Lavender Infused Smudge Sticks

Burning aromatic dried herbs are referred to as “smudging.”

Tied bundles of dried aromatic herbs, or smudge sticks, often figure in spiritual healing and cleansing rituals. However, you can simply choose to burn aromatic herbs to enjoy the scent. To make your own smudge sticks, gather a large handful of aromatic herbs and use a natural string {cotton is best} to tie it at one end. {Leave both ends of the string hanging evenly.} Hang the herbs to dry. When the leaves are ready, wrap the string around them, making a compact, cigar-shaped bundle, and knot the string up top.

To burn the smudge stick, light the herbs on one end, and let the stick smolder and release its aromatic smoke. You may hold the smudge stick, gently waving it in the air and carrying it from room to room, or simply prop it up on a fireproof plate, bowl, or ashtray and let it smolder. When you’re ready to extinguish the flame, lightly tamp the lit end of the smudge stick into sand or salt and make sure the fire is out. Continue to use your smudge stick time and time again until it has burned completely.

You can use a wide variety of herbs for smudge sticks. The herbs need to have long enough stems to be cut, bundles and dried. White sage, pinion, cedar, and sweet grass are very traditional smudge herbs; they all smell wonderful either alone or in combination.

Other good smudge herbs include lavender, lemongrass, garden sage, pineapple sage, rosemary, mugwort, any aromatic evergreens, mints, thyme, eucalyptus, and sweet woodruff. Experiment with fragrant herbs found in your garden.

You can also burn loose dried herbs, such as lavender buds, rose petals, white sage leaves, or pine needles, using self-lighting charcoal discs designed for burning incense. These charcoal discs are inexpensive and very easy to use. {Caution: The type of charcoal used for grilling food is not suitable for burning herbs.} Light the disc using a match or lighter, then place it in a fire-proof container such as a ceramic bowl or ashtray. It will spark, then begin to glow red. Then simply sprinkle your dried herbs on the disc. They will smolder and burn, releasing their aromatic smoke. You can use nearly any fragrant herb for incense. I recommend gathering a selection of dried herbs and burning small quantities of each, one at a time so that you can experience how each herb smells while it’s burning.

Some of my favorite herbs to use as loose incense include white sage, lavender buds, sweetgrass, costmary, cedar wood chips, bay leaves, lemongrass, and rosemary.

What Is Lavender?

A whiff of lavender oil can trigger various sensations, and its sweet fragrance brings to mind rows and rows of beautiful blue-violet flowers under the summer sky. But if you look beyond lavender oil’s aroma, you’ll find that there’s more to it than meets the eye – or your sense of smell.

WHAT IS LAVENDER?

lavender oilLavender oil comes from lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), an easy-to-grow, evergreen shrub that produces clumps of beautiful, scented flowers above green or silvery-gray foliage. The plant is native to northern Africa and the mountainous Mediterranean regions, and thrives best in sunny, stony habitats. Today, it grows throughout southern Europe, the United States, and Australia.

Lavender has been used for over 2,500 years. Ancient Persians, Greeks, and Romans added the flowers to their bathwater to help wash and purify their skin. In fact, the word “lavender” comes from the Latin word “lavare,” which means “to wash.”

Phoenicians, Arabians, and Egyptians used lavender as a perfume, as well as for mummification – mummies were wrapped in lavender-dipped garments. In Greece and Rome, it was used as an all-around cure, while in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, it was scattered all over stone castle floors as a natural disinfectant and deodorant. Lavender was even used during the Great Plague of London in the 17th century. People fastened lavender flowers around their waists, believing it will protect them from the Black Death.

High-quality lavender oil has a sweet, floral, herbaceous, and slightly woody scent. Its color can range from pale yellow to yellow-green, but it can also be colorless.

USES OF LAVENDER OIL

lavender oil usesBoth lavender and lavender oil are valued for their fragrance and versatility. The flowers are used in potpourris, crafting, and home décor, while the essential oil is added to bath and body care products, such as soaps, perfumes, household cleaners, and laundry detergent.

Lavender oil is known for its anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antidepressant, antiseptic, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties. It also has antispasmodic, analgesic, detoxifying, hypotensive, and sedative effects. Lavender oil is one of the most well-known essential oils in aromatherapy, and can be:

  • Added to your bath or shower to relieve aching muscles and stress.
  • Massaged on your skin as a relief for muscle or joint pain, as well as for skin conditions like burns, acne, and wounds. Make sure to dilute it with a carrier oil.
  • Inhaled or vaporized. You can use an oil burner or add a few drops to a bowl of hot water, and then breathe in the steam.
  • Added to your hand or foot soak. Add a drop to a bowl of warm water before soaking your hands or feet.
  • Used as a compress by soaking a towel in a bowl of water infused with a few drops of lavender oil. Apply this to sprains or muscle injuries.

