Aromatherapy Archives

The Benefits of Using a Sage Smudge Stick

sage-burning-hotel-am-stephansplatzOn our last trip to Europe we stayed in Vienna at the Hotel am Stephansplatz and one of the daily rituals of the hotel was the burning of sage throughout the rooms.  One of the hotel staff would come through the suite each day and waft the sage smoke around the room. This was usually done while we were out, although as you can see from the photo above, we did manage to catch her on one such occasion and asked if we could take her photo.

The suite always smelt fresh and inviting and I am sure it had something to do with this ritual. I mentioned this to my family when I returned to Australia.  And in amongst my Xmas gifts my  granddaughter had brought me a white sage smudge stick.

The idea behind burning white sage is to purify and cleanse the body, office, home and to get rid of negative energies.

You simply light the smudge stick at one end and blow on the embers to create smoke. You then move through the rooms moving the smudge stick in a circular motion.  Be relaxed and take your time when doing this, I believe that just the action of doing this is as beneficial as the warming smell from the smoke.

When you have gone through each room, make sure you extinguish the embers completely in sand or earth and store the smudge stick in a dry place for future use.

So what is a smudge stick?

Its a bundle of dried herbs bound with string into a small bundle and dried. The one I have is white sage that has been organically grown without the use of any artificial sprays or fertilizers and it has a pleasant sweet aroma.

Where did the idea come from?

Smudging is a Native American practice whereby certain herbs are used to purify people and places. White Sage leaves are the most often use in purification rituals.

They take great care in when they pick the sage for use in their rituals as the potency of the sage is affected by the seasons and time of day that the sage is picked.

Why Do I Do It?

Because it makes my house smell great, and I feel uplifted in spirit. There is something calming in strolling from room to room waving a sage stick around. Try it if you don’t believe me.




Lavender – don’t just use it in a sachet!

munstead-lavenderIf like many people, you have a sachet of lavender in a closet or drawer, you might like to know that this humble plant has been used for centuries and in many, many ways!  Some of them may surprise you!  If you love lavender, read on…

Lavender used through the ages

The Romans were the first to frequently use lavender but it was reserved for the upper classes as it was very expensive.  Records of the time tell us that lavender flowers cost 100 Roman denarii per pound.  That’s a lot of lavender but the price equalled a months’ wages for a common laborer.

The name, lavender, comes from the Latin verb lavare, which means ‘to wash’.  This is because Romans loved to scent their baths with it.  It was also prized for its use in oils for massage.  In 60 AD, the Roman writer Dioscorides recorded medicinal uses for lavender, including the relief of headaches, stress, insomnia, aching muscles, insect bites, colds, rheumatism and hysteria!  When they invaded Britain, the Romans kindly brought lavender with them.

Medieval writings of 1301 tell us that monks used lavender in medicines.  Rich homes often had a room set aside specifically for the distillation of lavender to be used by the family and their servants.

In 1551, William Turner wrote “…the flowers of lavender quilted in a cap and worne are good for all diseases of the head that come from a cold cause and that they comfort the braine very well.” (sic)

Queen Elizabeth I loved lavender and her palace gardeners were instructed to have lavender available throughout the year.  Elizabethan recipes included Conserve of Lavender which was sugar scented with lavender flowers, and Lavender Tisane, a drink of lavender flowers and honey steeped in hot water.

Lavender in cooking

Warning: Scientific tests have shown that lavender oil can cause a strong allergic reaction.  If you are in any doubt, dilute one drop of lavender oil in ten drops of water and apply some to an area on your inner elbow.  Check hourly to see if there is any reddening of the skin or itching.  If there is, you are strongly advised to avoid it.

Lavender should always be avoided by pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding.

lavender-royal-vlevet-culinary-live-plantsCulinary’‘ lavender is used as an ingredient in many forms of cooking.  This consists of lavender buds that are gathered just before they flower as that is the time when the concentration of the lavender scented and flavoured oil in the bud is at its peak.  In France, lavender syrup is made from this oil.  The flowers and leaves may also be used in recipes.  As a general rule, these are used as a substitute for rosemary, sage, thyme, mint or marjoram.  The flowers can be crystallized to make dainty and flavourful decorations for cakes.  They can also be used in salads and cookies (it works very well with chocolate or plain ones) or ground to a pulp in a pestle and mortar and added to custards, jams and jellies to give a delicate taste and scent.

