Scents of Provence
Homemade lavender products
Not only does it smell heavenly, but herbalist Natasha Flynn says lavender also has numerous health benefits. She shares her simple, sweet-smelling lavender remedies you can make at home.
When I think of Provence, I always have romantic visions of meandering through fields surrounded by the dusky, violet hue, and the relaxing scent, of lavender. It is pure Zen.
We all know the relaxing effects of lavender, but recent studies have proven that it has many useful health benefits. Lavender contains anti-inflammatory, sedative and analgesic (pain reducing) properties, and is also effective in eliminating certain types of fungi and pathogens. So it is an important remedy to have on hand around the home.
There are quite a few varieties of lavender, but the most common is “lavandula angustifolia”. Known as “English” or “true” lavender, this is the variety that you are most likely to encounter whilst strolling through lavender fields in the south of France.
Despite the fact that this variety is called “English”, it is actually native to the Mediterranean, as is the other most common variety – “French” lavender. This variety has soft, violet-coloured flowers and light grey leaves. Its Latin name is “lavandula dentata”.
The fragrance profiles of English and French lavenders are different, but they both yield highly effective essential oils. Some describe the French fragrance as being a little more “harsh”, but it is still simply beautiful.
Here, I have shared some of my favourite lavender recipes so you can start making a selection of your own lavender products. Use these products around your home and you will feel as though you are walking through the lavender fields of Provence every day.
To get started, you will need a small supply of English or French lavender. I advise that you don’t use lavender that has been sprayed with pesticides or grown near the roadside. If you don’t currently have lavender growing in your garden, I highly recommend planting some.
When making these products, it is important to use sterilised glass jars. My preferred method of sterilisation is to place the jars in the oven at 180°C for 30 minutes, just prior to using.
Lavender aromatic floral water
Add one handful of lavender flowers to a saucepan with ½ litre of water. Bring to the boil and boil for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain cooled liquid through muslin or cloth and pour directly into a sterilised glass jar. Discard the lavender flowers.
Floral water is best used on the day you make it, or you can add a dash of brandy to give it a longer shelf life. Use the floral water in your bath, when washing clothes and linen, or as a room or pillow spritz.
Use these products around your home and you will feel as though you are walking through the lavender fields of Provence every day.
Lavender room spray and cleaner
In a sterilised glass jar, add a handful of lavender flowers to ½ litre of alcohol (brandy or vodka). Leave in a warm, sunny spot on the windowsill for five days, then strain through cloth. Discard lavender flowers. Pour filtered liquid into a glass spray bottle to use for cleaning and as a refreshing room spray.
Lavender linen spray
In a spray bottle, combine 500ml of distilled water, 30ml of witch hazel and 10 drops of lavender essential oil. Spray on bed linen for a soothing fragrance.
Solar infused oil of lavender
One of my favourite ways of extracting active ingredients from herbs is using a method known as “solar infusing”, which requires little more than patience and sunshine.
If you are using freshly picked lavender, it is best to let it rest for 24 hours to evaporate any moisture prior to infusing in oil. Fill a mason wide mouth-style jar with lavender flowers. Cover flowers with olive oil. Using a skewer, push flowers completely under the oil. This helps to release any air bubbles.
Screw the lid on your jar and place in a sunny spot on the windowsill to allow the oil to infuse for five days. Test your scented oil. If you would like a stronger fragrance, complete the process again, adding more fresh lavender to the infused oil.
You can leave the jar on the windowsill for up to three weeks. Top up the oil and check the strength of the infusion once a week.
Once the infusion is complete, strain through cloth and pour into bottles. Store in a cool, dark place or in the fridge for up to 12 months. This oil is perfect to use as body oil, but can also be used as a base for salves and creams.
Heat 20g of pure beeswax granules, chips, or beeswax sheets cut into slithers over low heat in a saucepan, stirring continuously until melted. Make sure you use an old stainless steel saucepan or crock pot that you will only use for melting beeswax, as this leaves a wax coating on your pan or pot.
Once wax has melted, slowly add 100ml of lavender-infused olive oil and stir well. Allow to cool for five minutes. Add an additional 20 drops of lavender essential oil for a stronger scent and stir well.
Pour into glass jars and allow to cool. Store in a cool, dark place or in the fridge. Use small amounts as necessary. Use within 12 months.
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Vesnacvorovic, Yastremska, Anna-Mari West