you understand because that means you're probably not surprised.)

There is one plant, though, that I don't talk about nearly enough that is definitely in my top 10 favorites list and it's St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum).

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Those of you who live where St. John's Wort grows abundantly might not believe this, but when we lived in California, I never saw living St. John's Wort plants. We lived in such a densely populated, concrete-covered, manicured area that weedy species were actually hard to find and I never came across Hypericum, even when I was out in the wilderness areas!

St. John's Wort is also on the noxious weed list there, so I couldn't really grow it myself and seed companies wouldn't even ship seed to California. I would always order in freshly harvested St. John's Wort when it was in season and have it shipped overnight to me so I could still work with it in my apothecary.

When we moved to the PNW - a place where St. John's Wort grows abundantly alongside the roads - I was ecstatic.

I've spent a lot of time with this plant this year because it's one of my favorites and because it's one of the plants that we work with a lot in my Herbal Aromatherapy™ courses. (They'll be launching online later this year.)

I thought I'd share part of the St. John's Wort lesson from the Herbal Aromatherapy™ Level One course with you today because it's the perfect time for you to find and work with this plant! It's in full bloom here in the PNW and in other places around the country, so if it grows where you live, chances are that you'll be able to find it right now or very soon.

(If you live outside the US, I'm curious to know if it grows where you are and when it blooms. Let me know in the comments section below this post.)


Identifying St. John's Wort

St. John's Wort is an herbaceous perennial that likes to grow in poor soils that have been disturbed. Because of this, you'll often see it growing on the side of the road where the soil is rocky or packed down, on the side of a cliff, especially one that has been cut away to make room for a road, or in a field that's been sitting fallow. While it does grow in these poor conditions, it'll also do nicely in cultivation and it makes a beautiful garden plant. It likes sunny areas but can also grow in partial shade, especially when you see it up in the mountainous regions. I usually see it growing between 12" (younger plants) and 24-30" in the wild, but it can grow taller in better soil, and while I might see a plant on its own here and there, it tends to grow in clumps. It starts flowering in most areas in June, but you may be able to find flowers throughout the summer as well.

The flowers grow in clusters at the end of the upright stems. They have five bright yellow petals with many yellow stamens and the petals have little black dots near their edges. The photo below shows the flower and the "perforated" leaves, but please note that it doesn't well represent the upright stems, since the plant in this photo was leaning over a little bit. Normally when you find this plant, it'll be reaching up toward the sky, tall and cheery.

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St. John's Wort has branching stems with opposite, oblong leaves that feel smooth and have smooth, non-toothy edges. Usually the flowers are found on the top half of the plant and the bottom half has leaves and stems. It can be a little leggy looking, since it grows tall instead of being bushy or wide. When you find it in clumps, it'll look a lot fuller.

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There are different varieties of Hypericum. To tell if you have H. perforatum, hold a leaf up to the sunlight. If it's H. perforatum, you'll be able to see the little holes from which it gets part of its name - perforatum. You can see what they look like in the photo below.

Memory Tip: "Perforated" leaves = H. perforatum.

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You can find further photos and descriptors to use for identifying purposes here.

GROWING St. John's Wort

If you're able to grow St. John's Wort in your garden, it can be easily started from seed in late fall or early spring. Sow the seeds on the surface of the soil, water in, and then keep the soil moist and in a partially sunny area until the seeds sprout. They need light to germinate, so it's best not to keep them on a shelf below another shelf or hidden away in a dark space.

Once the plants are old enough, you can plant them out into the garden in well-draining soil with full sun. They will flower for you in the second year.

Because St. John's Wort does well in poor soils, it can be grown in almost any garden (add a bit of sand and organic matter to heavy clay soils to improve its texture) and doesn't need much fuss. It does seem to like a little bit of liquid seaweed concentrate now and again, but it would probably do just as well if allowed to do its own thing.

HARVESTING St. John's Wort

When harvesting St. John's Wort for medicinal purposes, there is a specific time frame during which the plant is at its prime. To see if your plants are ready to be harvested, roll one of the buds between your thumb and forefinger. If the bud leaves a reddish-purple stain on your finger (see the photo below), then the plant is ready to be harvested.

If the plant has buds, but they do not produce a stain, you're a bit too early to harvest. Check back daily and harvest when you see this stain on your fingers.

