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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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The Art of Herbal Papermaking (How to Make Paper Out of Weeds, Herbs, or Other Plants)

When I was younger, I was obsessed with unique stationery. Pretty letter papers and envelopes, vibrant stickers, and endless stacks of notebooks were some of my favorite things. [Actually, artistic, spiral-bound notebooks are still at the top of my list of favorite things!] I had quite a little collection going and I loved using bits of it to send snail mail to my penpals and far-away family and friends. I can still remember one handmade paper set in particular that was made with cotton and deep pink rose petals. I loved it so much that I never wanted to use any of it. It was just too beautiful to write on and the texture was divine! 

I still love handmade papers. You just can't match the character of handmade stationery with a sheet of anything mass produced. Once in awhile, I set aside some time to make some for myself. It's perfect for packaging up thoughtful gifts; I also love painting on it. Lately, I've been adding garden weeds and herbs, sometimes sustainably wildcrafted bits of plentiful flora, to my "paper batter" and I've been loving the results, so I thought I'd share the process with you here.

Note: This tutorial was originally published in the May 2017 issue of AromaCulture Magazine.

WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO NEED

  • a mould and deckle
  • a thick, clean kitchen sponge
  • sheets of cotton or felt (I like to use this cut down into smaller pieces.)
  • recycled paper scraps (or shavings)
  • a blender
  • dried herbs, flowers, or garden weeds
  • a tub larger than your mould and deckle
  • water

TUTORIAL

  1. Fill your tub about halfway with lukewarm warm water and set it aside.
     
  2. Fill a blender halfway (loosely, not packed) with recycled paper torn into smaller pieces. You can use the paper from your paper shredder bin, old newspapers or packing paper, etc. You'll want to avoid papers with a glossy coating; matte papers will work best. Old coloring sheets, tissue paper, or construction paper could be added to the mix to incorporate a bit of color to the finished paper.
     
  3. Add water to the blender until all of the paper is covered by about an inch or two of liquid. Pulse the blender for about 30 seconds, or until you're left with a pulpy, watery mix, free of large chunks.
     
  4. At this point, you can add a little bit of dried herb, flowers, or garden weeds to the blender and pulse again to incorporate. I like to use garden "weeds" in my paper - Plantain, Dandelion, etc. all work well once dried. You can also use dried Rose or Calendula petals, or just about anything else that you'd like to include.
     
  5. Pour the pulp into your tub of water and use your hand or a spatula to give it a good mix. After agitating the water, lower your mould and deckle into the tub, below the surface of the water, holding both pieces of it tightly together so they don't separate. Let the pulp settle a bit into the frame, then slowly lift the mould and deckle out of the water. Let the excess water drip through the screen back into the tub.
     
  6. Remove the top piece of the frame and set it aside so that you are left with just the screened piece.
     
  7. Lay a sheet of cotton batting or felt over the paper sheet, then lay a cookie sheet on top of that. Flip the entire ensemble over carefully (the cookie sheet helps to keep everything flat while flipping, sort of like flipping a cake out of a cake pan) and set the cookie sheet aside. The cotton sheet will now be touching the counter (or work surface); the new paper sheet will be on top of that and the screened frame will be on top.
     
  8. Press the kitchen sponge along the screen to absorb excess water, squeezing the water out of the sponge and back into the tub as you go. Once you have removed much of the moisture from the paper through the screen, you can lift the screened frame off so you're
    left with your new sheet of paper laying on the sheet of cotton batting.
     
  9. At this point, you can leave the sheet as is in a safe place to dry. After a few hours, you can remove the paper from the cotton batting and let it continue to dry out. Once all of the water has evaporated, you'll be left with a beautiful sheet of handmade paper!

Have you ever tried making paper? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below.

