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Children

Herbal Aromatherapy for Back-to-School Season

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

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Use Herbs Daily

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

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

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

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Utilize Essential Oils As Needed

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

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

Take Care of Yourself

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

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

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

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

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


Much love,
Erin


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How to Make Herbal Bird Feeders

When we lived in southern California, we had a neighbor who absolutely loved bird feeders. He had several dozen of them hanging in the trees just outside the boundary of his patio and he would sit on his porch and watch the birds flit between them. We would pass by his apartment each day during our evening walk and the trees in that part of the community were always filled with birds. When we moved to the PNW, I began to miss having that large colony of birds nearby and started looking into bird feeders. My husband, Jon, made me a wooden one that I just love, but I also wanted to experiment with some handmade, herbal versions. This one has become my favorite.

This tutorial was first published in the July Issue of AromaCulture Magazine.

WHAT YOU'LL NEED

  • either Orange slices or halved Orange peels
  • Sunflower seed butter
  • bird seed mix
  • dried, bird-safe herbs (I'm using Calendula petals, Cornflower petals, and German Chamomile flowers. The birds here also like my Lavender after the flowers have dried.)
  • string
  • bamboo skewer

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Choose whether you'd like to work with Orange halves or slices. If you want to work with slices, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and lay out the Orange slices on it. Dry the slices in the oven at a low temperature until they hold their shape. If working with Orange halves, scoop out the fruit and dry the Orange peel in the oven as you would dry the slices.
     
  2. Use a bamboo skewer to poke a hole in the top of each dried Orange slice (or 2-3 holes per Orange half) and thread your string through the hole(s) so you'll be able to hang your bird feeder when you're finished with it.
     
  3. Dip the Orange slice in Sunflower seed butter, then dip the slice in a bowl of bird seed mixed with your herbs of choice. For this project, I chose to work with Calendula petals, Cornflower petals, and German Chamomile flowers. You could also use Lavender buds,  Coriander, or a variety of other culinary, bird-safe herbs.

    Tip: Don't use too much Sunflower seed butter or it will drip off the Orange slice. Use just enough to get your seeds to stick to the feeder.
     
  4. If using Orange halves, mix a little bit of Sunflower seed butter with your bird seed/herb mix and fill the Orange half with this blend.
     
  5. Hang the bird feeder in your garden near a place where the birds will be able to perch while they enjoy the goodies you've left them.

Enjoy! Much love,
Erin

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Teaching Children About Herbs + Essential Oils - A Sneak Peek Inside Our New Summer Fun Kids Pack!

The July issue of AromaCulture Magazine was just released this morning and I'm so excited about it that I wanted to take a moment to tell you a little bit more about something new we included in this month's issue. School is out for the summer here in the US and a lot of our readers are mommas (and Grans and dads and aunties...) who now have some extra time to spend with their kiddos while they are home all day, so I wanted to include something extra special for them in this citrusy, summery issue. At the end of the magazine, after all of the grown up articles, you'll find our new Summer Fun Kids Pack!

I've put together a fun, colorful Kids Pack that corresponds with the citrus theme of this month's issue of AromaCulture Magazine. It includes an exciting, kid-friendly lesson about citrus fruits and their essential oils, some activity sheets that will help to reinforce what the kids learn throughout the lesson, and some coloring sheets that feature the fruits and plant parts discussed in the lesson. (It was fun to put some of my artwork to use in the magazine!) Everything is laid out so you can easily print out the Kids Pack pages and go through the lesson and activities with your kids (or grandkids). There's also a quick, kid-friendly blending activity that you can do together during the lesson if you'd like!

I also wanted to make sure that all of the recipes I wrote for this issue of the magazine were kid-friendly so that you can make and enjoy them with your kids while they're home for the summer. I didn't want you to feel like you couldn't carve out any time to make yourself a fancy face cream instead of treasuring this extra time with your littles. It's way more fun to be able to spend time making recipes that the whole family can enjoy! =) Here's a little preview of some of the recipes included in this month's issue:

To learn more about this month's issue of the magazine or to pick up your own copy, click here.

I hope you enjoy this month's issue! If you have a chance to go through the Fun Pack with your kids or grandkids this month, I would love to hear what you think about. Feel free to let me know in the comments section below or to send me an email. If you want to share your finished coloring sheets with me, share them on social media with the hashtag #aromaculturemagazine. I may repost some of my favorites!

Much love,
Erin

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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Herbalism 101: Make Skin-Nourishing Salves

Salves are some of my favorite DIY herbal-aromatic remedies. They are so quick and easy to make! They also won't spill in my purse, which makes them a convenient favorite for carrying around with me. (I can't be the only one who has ruined a leather bag as a result of a faulty roll-on lid, right?) I tend to keep a variety of salves on hand because they're so useful and handy - my current favorite is an all purpose Calendula salve that I tend to make fresh every few months. If you've been itching to whip up a few salves for your own kit, you're in the right place!

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All salves are a basic combination of carrier oil and beeswax. To customize them according to what you want to use them for, you can use carrier oils infused with herbs. For example, I use Calendula infused oil in skin healing salves, like diaper rash balms and ointments for scrapes and burns. A St. John's Wort infused oil would be suitable in a salve intended to soothe muscle aches or pain and a Lavender infused oil would be lovely in a calming sleepy time balm. You get the idea, right? Decide on what you want your salve to be best for, then use oils infused with the herbs that correspond with that particular issue.

Most herbalists recommend making salves using a 1:4 ratio - 1 part beeswax to 4 parts oil. An overly simplified example of this would be a recipe made with 1 ounce of beeswax and 4 ounces of Calendula infused oil. I tend to prefer salves that are just a little bit softer than this and usually use a 1:5 ratio.

To make a salve, melt your beeswax in a double boiler over low heat. I tend to use a glass Pyrex measuring jar inside a small saucepan as my double boiler. It works perfectly - the pouring spout on the measuring jar is great for pouring the mixture into containers later. I keep the water level in my saucepan at about 2 inches.

Once your beeswax is melted, stir in your carrier oil. Sometimes the cooler temperature of the oil will cause the beeswax to solidify a little bit. If this happens, just keep stirring the mixture until everything is melted again.

After your beeswax and oil are thoroughly combined, turn off the heat and move your jar (or double boiler) away from the stove. If you're adding essential oils to your salve, now is the time to stir them in.

For recipes intended for children, elderly folks, or people with compromised immune systems, sensitivity to smell, etc., use a 1% dilution for your essential oil blend (5-6 drops of essential oil for every ounce of your beeswax/oil mix). For healthy adults, a 2% dilution is perfect (10-12 drops of EO to each ounce of beeswax/oil mix). If you're making a First Aid type balm for occasional adult use in acute situations, you could use a 3% dilution (15-18 drops of EO per ounce of carrier).

Pour your finished balm mix into your sterilized containers and let them sit undisturbed in a safe place until solid. While you're waiting for them to cool you can make some labels for your tins! I like to include all of the ingredients in the recipe, the date I made the batch, and a name for my finished blend on my labels. Label your new salves and use them as needed!

What sorts of salves do you [want to] keep in your home remedy kit?

Much love,
Erin

For educational purposes only. All photos and graphics are copyright Erin Stewart. May not be distributed, copied, or published without express prior written permission from me.