If the plant has open flowers or petal-less flowers and does not produce a stain, you're a little bit too late to harvest in that particular area. Check nearby plants to see if there are others that are ready or head to a higher elevation to find plants that are just coming into their prime harvesting stage.

Most people will tell you to harvest the top 4-6" of the plant when harvesting St. John's Wort. I tend to be a little bit more conservative because the bees love this plant so much and I want to make sure that there are plenty of flowers leftover for both the pollinators and for the plant to produce seed.

I'll harvest the top 4-6" from the main stem only, not the branching stems, being sure to leave the flowers on the branching stems behind.

I also like to harvest no more than 1 in 7 plants (it's usually more like 1 in 12+) so that when I leave, it doesn't look like I've harvested anything at all.

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DRYING St. John's Wort

If you're going to dry your freshly harvested St. John's Wort, spread it out in a single layer on a screen or drying rack and allow to dry out of the sunlight until the leaves, flowers and stems are crispy. You can leave the flowers and leaves on the stems or strip them from the stem and store in an airtight jar away from light and heat.

Making St. John's Wort Oil

My full guide to making herb-infused oils can be found here. When making St. John's Wort infused oil, it's traditional to use olive oil as the base, but you can use any fatty carrier oil that you like. I prefer Sunflower seed oil (organic, unrefined) because it has a lighter texture and because I think the energetic pairing of the sunny St. John's Wort with the sunflower is perfectly complementary.

After your freshly harvested St. John's Wort has wilted (out of the sunlight) for a couple of hours and all of the little hitchhiking critters have made their escape, strip the flowers and leaves from the stems. Fill your jar about 2/3 full with the flowers and leaves, then pour your carrier oil of choice over the plant material until it's completely covered. The plants will spread out a bit in the oil and make your jar look even more full.

Secure the jar's lid and leave the jar in a sunny windowsill or a sheltered spot in the garden to infuse for 4-6 weeks. Keep an eye on it and check it often to make sure no mold is forming and, if you do see mold, use a sterile spoon to scoop it out of the jar before recapping. Wilting your plant material beforehand helps prevent mold from forming.

Note: Do not wash your St. John's Wort prior to infusing it in the oil. This is a sure way to spoil the entire batch. Harvest from a clean area away from pollution and such so that rinsing it is unnecessary.

As the oil infuses, the hypericin in the St. John's Wort will be extracted into the oil and will turn the oil a deep red color. It's quite fascinating, really! Have you ever had a cup of St. John's Wort tea made from the fresh flowers? If so, you'll recognize the color.

Strain completely and store in airtight jars away from light and heat. Storage in the fridge will prolong the oil's shelf life.

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St. John's Wort infused oil makes a wonderful base oil for massage oils, aromatherapy oils, salves, balms, ointments, lotions and creams, and other oil-based applications. It has analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory effects, so lends itself well to formulas meant to help relieve pain and reduce swelling. It's also exceptional (and has been traditionally used) for soothing nerve-related pain.

I once sat down to work with a large batch of St. John's Wort and when I began, I was in quite a bit of pain. By the time I was finished, I had no pain to speak of and the pain didn't come back! Just being around St. John's Wort now feels therapeutic for me.

Here's a photo of a finished batch of infused oil from a couple of years ago. I'll update in a few weeks with a fresh pic from my current batch once it's finished.

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DISTILLING ST. JOHN'S WORT

St. John's Wort is one of my favorite plants to distill at home because it's so generous in its yields and the hydrosol and essential oil are both quite lovely. With my stovetop still (click here for a behind-the-scenes look into the process of using it), I can get about a quart of hydrosol and a little bit of essential oil in about 45 minutes - enough to make several batches of lotions and creams, facial toners, etc. that will last me for most of the year!

When distilling St. John's Wort with a smaller, at-home still, I like to distill via a combined hydro-distillation and steam distillation approach. I've found that this helps me to increase my yield a little bit. It's always a joy to be able to get that little bit of essential oil from even the smallest amount of plant material and, of course, the hydrosol is worth the distillation alone.

the hydrosol

The hydrosol smells lovely - a little bit buttery and green with a hint of pungent spice and the essential oil has a sweetness to it that is just wonderful. It contributes its antimicrobial, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory effects to products that include it as an ingredient.