Much love,
Erin

Hawthorn + Hibiscus Smoothie Recipe

I think the weather here forgot about spring this year. It seems like we went from super chilly, rainy, hot-tea-and-oversized-sweaters days to 90 degree flip-flops-and-shorts days overnight. I don't know what happened. Suddenly, my cozy, heart-warming daily rituals of the past couple of months don't seem as seasonally appropriate. (No one wants to soak their feet in a steaming foot bath and drink hot tea when all they really want to do is run through the sprinklers and eat popsicles.) Soooo I'm working on incorporating my daily herb buddies into slightly less hot recipes, this Hawthorn smoothie being one of my current favorites.

Hawthorn is my herbal best friend. My connection with this plant runs so deep that I kind of think of her as a living, vibrant person now. As a gal with a heart condition, she's worked wonders in her supportive, healing friend role. I love her! Sitting with the baby Hawthorn trees in my garden makes me feel so warm and calm and comforted; the same way I feel when I drink her tea. But I'm not exactly craving hot teas at the moment, so I've been experimenting with incorporating teas into my daily smoothies at breakfast time and, guys, I think I've found my new favorite thing. Herbal teas and infusions used as the liquids in smoothie recipes instead of milks, juices, or water are amazing. I don't know why I didn't try them sooner!

HAWTHORN SMOOTHIE RECIPE

INGREDIENTS

  • 14 ounces of Hawthorn + Hibiscus tea
    Tip: In the evening, just before bed, pour the freshly boiled water over an ounce of Hawthorn leaf, flower + berry + a bit of Hibiscus flowers. Let it cool, then set it in the fridge, covered, to continue to steep overnight. In the morning, it'll be nice and chilled, ready to strain and add to your smoothie. You can also steep the blend for 10 minutes in the morning and use it as a standard tea base for your smoothie.
  • 24 organic strawberries
  • 2 organic bananas
  • 1 organic orange
  • optional add-ins: a TBSP of organic nut butter, a handful of raw oats, or 1/2 cup whole, plain, organic yogurt

    Yield: smoothies for 2

HOW TO MAKE IT

Pour the tea into your blender and follow it up with the other ingredients. Blend until smooth and enjoy!

Much love,
Erin


9.99

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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Rose Face and Décolletage Cream

I love wrinkles. I think they're beautiful. They tell stories. They're evidence that we've felt through the seasons of life. But I also love a good anti-aging cream. Especially for the lines that have been showing up on my neck. (I'm okay with them being there, but... Where did those come from?)

After testing a lot of other herbalists' formulas for handmade moisturizers and trying plenty of over-the-counter products, I finally developed an anti-aging recipe that I am absolutely in love with. It's velvety and creamy and leaves my skin so soft and supple and glowy without leaving behind any oily residue. I'm also a major fan of this pretty-in-pink hue. I thought I'd share the recipe with you today so you can have a go at making a batch for yourself or your friends. I think you're going to love it as much as I do!

The oils in this recipe were chosen because they're lovely and lightweight. The small addition of Tamanu adds potent skin-rejuvenating properties (and I adore the smell of it). Hibiscus gives it its rosy glow and contributes a heavy dose of AHA's (which moisturize, exfoliate, firm & tone the skin while also helping to clear and cleanse pores) to the overall blend. The essential oils are anti-aging and perfectly suited to skin care blends.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 ounce of organic Aloe vera juice (the kind meant for internal use, without additives)
  • .5 ounce of organic Rose Geranium hydrosol
  • .5 ounce of Ylang Ylang hydrosol
     
  • .75 ounce of organic Sunflower oil infused with organic Hibiscus flowers
  • .5 ounce of organic Rosehip seed oil
  • .25 ounce of organic Tamanu oil
  • .75 ounce of organic Cocoa butter
  • .25 ounce of organic beeswax
     
  • 5 drops of organic Lavender essential oil (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • 4 drops of organic Rose essential oil (Rosa damascena)
  • 2 drops of organic Frankincense essential oil (Boswellia carterii)
  • 1 drop each of organic Carrot Seed (Daucus carota), Green Myrtle (Myrtus communis), and Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) essential oils
    (The essential oils are kept to about a 0.5% dilution for this cream. You can purchase high quality essential oils, hydrosols, and carriers from a reputable source here.)