Lavender Honey

Lavender flowers give off a huge amount of nectar and attract bees.  In the Mediterranean, honey is made from the nectar that only comes from lavender and it is sold worldwide.  If you can’t get hold of some, you can cheat and make your own.

Ingredients: 8 oz of light honey and 4 tablespoons of dried lavender buds.

Method: Heat the honey in a double boiler and when it has heated right though, add the lavender.  Stir well and then leave it on a very gentle heat for another thirty minutes.  Allow it to cool for a few minutes and then strain it into a clean jar.

Lavender Lemonade

What could be nicer on a hot day than a refreshing glass of lavender lemonade?  It has a pale lilac color and an intoxicating scented flavor.

Ingredients: 5 cups of water, 1.5 cups of sugar, 2.25 cups of lemon juice, 12 stems of fresh lavender, lilac colored paste food coloring (optional).

Method: Put half of the water in a pan and add all of the sugar.  Bring it to the boil, add the lavender stems and take the pan off the heat.  Put a lid on the pan and leave it to cool.  Then add the remainder of the water and the lemon juice.  Strain it into a glass jug, add ice and float some lavender blossoms in the drink.  If you wish it to have a stronger color, you could add a tiny amount of lilac colored paste food coloring.

Makes enough for eight glasses.

Lavender Cookies

These have to be tasted to be believed!  If you think it sounds weird, just trust us!  The flavor is so delicate and unusual.  A batch of these in a pretty box would make a lovely gift for a friend.

Ingredients: 2/3 cup of softened butter, ½ cup sugar, 1 beaten egg, 1 ½ cups of self raising flour, 1 tablespoon of dried lavender flowers.

Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease two baking sheets.  Cream the butter and sugar.  Stir in the beaten egg.  Fold in the flour and then gently mix in the flowers.  Drop spoonfuls of the mix onto the baking sheets.  Cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden.

Makes around 30 cookies.

Lavender Tea

Many people now drink herb teas.  Some green, black or herbal teas do have lavender in them but try this ‘pure’ lavender version.  You can drink up to four cups a day to help with depression, insomnia, headaches, indigestion and emotional upsets.  It’s great for hair too…see the medicinal section!

Ingredients and method: Simply make tea using 1 ½ teaspoons of lavender flowers in 8 oz of water.

Herbes de Provence

This fragrant mixture of herbs was invented in Provence in the 1970’s and is used to flavor fish and meat prior to grilling and is perfect for creating a fabulous herb crust.  It can also be added to stews.  Add some to a bottle of olive oil to give lovely scented cooking oil.  The herb mixture can vary but the main ones are fennel, basil thyme and lavender.  Many French cooks say that Lavender must be present for it to be true ‘herbes de Provence’.

Lavender and Cheese

The delicate flavor goes extremely well with cheeses made from sheep’s or goat’s milk – or any other mild cheeses.

Medicinal Lavender

English and French lavenders are prized for their essential oils which are often used in herbal medicine.  The oils are included in balms, perfumes, cosmetics and salves.  Spanish lavender is not used for this purpose but is used for its beauty in the garden.

Warning: scientific tests have shown that lavender oil can cause a strong allergic reaction.  If you are in any doubt, dilute one drop of lavender oil in ten drops of water and apply some to an area on your inner elbow.  Check hourly to see if there is any reddening of the skin or itching.  If there is, don’t use it.

Lavender should always be avoided by pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding.

Used in the World Wars

Lavender oil has long been recognized as possessing both antiseptic and anti-inflammatory qualities.  During the First World War, it was diluted and used as a disinfectant wash for floors and walls.  It was also used during both World Wars when medical supplies were scarce, to help prevent infection and to reduce pain by its calming and soothing properties.  The bare stems were also burned in the same way as incense sticks, to kill off airborne germs and bring a fresh scent to the field units and sick rooms.

Sleep well…

Most people are aware that lavender helps to bring a deeper and longer sleep and many companies now sell bed pillows that are lavender scented.  Alternatively, put a lavender sachet under your pillow or a few drops of the oil on a tissue and tuck it into the pillow slip.

Soothe burns

The people of Iran have recognized the soothing properties of lavender as a treatment for sunburn for centuries.  If you’ve been too long in the sun, fill a spray bottle with water, add a few drops of lavender oil and use it whenever needed to soothe the red skin.