St. John's Wort hydrosol contains a constituent called Terpinen-4-ol, which is also one of the main components found in Tea Tree and Marjoram essential oils. Terpinen-4-ol has demonstrated antibacterial and antitumoral effects in scientific research and is also found in smaller amounts in Lavender (angustifolia) essential oil and Juniper berry essential oil.

the essential oil

I find St. John's Wort essential oil to be both emotionally and physically centering. It helps to balance the pain response to both physical and emotional stimuli and bring us back into a state of existing harmoniously with different causes of pain.

It feels sunny and uplifting energetically, like an encouraging friend who says just the right thing in just the right moment to help us feel better about life. While it may not remove every ounce of pain from how we're feeling, physically or emotionally, it helps to soften the way we feel about the pain and thus, to relieve it in an interesting way. It doesn't deaden, but rather lifts the spirit away from it a little bit so we can handle the pain better, relax the tension we feel from holding on to it, and perhaps even let go of it.

That said, St. John's Wort essential oil does have a pronounced anti-inflammatory and analgesic effect on the physical body, so it's commonly employed for painful, swollen issues of the body, skin, and mind. 

I've also found it useful when working with people who are prone to feeling like they're at their wit's end; the type with frazzled nerves from being overworked and under-rested - if you add just one more thing to their plate, they're going to drop everything on the floor. It's also helpful for the kind of person who has so many things going on at once that they're starting to become a little bit numb to it all; one too many distractions; one too many painful experiences; one too many things that feel like little needles constantly jabbing holes into their mental and emotional health.

The herb itself is known for its ability to help repair our physical nerves, so it makes sense that the essential oil would have this kind of emotional effect.

St. John's Wort essential oil contains alpha-pinene which is helpful for both the skin and the respiratory and immune systems. Beta-caryophyllene is another of its main constituents. It's known for its ability to support the skin and our pain response, but especially for its unique ability to bind to our CB2 receptors, which help us to maintain normal immune and nervous system functions.

Balsam Copaiba (Copaifera officinalis) is one of the oft-studied essential oils that is also known for its rich beta-caryophyllene content.

The physical effects of St. John's Wort on our body help us to better understand the effects it has on our emotional being. Physically, it supports the skin, immune, respiratory and nervous systems, and our pain response. Emotionally, it strengthens our response to external stimuli, allowing us to breathe through different circumstances whilst building our resiliency and maintaining our center. It helps strengthen our protective barriers and fill in the cracks where the barrier has been compromised whilst still allowing light to shine through those cracks. It helps us to keep our head up, focused on the good things so we can better deal with the hard things. It's a great ally in the Herbal Aromatherapist's™ toolbox!


An example:

Imagine that you have so many things going on that you're starting to lose your focus and you can feel your energy seeping away from you. You're feeling less inspired and you don't have any time to focus on things that fuel your creativity because everything else is constantly demanding your attention.

You're feeling frazzled at home because you don't have time to take care of everything you need to. You're feeling like you're under-performing at work because you just don't have the mental energy to invest in it.

And then something awful happens. You get sick or you suffer a loss or something else occurs that just completely leaves you feeling like you can't deal with all of the things anymore.

You just want to sit on the couch in last night's pajamas with a warm blanket and some fuzzy socks so you can binge-watch your favorite show on Netflix whilst eating all of the chocolate ice cream you have in the freezer.

And in that moment, one of your best friends calls and talks to you about the situation and, after hearing about everything that's going on, she comes over to help you. She watches a movie with you, then tells you to go take a shower and get dressed. She works alongside you to get the house clean, takes you out for lunch and shopping for a new outfit, and then watches the kids for you so you and your spouse can go have a weekend away from everything to recharge.

You come home feeling like you've had a mental reset - like you know exactly what you can let go of in order to make sure that you don't reach this place again and you also feel better equipped to handle all of the other things you have going on in your life.

Your friend sticks by you, checking in on you and making sure you're staying in the right head-space, keeping a positive outlook on things, and constantly adjusting where you need to so that you don't end up feeling the same way again.

As a result, you're better able to keep a positive attitude yourself; you're able to invest in the things that are important to you again and let go of the things that no longer matter as much, all the while feeling like you've been able to find your center so you can take on the world each day as a strong, energetic, cheerful powerhouse.

