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June 2009

Aromatherapy Insect Repellent Recipe

Natural Insect Repellent Ingredients
The essential oils distilled from natural botanicals like citronella, lavender and eucalyptus act as natural insect repellents.

I love spending time outdoors, especially in the warmer months, but mosquitoes and other flying/biting insects can ruin the best of outdoor occasions. Synthetic insect repellents are known to cause irritation and sensitivity in some people, are toxic and can be harmful to the environment.

AromaWeb features a more gentle insect repellent recipe that only requires a few reasonably priced essential oils and other ingredients. It has a pleasant aroma, and can be quite effective in keeping the little itchy critters away.

Click here to read the rest of this article and to view the Insect Repellent Recipe on AromaWeb....


Growing and Enjoying Peppermint, Spearmint and Other Mint Plants

Peppermint growing against my garage.
Peppermint growing against my garage.  
The middle of June is finally here, and with that, the 25 herb varities that I'm growing this year are beginning to thrive. As an aside, I'm even trying my hand at growing patchouli this year here in Michigan... we'll see how I do. The patchouli plant that I special ordered arrived in weak condition and I'm hoping I can nurture it back to abundant health.

Amongst the herbs I grow each year are mint varieties including traditional peppermint and spearmint. Mint grows abundantly, and one small plant can provide plenty of mint leaves that can be enjoyed fresh throughout the warmer months and dehydrated for wintertime use. Mint plants should be planted where it will not become a nuisance or infringe upon other plants. The mints grow well in containers, and container planting is a practical way to keep their growth under control. I used to do that, but now plant my mint varieties alongside my garage so that I have enough for the mint tea that I enjoy throughout the summer and fall (see below).


Uses for Mint Leaves

There are countless ways that you can enjoy using mint for herbal, aromatherapy and culinary use. Below are a few of my favorites:

Tea:
I love brewing fresh mint tea on early summer mornings. It's light, energizing, uplifting and is great for the digestion. To make tea using fresh mint or other herbs, select and wash about 3x as much fresh herb as you would dried herb (the flavor of dried herbs/teas is much more concentrated and hence, less dried is needed than fresh). Tear fresh mint leaves into small pieces. Tearing the mint leaves allows the mint's natural essential oils to be released. It's the mint's essential oil that is responsible for the plants' distinctive cool, fresh flavor and aroma. Place the torn leaves into empty tea bags or into tea strainers intended for use with loose teas, and place the teabag or strainer into your mug. Then, pour your water over the leaves and allow the leaves to infuse the water for several minutes.


Smoothies or Juice:
If you make fresh vegetable or fruit juices or smoothies, experiment by adding a mint leaf or two.


Garnish:
Garnish ice cream, deserts and your other creations with the striking green leaves.


Mint Herbal Tincture:
Make refreshing room mists, linen and body sprays using your own handmade mint herbal tincture. For more information on making your own herbal tinctures, read AromaTalk's Herbal Tinctures post.


Dehydration:
I grow a lot of herbs for their culinary, medicinal/therapeutic and for the pleasure of seeing them thrive. Dehydrating your herbs is a great way to be able to enjoy abundant herbs during the winter months. There is no comparison between the dried herbs that you buy in tiny (or bulk!) bottles at the store vs. the more intense flavor and aroma of the herbs that you properly dry yourself. I use an Excalibur brand dehydrator that I've had for years because of its design, durability and its adjustable temperature setting that allows slow, even drying of delicate herbs.

Once dried, your mint leaves can be used in your own skin care creations including soaps, exfoliants, and facial masks.


Did You Know?

Catnip is in the mint family. In the UK, my understanding is that it is referred to as Catmint. Cat lovers can grow fresh catnip for their feline friends. My daughter's cat loves it. But be wary, newly planted catnip can be attacked by roaming neighborhood cats, so do try to keep them out of their reach until the plant(s) begin to thrive. How? I'm still trying to figure that one out. ;)


Nutrition Action Healthletter

One of my favorite monthly print publications is the Nutrition Action Healthletter published 10 times a year by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Through its pages, I've learned a great deal about general nutrition, read the finding of recent testing, discovered false nutritional claims promoted by commercial manufacturers, reviewed comparisons between a variety of different prepared foods, drooled over the included recipes and digested all sorts of other helpful information. Resembling a thin, color magazine, it's only about 16-20 pages per issue. Like Consumer Reports, it accepts no advertising.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest describes themselves this way: "The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), founded in 1971, is an independent nonprofit consumer health group. CSPI advocates honest food labeling and advertising, safer and more nutritious foods, and pro-health alcohol policies. CSPI's work is supported by Nutrition Action Healthletter subscribers and foundation grants. CSPI accepts no government or industry funding. Nutrition Action Healthletter, first published in 1974, accepts no advertising.

Subscriptions vary in price depending on current special offers going on, but the typical subscription rate is $10-15 per year. For the best rates, subscribe directly through them. I peaked at Amazon.com's subscription rate for this newsletter and it's nearly double the price. I receive no compensation for sharing my feedback about the newsletter. I just want you healthy! ;)

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