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 specific product you choose to use.

If you prefer not to formulate products with preservatives, you will need to make creams in very small batches in a sterile environment, store and access them properly, and use them up within a week or two (some sources say a month).


INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Melt your beeswax in a double boiler over low heat. Once it is melted, stir in your Cocoa butter.
  2. When both the beeswax and Cocoa butter are liquid, remove them from the heat and stir in the remainder of your carrier oils. Set aside and let cool for a few minutes and place the bowl with the Aloe and hydrosols over the double boiler (with the heat turned off) for a few minutes to warm up.
  3. When both the liquids and the oils are at 110 degrees F, you are ready to start blending the two together to create your cream. It's important that both the liquids and the oils be right at 110 degrees, otherwise they may not emulsify correctly.
  4. 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 cream reaches a consistency that you like.
  5. Blend in your essential oils.
  6. Pour the mixture into your jar, add a label, and enjoy!

NOTES

  • Creams can be tricky and it may take some practice before you perfect your fluffy concoctions. If the cream 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 blending it again.
  • Creams are best stored in the fridge and made in very small batches.
april recipes aromaculture.com photo by erin stewart wm-11.jpg

Enjoy this lovely cream! Don't worry - that rosy hue doesn't leave any tint on your skin. It sure does make it look pretty, though! If you decide to make a batch of face cream using this recipe, share a photo of your creation over in our Facebook group! I'd love to see how your moisturizer turned out. =)

Much love,
Erin


APRIL'S MAGAZINE ISSUE:

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Herbal Flea Repelling Powder Recipe for Dogs

When my German Shepherd was a puppy, she had an allergic reaction to a flea medication. Fleas can be an issue here in southern California, so I worked on developing a natural, effective protocol that would work for us and I think I've finally perfected the process. I shared the recipe for my Herbal Flea Repelling Powder for dogs in the March issue of AromaCulture Magazine, but I thought I'd also share it with you here as a bit of a peek inside the magazine.

I want to start by saying that this is what works for us, but every family is different. Feel free to experiment (with caution and common sense). Pick up a book or two about herbal remedies for your pets (make sure it's written by a practicing veterinarian/herbal veterinarian) and start researching the herbs that are commonly used for various pet remedies. As you try different options, you'll discover what works best in your situation. This is the blend that works well for our pup.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 parts organic Lavender buds
  • 2 parts organic Chamomile flowers
  • 2 parts organic Rosemary leaves
  • 2 parts organic Thyme leaves
  • 2 parts organic Calendula flowers

INSTRUCTIONS

Powder the herbs using a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder that produces a fine powder and store the finished blend in an airtight jar.

To use, apply the powder to your dog's fur after a Neem shampoo bath and a Calendula tea (cooled to room temp) rinse. Test a small amount of the powdered mix on a small area first to make sure your dog has no allergic response or aversion to any of the herbs used in this recipe.

This powder can also be rubbed into the dog's bedding to deter fleas that might want to hang out there.

The powder smells great and is non-toxic, so it can be a great alternative to chemical-laden options for minor flea problems. Creating an environment that fleas won't like (using the herbs in this recipe - they don't like them - and the tips below) is the easiest way to keep them at bay naturally.

Note: For more aggressive flea infestations or situations in which your dog is experiencing skin issues or other symptoms related to fleas, please seek the advice of your veterinarian before trying any herbal remedies. Do not use herbs to which your dog is allergic and ask your vet before using herbs if your dog is on medication. Essential oils may NOT be substituted for herbs in this recipe.


ADDITIONAL TIPS FOR ERADICATING FLEAS

  1. Brush your pup at least once a day. Fleas don't like to be disturbed and if they're already on your dog and realize that he's not going to be a very comfortable place to stay, they'll be more likely to leave on their own. If your pup already has fleas, you'll want to use a flea comb in addition to daily brushing.
     
