Scents of the Past and Present

Aromatherapy. The word conjures up images of hippies from the 1960’s using strong scents to demonstrate their desire for peace and love. It is true that aromatherapy can help to bring both of these things into your life. But aromatherapy is so much more.   A standard definition of aromatherapy describes it as “a process that utilizes essential oils to scent and beautify the body, create a wonderful environment and help promote inner peace, thus helping to create a happier mental state.”  In addition, aromatherapy can also utilize any scent to comfort and help you feel good. The scent does not have to come from essential oils. Think about a scent from your mother’s kitchen when you were growing up.  A fresh-baked apple pie or fresh-baked bread rolls, for example. What sort of feeling does this thought bring up for you? For me, both scents are connected to feelings of security and comfort. (In fact, most baked goods make me feel this way. I also think it is one of the reasons I love to bake : )  Anyway, smell does play a significant role in how we perceive places and situations. Good smells help us to feel good; bad ones can depress us. These good smells can be created and incorporated into many aspects of our daily lives and into our daily care routines.

Essential oils can play an important part in helping to improve our lives and today they are widely available over the internet. Essential oils are described as: fragrant oily components extracted from petals of flowers, leaves, roots, seeds, fruits, woods, grasses and resins.  Some plants yield oil from only one part, while others contain oil in several parts. The quality and quantity of essential oil produced depends on various factors; location where the plant is grown, altitude, moisture, climate, condition of soil and even the season or time of day or night the plant material is harvested. The extraction process also plays a key role in the quality of an oil.  Essential oils are very versatile and can even add benefits to hair and skin care products. Their small molecular size means they can penetrate deep into the dermis to promote healing effectively. These scents can also help balance emotions. Essential oils can be added to aroma lamps or diffusers and help to create a more soothing living environment or simply massaged directly into the skin. (Caution must be taken to blend with a carrier oil, however, as most essential oils are very strong and can cause a skin reaction if applied alone.)  The effects of essential oils can also be obtained by simply inhaling a few drops placed on a tissue or soft cloth or from select products utilized during your morning care routine.  Unfortunately, however, many personal hygiene products available on the market do not contain pure essential oils. Most of these products contain synthetic oils that frequently do not even resemble the scent they claim to be. The good news is essential oils can easily be added to unscented shampoos, body washes, etc. You can also create your own hygiene products and add in the desired oils or purchase them from any manufacturer who utilizes the pure oils.

As the weather turns colder and the years add up for me, I struggle every year with dry skin. It is very difficult to find an over-the-counter cream or salve that contains pure essential oils and will soften my skin, so I create my own. Below is a recipe that I have been making for several years. It is a salve that works wonders on the driest body parts like heels and elbows.

Calendula Healing Salve

2 handfuls of dried Calendula (Pot Marigold) petals and enough olive oil to cover             2 Tbl. beeswax                               1 capsule of Vitamin E                  1/4 tsp. essential oil ( your choice)

Place the Calendula petals in a crock pot and cover with olive oil. Turn crock pot on low for several hours. Turn off crock pot and strain oil into a glass measuring cup or other glass microwave-safe container using a sieve lined with a paper towel. The Calendula petals should remain in the sieve. Strain the oil again if any impurities remain. For every one cup of oil, shave 2 tablespoons of beeswax into glass container. Place in microwave on medium high for one minute. Stir. Repeat until beeswax is completely dissolved. Puncture Vitamin E capsule and add to oil and beeswax. Stir in essential oil of your choice. Pour into recycled cream jars or small jelly jars that have been washed in hot soapy water. Allow to cool. Salve will harden as it cools.

This salve is available year round at The Simple Heart of Life herb shop, 1486 Turkey Farm Road, Bluffs, Illinois.  We also offer hand-on instructional herbal workshops. We are open each Friday and Saturday, 10 am to 6 pm or send us an e-mail for details at 

Don’t forget to bring scents from the fall garden inside to enjoy during the long winter months. Create your own potpourri or simmer, pot up your favorite herb plant, design an aromatic dried herb or botanical wreath for your door, or even harvest the last rose blooms and learn how to make your own rose beads for a unique bracelet or pendant.  The important thing is to find ways to bring scents inside for continued enjoyment.  Another of life’s simple pleasures!


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