Help with hair

Make the recipe for lavender tea and leave it to cool.  Use it as a final rinse on hair to reduce dandruff and also impart a wonderful scent.

Spots and bites…

Dilute lavender oil at a ratio of 1 (oil) to 10 (water, rosewater or witch hazel) and use to help heal acne.  This can also be used on insect bites, stings, cuts and grazes.  It’s soothing and antiseptic so will help prevent infection.

Keep the insects away

The mixture above can also be used as an insect repellent.  It’s odd that bees love lavender bushes but they don’t seem to like it when applied to humans!  You can also soak cotton balls in the liquid and place them around your home if you have unwanted insects.

Other uses of lavender

Warning: scientific tests have shown that lavender oil can cause a strong allergic reaction.  If you are in any doubt, dilute one drop of lavender oil in ten drops of water and apply some to an area on your inner elbow.  Check hourly to see if there is any reddening of the skin or itching.  If there is, don’t use it.

Lavender should always be avoided by pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding.

  • Diluted lavender oil makes a wonderful perfume – apply it to your pulse points and wait for the complements!
  • Use a lavender sachet in your clothes dryer to give them a wonderful scent. One sachet can be used up to 25 times.
  • Lavender ink

For the most romantic love letter ever, make some lavender ink…

Ingredients: ½ oz / 15g dried lavender flowers, 6 tablespoons of water, one small bottle of ink

Method: Crush the lavender flowers and put them into a pan with the water.  Bring to the boil and then simmer for around 30 minutes or until the liquid has reduced to approx. 2 tablespoons.  It will be brown and opaque.  Strain this through some muslin, retaining the liquid.  Pour the ink into a glass jug and add the liquid.  Stir well and return it all to the ink bottle.

  • Use lavender in a wreath or dried flower arrangement. It adds color and a lovely scent.
  • Include lavender in a wedding bouquet. In the language of flowers, lavender means ‘best wishes and good luck’.

We hope we have inspired you to try some of these!

homedics-arm-aroma-spa-flameless-candleScents are extremely powerful and evocative.  Just think how one waft a particular smell can take you back to a previous situation – so powerfully that you can ‘see’ it and ‘feel’ it.  Combine that power with a substance that has medicinal properties but is in no way harmful and it is easy to understand why aromatherapy is so popular.

A rose by any other name…

Essential oils have been used for centuries, going right back to the Ancient Egyptians.  However, the modern term ‘aromatherapy’ was first used by a French chemist called Professor Rene-Maurice Gatfosee.  He worked for the perfume trade, often using essential plant oils for creating fragrances.  Some of these oils were extremely volatile and in June 1910, there was an explosion which burned his arm severely.  He plunged his arm into the nearest cooling liquid which was a vat of lavender.  To his surprise and huge relief, the pain stopped straight away.  Despite the severity of the burn, there were no blisters and no scarring.  Because of this incident, he forgot perfume and transferred his attention entirely to the medicinal properties of the plant oils.  He created the term ‘Aromatherapy’ in 1920 and published a book of that name in 1937.

A brief history

Ancient alchemists used plant oils for healing and called them ‘essential’ because of their belief that the scents showed the true, hidden inner nature of the plant.

  • Ayurvedic healing is also enjoying resurgence. This Indian tradition believes that the scents from essential oils are needed to obtain the correct doshic balance which is the basis for good health.
  • Throughout India, it is still believed that scents can have a positive affect and so many of the Indian rituals, especially worship, involve the use of flowers. Garlands decorate shrines in houses, villages and temples. People take them to temples to be blessed and then wear them for the rest of the day to strengthen and heighten their spiritual senses.
  • To the Ancient Egyptians, smelling good brought a person nearer to the Gods. To that end, they used oils daily when bathing. This became even more important once death had occurred. They had oils that ‘matched’ to each organ and the body would be heavily anointed to make it acceptable to the Gods and ease the persons’ passage into the next life.
  • Sadly, there was a period in history when mans’ greed for power took over. When Alexander the Great conquered Egypt, all the victors were interested in were demanding oil formulas for power over others – especially in the form of aphrodisiacs.
  • The downward slide continued in Greece. Corrupt priests gave the people oil formulas with costly ingredients missing and so the desired results weren’t obtained, leading to a loss of confidence in the practice.
  • The Romans took the abuse of essential oils to the limit. They spent fortunes to have their fountains running with them and included them in orgies – and not just the food and drink kind! Christian priests were horrified by this behavior and forbade their use.