  2. Keep your dog's bedding and play areas vacuumed and clean. Pay special attention to creases in dog beds and toys where fleas could hide. Wash bedding often if you're dealing with fleas in the house.
     
  3. Food-grade Diatomaceous Earth (not the kind used for pools) is often recommended for killing fleas. It dehydrates and kills the fleas pretty quickly, making it effective for treating carpets and things. Sprinkle it over (or work it into) the carpet in problem areas, let it sit for a little while, then vacuum it up. It's non-toxic, but can be irritating to lungs, so you may want to wear a mask while vacuuming and keep little ones away from it.
     
  4. Use Neem pet shampoo as a natural alternative to a chemical flea bath. Neem is a natural insecticidal herb.
     
  5. End baths with a Calendula tea rinse (cooled to room temperature, of course). It will help to soothe your pet's irritated, itchy skin.

March's issue of AromaCulture Magazine is now available! Click here to see what's inside!

 
 

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Please exercise caution and use common sense when using herbs on your animals. We are not responsible for adverse reactions you or your pet may experience. Check in with your veterinarian before trying new remedies with your pets.

How to Make Beeswax Candles with Essential Oils: Forest Scents

This tutorial is an excerpt from our December issue of AromaCulture Magazine. To purchase the full issue, CLICK HERE.


Pure beeswax candles are one of my absolute favorite air purifiers. They lend a cozy glow and a sweet smell to the atmosphere, but are also known for their ability to release negative ions into the air, improving air quality and lending an uplifting, sunny gleam to a space.  Their energy is pure sunshine and honeybee. Candles made of pure beeswax are also free from the chemicals and toxins found in conventional candles and burn much cleaner than do other waxes. The high melting point of beeswax helps the candles last longer as well.

I make fresh beeswax candles each year. Most of the time, I don’t scent them at all. I really enjoy the aroma of the pure beeswax on its own and don’t find that they need any additional fragrance. Once in awhile, though, I do add some of my favorite essential oils in. Who can resist a beautiful, divine-smelling candle? They make lovely, thoughtful gifts for candle lovers - perfect for this season.

Forest-Scented-Woodsy-Beeswax-Candles-with-Essential-Oils-by-aromaculture.com.png

CANDLE MAKING TIPS

  1. Purchase your beeswax from a local beekeeper who raises their bees organically and truly loves beekeeping. You’ll find the energy of the beeswax to be much more vibrant and you’ll be supporting healthy honeybees. Commercialized beeswax is often unsustainably harvested and we need to be conscious of our sourcing. By supporting small scale beekeepers, you’re helping them to build and establish healthy hives that can produce more healthy honeybees!
     
  2. Use a crockpot. Beeswax is slow melting and when you heat it on the stove, you have to keep a pretty close eye on it, which means you could be sitting in the kitchen for a long time. I fill my crockpot with a few inches of water, place my giant Pyrex glass measuring jar inside and fill it up with my beeswax bars. Set the crockpot to high for 4-6 hours and leave it to melt. Don’t put the lid on the crockpot or you’ll end up with water in your wax and air bubbles in your candles that cause them to burn unevenly. Once the wax is melted, use a potholder to pull your jar out of the crockpot, wipe the bottom dry and pour your wax into your prepared jars. I use organic cotton, beeswax-coated wicks for my candles and they work beautifully.

FOREST SCENTED CANDLE

To 4 ounces of melted beeswax, add the following essential oils:

  • 25 drops of Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica)
  • 25 drops of Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
  • 15 drops of Juniper Berry (Juniperus communis)
  • 15 drops of Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)

WALK IN THE WOODS SCENTED CANDLE

To 4 ounces of melted beeswax, add the following essential oils:

  • 25 drops of Norway Pine (Pinus resinosa)
  • 25 drops of Frankincense (Boswellia carterii)
  • 15 drops of Black Spruce (Picea mariana)
  • 10 drops of Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • 5 drops of Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis)

High quality essential oils can be purchased from reputable companies here and here.

Much love,
Erin

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