Herbs/Herbalism

Using Aromatic Herbs

Peppermint growing against my garage.
  Peppermint growing against my garage.
I spent a couple hours this evening planting lavender and a selection of aromatic herbs like more rosemary, sage, basil, oregano, thyme and curry to join my lavender and herbs that returned from last year. Even though the lavender I planted today was quite precious in size, the aroma was abundant as I watered my new plants. Now that's my kind of aromatherapy!

If you are thinking of planting herbs but aren't sure what to do them beyond using them for culinary purposes, check out the following pages on AromaWeb:

What are Infused Oils?/How to Make an Infused Oil

Herbal Tincture Recipe for Aromatherapy/Skin Care


Other Ideas:

A few years ago, I purchased the smallest Excalibur brand dehydrator model. I love it for drying herbs so that I can enjoy them for culinary, aromatic and medicinal purposes year round. To date, I've been quite pleased with this dehydrator, though you may wish to consider getting one of the larger models.

I also love making my own tea (herbal infusion) using fresh picked or dehydrated herbs from the garden.


Related AromaTalk Posts:

Growing Patchouli

Growing and Enjoying Peppermint, Spearmint and Other Mint Plants


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Growing Patchouli

Patchouli Leaves
Patchouli Leaves Taken From My Plant  
I'm not alone in my fondness for Patchouli Essential Oil...

Despite its aroma being an "acquired taste" (so to speak) for some, Patchouli Essential Oil is remarkably versatile. I use patchouli in skin care applications, emotionally in diffuser blends, romantically in sensual blends, spiritually at times for meditation, and in making natural personal fragrances.

Patchouli Plant
  Patchouli Plant Grown in Michigan
Unlike most essential oils that oxidize and diminish in therapeutic and aromatic quality over time, Patchouli Essential Oil improves with age like a fine wine.

Often associated with the hippies and the 1960s, the fragrance of patchouli is rich, earthy and grounding. In perfumery and fragrancing applications, patchouli is a base note that acts as a fixative and grounds a blend. Its aroma is suitable for unisex and men's blends. It can act as an aphrodisiac. In skin and hair care, patchouli is a wonderful staple to keep on hand. It is helpful for most all skin types ranging from dry, cracked skin all the way to helping to regulate oily skin and acne. Those with eczema, psoriasis and dandruff have said that patchouli is especially helpful for them. Emotionally, patchouli is calming and grounding. Spiritually, patchouli has been used alone or in blends during prayer and meditation. For more information, view AromaWeb's Patchouli Essential Oil Profile.

Close-Up of Patchouli Leaves
  Close-Up of Patchouli Leaves
Patchouli thrives in tropical regions and can be found in Hawaii, regions of Asia and other tropical areas of the world.

I've been curious to learn more about the actual botanical (Pogostemon cablin) that the oil is distilled from. A few months ago, I was delighted to learn that patchouli is capable of growing outdoors in the midwest during the warmer summer months. I haven't personally found patchouli plants available for sale here in Michigan (Zone 5), but I decided to seek out a nursery online that ships patchouli across the US. Although the poor plant arrived in pathetic condition and was not properly packaged for shipment, I was able to nurse it back to health, and it's now doing splendidly. I'm looking forward to see it flower come fall.

Fresh patchouli leaves are quite fragrant and are green and earthy in aroma. Although my patchouli plant is now thriving, the growing conditions here in Zone 5 certainly aren't ideal. Although I'm sure that the natural essential oil in my plant isn't as outstanding as if this plant was grown in optimal conditions by an experienced grower, it's nice to be able to finally learn more about the fresh botanical.

Patchouli Extract
  Patchouli Tincture (Patchouli Extract)
I'm curious to see if the leaves are suitable for use in making a pleasantly aromatic tincture. This weekend, I harvested leaves off the plant and am in the beginning stages of making two jars of tincture using the fresh leaves (see photo at right). I'm also curious to know if there is any aromatic difference in the resulting tincture by starting either with fresh leaves or with leaves that are first dried. To find out, I'm in the midst of dehydrating some of the leaves using my Excalibur Dehydrator. Once they are dried, I will create additional tincture using the dried leaves. You can learn how to make herbal tinctures/extracts by viewing AromaWeb's Herbal Tinctures Recipe.

I'm going to attempt to keep the patchouli plant indoors during the cooler months. Do you have experience in raising patchouli outside of its natural habitat? If so, please leave a comment or drop me an e-mail. I'd love to hear from you.


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. ;)