I also recommend adding lavender oil to your list of natural cleaning products. You can mix it with baking soda to make an all-natural antibacterial scrub for your bathroom and kitchen.

COMPOSITION OF LAVENDER OIL

Lavender oil has a chemically complex structure with over 150 active constituents. This oil is rich in esters, which are aromatic molecules with antispasmodic (suppressing spasms and pain), calming, and stimulating properties.

The chief botanical constituents of lavender oil are linalyl acetate, linalool (a non-toxic terpene alcohol that has natural germicidal properties), terpinen-4-ol, and camphor. Other constituents in lavender oil that are responsible for its antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory properties include cis-ocimene, lavandulyl acetate, 1,8-cineole, limonene, and geraniol.

BENEFITS OF LAVENDER OIL

lavender oil benefitsLavender oil is known for its calming and relaxing  properties, and has been used for alleviating insomnia, anxiety, depression, restlessness, dental anxiety, and stress. It has also been proven effective for nearly all kinds of ailments, from pain to infections.

I am particularly fascinated by lavender oil’s potential in fighting antifungal-resistant skin and nail infections. Scientists from the University of Coimbra found that lavender oil is lethal to skin-pathogenic strains known as dermatophytes, as well as various Candida species. The study, published in Journal of Medical Microbiology,found that lavender oil kills fungi by damaging their cell walls (a mechanism that I believe could apply to bacteria and viruses as well). The best part is that this oil does not cause resistance, unlike antibiotics.

LAVENDER OIL CAN ALSO BE USED TO:

  • Relieve pain. It can ease sore or tense muscles, joint pain and rheumatism, sprains, backache, and lumbago. Simply massage lavender oil onto the affected area. Lavender oil may also help lessen pain following needle insertion.
  • Treat various skin disorders like acne, psoriasis, eczema, and wrinkles. It also helps form scar tissues, which may be essential in healing wounds, cuts, and burns. Lavender can also help soothe insect bites and itchy skin. According to Texas-based dermatologist Dr. Naila Malik, it’s a natural anti-inflammatory, so it helps reduce itching, swelling, and redness.
  • Keep your hair healthy. It helps kill lice, lice eggs, and nits. The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCB) says that lavender is possibly effective for treating alopecia areata (hair loss), boosting hair growth by up to 44 percent after just seven months of treatment.
  • Improve your digestion. This oil helps stimulate the mobility of your intestine and stimulates the production of bile and gastric juices, which may help treat stomach pain, indigestion, flatulence, colic, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Relieve respiratory disorders. Lavender oil can help alleviate respiratory problems like colds and flu, throat infections, cough, asthma, whooping cough, sinus congestion, bronchitis, tonsillitis, and laryngitis. It can be applied on your neck, chest, or back, or inhaled via steam inhalation or through a vaporizer.
  • Stimulates urine production, which helps restore hormonal balance, prevent cystitis (inflammation of the urinary bladder), and relieve cramps and other urinary disorders.
  • Improve your blood circulation. It helps lower elevated blood pressure levels, and can be used for hypertension.

Lavender oil can help ward off mosquitoes and moths. It is actually used as an ingredient in some mosquito repellents.

HOW TO MAKE LAVENDER OIL

dried lavender flowersLavender oil is produced via steam distillation. The flowers are picked when they are in full bloom, where they contain the maximum amount of esters. It takes 150 pounds of lavender to produce just one pound of pure lavender essential oil.

You can also make a cold infusion by soaking lavender flowers in another oil. Try this recipe from BlackThumbGardener.com:

INGREDIENTS AND MATERIALS:

  • Dried lavender flowers
  • Mineral oil or olive oil
  • Jar
  • Cheesecloth or muslin
  • Sterilized bottle

Procedure:

  • Clean and dry your jar completely, and then place the dried lavender flowers in it. You should have enough flowers to fill your jar.
  • Pour the oil all over the flowers until they’re completely covered.
  • Put the jar in a place where it can get a good amount of sun, and let it sit for three to six weeks. The sunlight will help extract the oil from the flowers and infuse it with the base oil.
  • After three or six weeks, pour the oil through your cheesecloth and into a sterilized bottle.

HOW DOES LAVENDER OIL WORK?

Lavender oil’s effectiveness is said to be brought on by the psychological effects of its soothing and relaxing fragrance, combined with the physiological effects of its volatile oils on your limbic system.Lavender oil can be applied topically or inhaled as steam vapor. Although dried lavender flowers are can be made into lavender tea, I advise against ingesting the oil, as it may lead to side effects, such as difficult breathing, burning eyes and blurred vision, vomiting, and diarrhea.