This is how St. John's Wort works on the emotional plane. It's the cheery, encouraging best friend that meets you where you are and then helps you to focus on the important things, let go of the things that you don't need to be holding on to, and keep walking forward with a greater amount of fortitude and resilience than before you met up on the trail.

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USING St. John's Wort

St. John's Wort can be used therapeutically either fresh or dried. Some of the ways it is commonly prepared include:

  • teas
  • tincture
  • vinegar tincture
  • infused oil
  • glycerites
  • compresses and poultices
  • salves, balms and ointments
  • lotions and creams
  • massage oils
  • aromatherapy roll-on blends
  • smelling salts
  • bath tea blends
  • soaks
  • skin care recipes
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As far as using the herb goes, St. John's Wort definitely has a reputation for uplifting the spirits! Much of its publicity over the past 20 years or so has focused on its antidepressant effects. Whilst it can have a pronounced impact on people who are feeling like they need a little boost of emotional support, it's always a good idea to speak with your doctor if you suspect a deeper issue or if you already know that you suffer from chronic depression.

St. John's Wort is traditionally used to help repair damaged nerves and can be used externally via compress, soak, or infused oil to massage into areas where you're experiencing nerve pain. Since it has antispasmodic and analgesic effects as well, all of these applications can also be employed for muscle and joint aches and pains too.

Note: We'll go into more detail about the specific uses of this herb inside the course module.

safety considerations

St. John's Wort can interact with several different kinds of medications, so please consult your favorite botanical safety reference guides and speak to your doctor before taking St. John's Wort if you are currently on medication. Using the herb topically is considered safe, however.

have you ever worked with st. john's wort?

I'd love to hear about your experience with this special herb! Tell me what you think about it or how you like to use it in the comments section below.


If you'd like to be notified when our course opens for enrollment so you can learn even more about St. John's Wort (and other herbs) and how to use it effectively, click here.


I hope you've enjoyed this brief excerpt from the St. John's Wort lesson of the course! Whilst the course goes into a lot more detail about the specifics, I think this article gives a good, comprehensive overview of the ways you can expect to work with this amazing plant. It's truly one of my favorites! =)

Much love,
Erin

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Guide to Growing, Harvesting, Drying, and Using Calendula

If I made a list of the top 10 herbs I use the most in my apothecary and in the kitchen, Calendula would be right there near the top of the list. Her sunny little blooms fill the garden with vibrant cheer and I love working with her for both topical and internal applications. The fresh petals have a peppery taste that is delicious in baked goods and fresh salads, sprinkled in mashed potatoes, pressed into butter, and tossed with roasted veggies. The dried blooms are continuously infused into new batches of carrier oil in my apothecary for use in skin care blends and medicinal salves. I’m distilling a lot of Calendula this year so I can use the hydrosol more because it’s lovely as well. The flowers are a staple in my herbal foot bath blends and teas. This versatile plant is so easy to grow yourself, so I highly encourage you to plant out a few packets of seed if you haven’t added it to your garden yet.

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I'm right in the middle of a Calendula trial right now, so Calendula is definitely at the forefront of my mind. I'm testing over 30 different varieties for vigor, floriferousness (not a word), and medicinal quality for a project that I'm working on, so I'm definitely knee deep in working with this pretty little plant. It's truly one of the most used in my apothecary!

GROWING CALENDULA

Calendula is grown as a hardy annual in most growing zones and as a perennial in a couple of the warmest zones. Back in southern California, I could definitely grow it as a perennial, but even here in the PNW, it kept right on blooming through the frosts and the snow we had over the winter. I've heard reports of it not overwintering well in areas that get a lot more snow (and much colder temps) than we do, but the plants that I left in the ground last fall kept right on flowering and are still going while my new seed-grown batch is just starting to produce more heavily!

Calendula loves to be grown in full sun and will produce the highest yields when planted in the brightest areas of your garden. Well-drained soil is a plus and it seems to thrive when I add lots of compost to the soil before planting and a layer of mulch just after transplanting.

Plant your seeds in seed boxes or propagation trays, covering them with about ¼” of soil and water in well. You can direct sow the seeds, but planting them up in trays first will give you a head start on the growing season so you can start harvesting blooms sooner. It also gives you an opportunity to provide an early food source for the pollinators, which love this plant. Mine are consistently visited by at least 7 different kinds of bees, among other things.