The renaissance of Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is a perfectly natural form of health care.  So much so, that in Europe it is being increasingly used alongside conventional medicine as a reimbursable treatment.

Japanese businesses now use scent to increase the performance of their workers.  This followed a study where errors made by key punch operators were halved when a lemon scent was piped into their offices via the ventilation system.

Other studies showed that passengers on the New York subway were less aggressive if the compartments contained a pleasing smell of food and that eucalyptus oil is good for keeping truck drivers awake and alert.

Aromatherapy doesn’t have to smell!

Manufacturers have quickly recognized the potency of the word and now apply it to many products, especially shampoos.  However, although you can’t have aromatherapy without essential oils, you can use essential oils without an aroma.

To a qualified Aroma therapist, the difference lies in both the application and the intent.  Aromatherapy is the goal of creating positive changes, be they physical, emotional, mental or spiritual, with the use of essential oils.

essential-oils-beginners-kitHow are they made?

Steam distillation is used to extract the essential oils from plant.  These oils are then condensed. It takes enormous amount of plant material to get a tiny amount of oil.  For example, it takes 2,000 pounds of rose petals to give one pound of oil.  When you think how much one rose petal weighs…that’s a lot of petals!

The oils are extremely concentrated and that is why only single drops are often used – which is just as well considering the price!  One drop of oil would contain the equivalent chemicals to thirty cups of tea distilled from the same plant.

The oils can also be very complex and may contain from one hundred to four hundred naturally extracted chemical compounds.  It is this complexity which gives each oil a vast range of healing properties.

Because the cost of making true oils, most products made for the commercial market consist of synthetic chemicals.  These may smell like the real thing but they don’t work in the body in the way that oils do.  They’re not easily eliminated from the body as oils are and they may provoke allergic reactions.

How are they used?

There are many methods but the two main ones are by inhalation and application to the skin.

Inhalation – via the steam from a water bath, in the fumes from a humidifier, in the wax from a candle or simply as a drop on a handkerchief held to the nose.

There are cells in the upper part of the nose that capture the molecules of the scent and this sends signals to the limbic region of the brain.  This area helps to control the basic functions of the body needed for survival by influencing the glands that secrete hormones which affect the whole body.  This is why a smell can have such an immediate affect.

Via the skin – Because of their high concentration, oils are often diluted by being added to cream or lotions before application.  They may be absorbed though the pores of the skin and hair follicles.  They then enter the bloodstream and are able to travel around the body.  If fragrant oils are being used, this method of application would also include inhalation as you would smell the oils as they are rubbed in.

Why are they better than conventional drugs?

Synthetic chemicals and medications can accumulate in the body and often rely on this accumulation to work.  However, it is the accumulation that can cause unwanted side effects.  Essential oils don’t accumulate and are quickly eliminated from the body.

Also, because they don’t need to be swallowed, oils don’t harm or aggravate the stomach or liver.  Because they bypass these organs, their strength is not altered by the metabolic processes that conventional medications undergo.

What can they be used for?

It would be impossible to write a list as aromatherapy can be used for pretty much anything!

How can I get it?

You can easily try it out for yourself.  It’s simple to pick up a mood-lifting scented candle or a lavender scented pillow to help yourself sleep.

If you have a specific medical ailment that you would like aromatherapy to help with, it’s best to find a qualified practitioner in your area.


Avalon Essences – Aromatherapy


Our friend Jennine has an online shop called Avalon Essences, where she sells aromatherapy products.

I am an absolute fan of bath oils, massage and body oils, candles, pot pourri in fact anything that keeps my house smelling nice.

She also makes therapeutic balms that are practical as well as having a beautiful aroma.

Jennine makes her range of perfumes and oils and is always coming up with new mixtures that smell divine. You have to be quick when she takes her wares to the local market as they sell out very quickly, so its just as well she has her online store for those who can’t attend the local Tuggeranong Indoor Market.

She also blends herbal teas which can be uplifting or calming depending on the blend.

Particular favourites of mine are the christmas chai and the Mulberry.

So if you are looking for a great gift or just want to spoil yourself, I can definitely recommend the quality of the products from Avalon Essences as both Paula and I use them with confidence.