IS LAVENDER OIL SAFE?

I believe that using natural oils like lavender oil is one of the best holistic tactics that you can incorporate in your life. However, there are a few important guidelines to remember when using lavender oil.

Using diluted lavender oil topically or in aromatherapy is generally considered safe for most adults, but may not be recommended for children. Applying pure lavender oil to your skin (especially open wounds) may also cause irritation, so I recommend infusing it with a carrier oil, such as olive oil or coconut oil. Dissolving it in water also works.

Be careful not to rub lavender oil in your eyes and mucous membranes. If this happens, wash it out immediately. Lavender oil may also cause allergic reactions in people with unusually sensitive skin, so do a spot test before using it. Simply apply a drop of lavender oil to your arm and see if any reaction occurs.

SIDE EFFECTS OF LAVENDER OIL

Some people may develop an allergic reaction to lavender oil. There are also instances when people experience side effects such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, and chills after inhaling or applying the oil topically.

I advise pregnant women and nursing moms to avoid using this oil, as the safety of lavender oil for these conditions hasn’t been identified. The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) also warns against using lavender oil when taking medications like barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and chloral hydrate, as it may increase their sedative effects and cause extreme drowsiness and sleepiness.

Old Fashioned Medicinal Lavender

His Aunt Jobiska made him drink
Lavender water tinged with pink
For she said, ‘The world in general knows
There’s nothing so good for Pobble’s toes!’
 
Edward Lear, ‘The Pobble Who Has No Toes’
 
The old herbals constantly sang the praises of lavender for medicinal purposes. John Gerard wrote in his Herball {1597}:
The distilled water of Lavender smelt unto, or the temples and and forehead bathed therewith, is refreshing to them that have the Catalepsie, a light migram, and to them that have the falling sickness and that use to swoune much.
The floures of Lavender picked from the knaps, I means the blew part and not the husk, mixed with Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Cloves, made into powder, and given to drinke in the distilled water thereof, doth helpe the panting and passion of the heart, prevaileth against giddinesse, turning, or swimming of the braine, and members subject to the palsie.
French Lavender hath a body like Lavender, short, and of woodie substance, but slenderer, beset with long narrow leaves, of a whitish colour, lesser than those of Lavender, it hath in the top bushie or spikie heads, well compact or thrust together; out of the which grow fourth small purple flowers, or a pleasant smell. The seede is small and blackish: the roote is harde and woodie.
But long before physicians like Gerard wrote of the virtues of Lavender it had been highly regarded for its medicinal uses. Dioscorides wrote in 60AD:
Stoechas grows in the islands of Galatia over against Messalia, called ye Stoechades, from whence also it had its name, is an herb with slender twiggs, having ye haire like Tyme, but yet longer leaved, & sharp in ye taste, & somewhat bitterish, but ye decoction of it as the Hyssop is good for ye griefs in ye thorax. It is mingled also profitably with Antidots.
lavender and hyssop seem to have been used in similar ways. The Angus Castus of the 14th century made the same comments as those of Dioscorides some 1300 years later:
Lavandula is an herbe men clepe lavandre. This herbe is moche lyk to ysope but it is mo lengger lewys thenne ysope and it hast a flour sumdel blew and also the stalke growith other-wyse. The vertu of this herbe is ef it be sothyn in water and dronke that water it wele hele the palsye and many other ewyls.

LAVENDER, COMMON OR ENGLISH

Ruling Planet: Mercury
 
Lavandula augustifolia or
Lavandula officinalis
 {Culpeper: Lavandula spica}
 

USES

 

Medicinal:

A strong antiseptic with antibacterial properties, lavender oil was used to treat cuts, bites, stings, burns, coughs, and colds, chest infections, rheumatic aches, giddiness, and flatulence. As a soothing tonic for nervous and digestive disorders, the herb was prescribed to relieve tension, insomnia, and depression.
William Turner, the ‘father of English botany’, said that ‘the flowers of lavender, quilted in a cap, comfort the brain very well.’ A sprig of lavender placed behind the ear was reputed to cure headaches. Culpeper warned that the oil ‘is of a fierce and piercing quality, and ought to be carefully used, a very few drops being sufficient for inward or outward maladies.’ The herb was also used in the form of lavender water, and tea.

CULINARY:

Lavender leaves were added to salads and used to flavor jellies, jams, pottages, and stews. The flowers were also crystallized.