Once your plants have well developed root systems and are ready to be planted out, you can space them about a foot apart throughout the garden. I’ve found that dedicated Calendula beds are strikingly beautiful, but I also plant them throughout my vegetable beds in between plants to draw pollinators to the food plants. If it will overwinter in your area, consider giving the plants even more room in their beds because they'll grow to be quite a bit larger than plants grown as annuals and will need more space. 16-18" would be good.

HARVESTING CALENDULA

Once flowers start opening, you’ll want to harvest at least every 2 to 3 days, but I’ve found myself harvesting daily during its peak blooming time. Pick the flowers the day they are fully open and leave a few for the bees, but make sure that you deadhead the flowers you leave behind before they go to seed to keep your plants happily producing throughout the season.

I like to pull or snip the flower heads right off into my gathering tray and then come back through and trim the stems down on the plant later. Your hands will get sticky from the resins in the involucre of the flower heads (the green bracts on the bottom of the flower head). Most of the time, the sticky residue will wash right off with soap and water once you're finished harvesting, but you can also use a little bit of olive oil (or any fatty oil) if necessary for stubborn bits.

DRYING CALENDULA

Calendula flowers are best dried in a single layer on screens in a warm area away from direct sun with excellent air flow. The blooms are thick (the flower centers, especially), so it’s important to make sure that all of the moisture is gone out of the blossoms before storing them. Make sure you check the flowers after about a week of drying time and if there is any moisture left in the center of the blooms, let them dry longer. Some folks like to use fans in their drying room when they process their Calendula to help speed the process along, but for home-sized batches, I haven’t needed them. If you’re in a humid area, though, fans might be a good idea.

Where I live, Calendula may even take 2-3 weeks to dry completely in the center, so be patient. It's better to wait to get them in your jars than to spoil a whole batch because of leftover moisture in some of the blooms.

USING CALENDULA

Once your blossoms are completely dried, they can be used in:

  • herbal butters
  • herbal vinegars and salad dressings
  • tinctures
  • glycerites
  • syrups
  • compresses and poultices
  • herbal oils
  • salves, balms and ointments
  • lotions and creams
  • kitchen recipes (both sweet and savory)
  • herbal tea blends
  • bath tea blends
  • skin care recipes
  • and more!

Calendula is especially suited to applications for the skin (it's full of skin-healing and skin-protective compounds), mucous membranes, and the digestive tract, so keep that in mind when formulating with it. You can read more about making herbal oils with Calendula flower heads here and I also have a post about some of my favorite ways to use Calendula here.

Once you start growing Calendula, you’ll probably find yourself planting increasingly more of it each year. It’s such an irresistible and usable plant!

How about you? Do you grow Calendula?

Much love,
Erin

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7 Things to Make with Violet Flowers

When I first joined Instagram (after much coercing on the part of friends and family who knew I would love all the pretty photos despite my aversion to social media), all the herbalists were posting about their Violet flower harvests and sharing their pretty recipes with the world. I was living in a 3rd story studio apartment in the middle of a concrete jungle at the time and had wanted to work with Violets but had never seen Violets growing in my area. My little balcony garden was full, so I couldn’t grow them then, but I knew that at some point, I was going to plant those sweet little blooms. They were the first plant I started looking for when we moved to the PNW last year. We hadn’t even pulled into our new hometown or seen our new home yet when I started telling Jon we needed to go scout out a few Violet patches in the wooded areas around us. Since then, it seems that I scatter Violet seed throughout my garden beds at least twice a year. I think it’s safe to say that I want Violets everywhere. If you like them too, here are a few ideas for ways to use them.

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1 - Make a Violet flower shrub.

I shared the recipe for this shrub on the blog a couple weeks ago. We like to use shrubs in homemade salad dressings, but you can also add them to orange juice or grape juice, Ginger ale, popsicle recipes, etc. They’re super yummy!

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2 - Violet flower syrup

Syrups are so simple to make and this version, made with sweet Violet flowers, looks so lovely that it would make a beautiful gift too! You can use it to dress baked goods, drizzle a bit on toast, or add it to drinks.

Bonus: It looks so pretty while the violet flowers are infusing! See the photo below.

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3 - Violet infused sugar

Infuse sugar with Violet flowers to add a touch of lovely flavor and color. The sugar can then be used to dress sweet recipes or in sugar scrub recipes that could use a dash of color. The sugar also holds the aroma of the Violets, so if its one of your favorites (it's one of mine!), you'll love the way the sugar smells!

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4 - Breast serum

Both Violet flowers and leaves can be infused into carrier oils to make a useful breast massage serum that helps support breast and lymphatic health. It’s a great daily-use product for women!

5 -  Add them to food

They’re gorgeous in salads, on top of shortbread cookies, as edible decoration on fancy desserts…and they taste great!

6 - Make candied Violets

Candying the flowers preserves them so they can be stored for a couple of months and used as pretty garnishes for your favorite dishes (if they last long enough!).

7 - Press them

Press a few Violets and Violet leaves. They can be used to decorate stationery, baked goods or keepsake boxes or added to your herbarium.

What are you making with Violets this year?

Much love,
Erin

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How to Make Violet Flower Breast Serum

Violet’s heart shaped leaves and delicate purple blooms are perfectly suited to women-specific breast health applications. The nourishing herbal infusion made with Violet leaves and / or flowers can be taken internally to help support the health of the breasts and the lymphatic system. Violet can also be applied directly to the breasts as a poultice. For those of us who may not have time to lounge with Violet on our breasts, though, this serum recipe is a happy medium and it also adds the benefits of massage! Keep a pretty dropper bottle of it on your bathroom counter or at your makeup vanity to remind you to use it each day after you bathe.

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Violets are reputed to help dissolve lumps, reduce inflammation, induce relaxation and uplift the spirits. They are cooling energetically, so are beneficial whenever there are signs of excess heat.

 Ingredients

  • Violet flowers and leaves
  • organic unrefined olive oil
  • organic Jojoba or sunflower seed oil, unrefined
  • organic essential oil of Rose (optional, but if you do use it, make sure you choose the steam distilled essential oil, not the absolute or concrete)

Instructions

Gently harvest your Violet flowers and leaves on a dry spring morning when the flowers are blooming. Take care not to harvest more than 1/3 of the plant at any one time to ensure the health of the plant. Keep the flowers and leaves covered in your gathering basket to protect them from the sun (a tea towel draped over the basket works well). Once you’ve gathered enough to fill your jar, bring them indoors and spread them out on a clean towel or drying rack, in a single layer, to make sure they are clean, dry and critter-free before infusing them. It's a good idea to let the moisture in the plant material evaporate a bit before infusing.

Fill your jar with the leaves and flowers, then pour your carrier oils of choice over the plant material. Olive oil on its own is a bit too heavy and greasy for me for this kind of recipe, so I like to combine it with an oil like Sunflower or Jojoba to improve its texture a bit. Secure the jar’s lid, then leave the oil to macerate for 4-6 weeks. At the end of the infusion period, strain out the plant material. You can transfer the oil to your dropper bottle as needed and add Rose essential oil at a 1-2% dilution (very little is needed; it’s a strong smelling oil).

To use the oil, spray the breasts with Lavender or Rose hydrosol after showering, then seal in the moisture of the hydrosol by massaging a few drops of the Violet serum into the breasts, underarms, and other nearby lymph nodes. Allow the serum to soak in while you brush your teeth before dressing to avoid transferring any oil to your undergarments. (It soaks in pretty quickly and doesn’t leave any greasy residue.)

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I hope you enjoy this recipe! Do you already make a variation of this? Tell me about it in the comments section.

Much love,
Erin


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DIY Christmas Gift Recipe Roundup (27 Herbal Aromatherapy Gift Ideas for the Holidays)

It's no secret by now that I like to give away handmade herbal aromatherapy goodies. Since I know I'm not alone and 'tis the season for giving, I thought I'd share some of my favorite recipes here for you. I know many of you have already decided what you'll be gifting to your own loved ones this season, but I know there are others who are still making choices, so hopefully the timing of this post will be helpful. =) Each recipe is linked to the blog post or the magazine issue where it can be found in its entirety. Enjoy!

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Weedy Facial Serum     |     Cayenne Warming Salve     |     Herbal Paper

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Wintery Beeswax Candles     |     Ginger Sugar Scrub     |     Herbal Bird Feeders

Many of these recipes come from past issues of AromaCulture Magazine, but still many are from recipes and tutorials that can be found for free on our blog. I hope you enjoy making some of these this holiday season!