MISCELLANEOUS:

A native of the Mediterranean region, lavender was introduced into England by the Romans. Its botanical name Lavandula derives from the Latin for to wash, a reference to its use by the Romans as a scented additive to their bathwater. Grown in medieval monastic gardens, it was not only valued for its medicinal properties, but for its beauty and fragrance, and as a strewing herb, insect repellant, and a mask for unpleasant smells.
The dried flowers were added to potpourri’s, herb cushions and sachets for freshening and keeping moths away from linen. The oil was used in varnishes, perfumes, soaps and cosmetics.
lavender water

Recipe: Lavender Water.

Of course, this can be bought commercially. My favorite comes from Norfolk Lavender in England. But for home purposes, you can enjoy making up your own supply.
In a clear glass bottle steep 100 g of lavender flowers in half a liter of alcohol {brandy or vodka are both good}. Place in the sun for a few days, then strain. Repeat until the fragrance is very strong.
Strain and seal in a glass bottle. If your hair is weak, falling out and breaking, try an old idea and rub lavender water into your scalp several times a week. Try it too as a rub for rheumatism. It has a long tradition of usage for both problems.

Lavender Herbal Bath Bags {DIY}

Lavender has a relaxing effect on the peripheral nervous system and has long been used to treat headaches originating from nervous tension. Not surprisingly with these medicinal properties combined with its sweet clean smell, lavender has long been a constituent of bath bags. These are made from squares of muslin or voile. A cupful of the mixture is placed in the center of the square, the sides have drawn up and tied into a bag with appropriate colored ribbon.

Lavender Mist Bath Bags

 
1/2 cup dried sweet cicely
1/2 cup dried sweet woodruff
1 tablespoon dried valerian roots
1/4 cup dried lavender leaves
1/2 cup dried lavender flowers
1/4 cup dried angelica leaves
1 1/2 cup medium ground oatmeal
1/2 cup almond meal
20 drops oil of lavender
Divide the mixture into 3 equal portions and tie into bags as previously described.
Soak the bag thoroughly in hot water at the bottom of the bath before topping up with cool water.
Squeeze the bag repeatedly until no more milkiness emerges. The water will now be silky soft and fragrant.
Use the bag as a final gentle skin scrub. The bag is reusable once provided it is used the next day.
lavender flower spikes

Aromatic Bath

 
This recipe is adapted from the Toilet of Flora published in the seventeenth century.
Combine half a cup of each of the following dried herbs: lavender, sweet marjoram, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, wormwood, peppermint, pennyroyal, lemon balm.
Add the mixture to two liters of water in an enameled pan, boil for ten minutes, then allow to cool.
Strain through a double layer of cloth and add half a bottle of brandy.
Bottle. Add a little to the bathtub when bathing.
lavender flower spikes

The Beauty Bath

 
Ninon de Lenclos was a celebrated and exceedingly beautiful French courtesan of the seventeenth century.
She died at the age of 85 {rare indeed at that time} and reputedly retained her smooth youthful skin and curves until the end. She attributed this to her special daily herbal bath.
Here is her secret recipe.
1 handful crushed comfrey root
1 handful dried lavender flowers
1 handful dried mint leaves
1 handful dried rosemary leaves
1 handful dried Centifolia rose petals {recommended by famous French herbalist Maurice Messague for its anti-wrinkle properties}
Mix together, tie in a muslin bag and place in a large bowl. Pour boiling water over the herbs and leave to steep for 20 minutes. Pour the resulting infusion into a warm bath, squeezing the bag hard to extract all the active principles.
lavender flower spikes

An Eighteenth Century Sweet Bath

 
This bath is refreshing, antiseptic and deodorizing.
1 cup dried rose petals
1 cup dried orange flowers
1 cup dried Jasminum Officinalis flowers
1 cup dried bay leaves
1 cup dried mint leaves
1 cup pennyroyal leaves
1 cup dried citrus peel {yellow part only}
6 drops essential oil of lavender
6 drops essential oil of musk
6 drops essential oil rose geranium
Mix well and store in a glass jar.
To use, tie 2-3 cups of the mixture in a muslin square, place in a bowl and pour boiling water over the herbs.
Allow to infuse for twenty minutes, remove the herbs squeezing the muslin bag firmly to extract all the herb extract, and add this concentrated infusion to a warm bath.
lavender flower spikes

The Ultimate Tranquility Bath

 
Save this bath until evening.
You will find yourself unwinding wonderfully with this fragrant bath.
1 cup dried lavender flowers
1 cup dried linden flowers
1 cup dried chamomile flowers
1 cup dried valerian root chips
1 cup dried sweet marjoram
1/2 cup dried angelica leaves
1/2 cup dried lemon verbena leaves
Mix well together and use in the same way as the previous recipe.