Have you ever given handmade gifts during the holiday season? Tell me about one of your favorites in the comments section below.

Much love,
Erin


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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.

Herbal Skincare: Helichrysum Rejuvenating Balm

The moment I saw that my Helichrysum seedlings had emerged from their little soil nursery this spring, I couldn't stop the smile that spread across my face. There's just something about actually growing the plants you are using yourself that adds a new layer of depth to your relationship with them. Helichrysum is one of my favorite botanicals for skincare recipes and home remedies. I've long utilized it in its herbal form, as a hydrosol, and as an essential oil and now that I'll have access to the fresh plant, I'm looking forward to making a flower essence once these sweet little plant babies are old enough to spread their sunny faces toward the sky.

Helichrysum is such a versatile herb when it comes to formulas for the skin. It rejuvenates the skin cells and helps to promote quick recovery from wounds, soothes irritation, calms inflammation, smells amazing, and generally supports the healing process. I love it. This balm recipe is one of my must have recipes for my herbal first aid kit. It can be used when dealing with just about any kind of skin issue, though you'll want to avoid using it on deep or puncture wounds until they have scabbed over.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 part beeswax
  • 5 parts carrier oil that has been infused with Helichrysum flowers
  • 1 part carrier oil that has been infused with Calendula flowers
  • essential oils of Helichrysum, Lavender, and Calendula CO2 (optional)

HOW TO MAKE THE BALM

  1. Infuse your carrier oils with the herbs if you don't already have infused oils on hand in your home apothecary. I like to infuse my oils for at least 6 weeks, but you could also use the quick-infusion method if you need your balm to be ready right away.
     
  2. Melt the beeswax in a double boiler over low heat. Once it's melted, stir in the infused oils.
     
  3. Remove the blend from the heat and stir in your essential oils at a 3 to 5 % total dilution (optional).
     
  4. After the blend has cooled a bit, use an immersion blender to 'fluff up' the texture of the balm.
     
  5. Scoop into sterilized jars or tins. Add your labels (include the date you made the product + all of the ingredients you used).
     
  6. Store a jar in your herbal first aid kit so you'll know where it is when you need it. This balm can also be used as a daily moisturizer if you leave the essential oils out or keep them at a 1 to 2 % total dilution. When used after showering or washing your hands, it will soak nicely into the skin without leaving any sort of greasy residue.

Enjoy!
Much love,
Erin

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How to Make an Herbal Face Toner with Garden Plants

There's a glorious, untouched field full of wild herbs and edibles across from our home. My husband and I love to take our pup out there to run around, forage, and spend time with plants. We have a bit of a joke in our family that our dog is a canine herbalist - she seems to always be drawn to aromatic herbs. Back in California, one of our neighbors had some large Lavender plants bordering her picket fence and every time we'd pass her house on our walks, our sweet little pup would have to stop to smell those Lavender bushes for a moment. (Smart dog!)

One of the herbs that's abundant in the field here, especially near the frequently trodden bits, is Plantain. It's so lush and vibrant and, on a recent walk through the field, I felt like it wanted to be made into something lovely. So I harvested a bit, brought it home, and whipped up a new batch of facial toner (among other things). Skin care products are some of my favorite formulas to develop and I'm really loving this one at the moment. I hope you enjoy it!

The herbs in this recipe can be interchanged with whatever skin-nourishing plants you have on hand. These just happen to be what I was drawn to when I was making this batch. I've been really keen on garden herbs lately (perhaps because all of the little seedlings I've been nurturing and planting out have me dreaming of summer blooms), so I've included many of them in this recipe.

I've also included a bit of organic liquid chlorophyll in the recipe. I saw a bottle of it in our local healthfood store that was made from organic alfalfa awhile back and it intrigued me, so I picked up a bottle to experiment with in topical formulations. Liquid chlorophyll is said to be incredibly skin healing, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory when used topically.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 part Plantain leaves
  • 1 part Nettles
  • 1 part Burdock root
  • 1 part Calendula flowers
  • 1 part Rose petals
  • Aloe vera juice (the kind meant for internal use without all of the added junk) or raw, organic Apple cider vinegar
  • liquid Chlorophyll

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine equal parts of all of the herbs you're going to use in your formula. Infuse the herbs in organic, raw Apple cider vinegar for several weeks (4-6), then strain the herbs out of the liquid and send them to the compost pile. Alternatively, you can infuse the herbs in Aloe vera juice for 20-30 minutes instead. The product will have a much shorter shelf life (think herbal tea) and will be best kept in the fridge, but Aloe vera boasts a plethora of skin-healing therapeutic properties in itself and is well worth using in skincare formulas.
     
  2. Pour the strained liquid into a sterilized spray bottle and add a couple of drops of liquid chlorophyll. Shake well.
     
  3. To use, spray an organic cotton pad (or washcloth) with Aloe vera juice (if you're using a vinegar infusion), then spray the same cotton pad with your herbal vinegar. Swipe the pad across the skin of your face and neck, then follow up with your favorite herbal serum or cream.

I hope you enjoy the recipe! If you decide to give it a go, leave a comment below to let me know how you like it.

Much love,
Erin

MAY'S MAGAZINE ISSUE IS NOW AVAILABLE!

How to Make Chamomile Body Lotion

*Note: This recipe was first published in the April 2017 issue of AromaCulture Magazine.

Whether you like to use natural, homemade products whenever possible or you just want to have skin as soft as a baby's, I think you're going to love this recipe. When I originally set out to create a lotion that I could use everyday in place of my go-to storebought one, I wanted to create something that was gentle enough for a baby, calming, and suitable for long-term everyday use. I adore this result of that formulating day and I'm thrilled to share this recipe with you now.

I have purposely not used any essential oils in this formula. I found that they were unnecessary, especially if I wanted my formula to be suitable for wee ones, and I tend to leave them out of most everyday products anyway. The hydrosol and the Chamomile flower infusion provide just the right amount of dreamy Chamomile scent without the overpowering aroma that Chamomile essential oils can sometimes present. The result is truly lovely.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 ounce of organic Aloe vera juice (the kind fit for internal use, without additives)
  • 1 ounce of German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) hydrosol
  • .75 ounce of organic Sweet Almond oil infused with German Chamomile flowers
  • .75 ounce of organic Sunflower oil
  • .5 ounce of organic Cocoa butter
  • 1/3 ounce of organic, unrefined Shea butter
  • 1/6 ounce of organic beeswax

Note: If you prefer to formulate creams with preservatives, you are welcome to adjust the recipe to include whichever one you wish to use. You will need to follow the manufacturer instructions for the product to do so.

If you prefer not to work with preservatives, you'll want to store this cream in the fridge, access it only with clean hands, and use it up within a week or two (some sources say up to a month).


INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Melt the beeswax in a double boiler over low heat. Once it is melted, add the Cocoa butter.
  2. When both the beeswax and Cocoa butter are melted, remove them from the heat and place the bowl of liquids (Aloe + hydrosol) in the double boiler, with the heat turned off, to warm.
  3. Add the other carrier oils to the beeswax and Cocoa butter and stir until everything is thoroughly incorporated.
  4. Stir in the Shea butter. It will melt as you mix it with the other oils.
  5. Once the oil mix and the 'water' mix have both reached a temperature of 110 degrees F, you are ready to start blending the two together to form your lotion. It's important that both the liquids and the oils be right at 110 degrees, otherwise they may not emulsify correctly.
  6. Using an immersion blender, start blending your carrier oils, which should have started to show a change in their texture by now (this is good). Very slowly, start adding little bits of the liquids into the oils, all the while keeping the immersion blender going. Slowly add more liquids into the oils in small increments until all of the liquids have been added. Continue to blend using the immersion blender for a couple of minutes, until your lotion reaches a consistency that you like.
  7. Pour the mixture into your jars, add labels, and enjoy!

NOTES

  1. Lotions can be tricky and it may take some practice before you perfect your fluffy concoction. If the lotion doesn't come together on your first try, remelt the whole mixture in a double boiler over very low heat until it again reaches 110 degrees F, then try again.
  2. Homemade lotions are best stored in the fridge and made in very small batches.

I hope you enjoy this beautiful, calming lotion! I know we are and I've heard some glowing reports from readers who made this recipe after seeing it in the April issue of our AromaCulture Magazine. =)
Much love,
Erin

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