Can I wear these oils on my skin?
Your skin is your body's largest organ, and anything it is exposed to has the potential of ending up in your bloodstream, and elsewhere eventually. Before using any product on your skin you can and should do a patch test. Apply a small amount of the product to the inside of your elbow. Cover with a Band-Aid for a few hours. If no irritation or redness result, go ahead and use it. If you develop a rash, or have any other kind of reaction, immediately wash it off and do not use any more of that product.
Many essential oils are safe for external use, but diluting them in a carrier oil, making a 'spritz', or using them in a diffuser are smarter and thriftier ways to use them. Your oils will go further, their fragrance will not overwhelm the senses, and you won't be wasting a highly concentrated resource. Essential oils and Fragrance oils can be used safely as long as they are used wisely.
Some oils such as Lavender, Tea Tree, and Eucalyptus, make great first aid straight out of the bottle externally for burns, stings, and infections. Others, like Thuja, Cinnamon, and even Sweet Orange, need to be diluted and used cautiously. Pregnant women, and women trying to become pregnant should avoid using any essential oils with the exception of Mandarin Orange, Neroli, and perhaps a little Lavender.
Can I use
your oils to make soap?
Most Essential Oils can be used to scent soaps. Usually 2% is an adequate oil to soap ratio, although some popular brands use 4%. It depends on how strongly scented you want your soap to be. You can also get a nice fragrance from strongly brewed "teas" made from botanicals, from Floral Waters, and from hydrosols (the waters left after distillation) if you can get them . A lot of your results will depend upon the kind of
processes you use, one variable being how much heat the scents are exposed to in the process. Storage of the product afterward will make a big difference in how long the fragrance lasts. Not being a soap-maker, I'd have to recommend research and experimentation.
Why do some oils cost so much?
Oils costs vary due to many factors. Some oils are processed from crops that are harvested all at once, while others are harvested by the blossom. The processes by which the essential oils are distilled from the botanicals vary. Some crops yield multiple distillations, while others only yield one. Some crops yield a high oil content that is easily distilled mechanically; Peppermint for example. Other crops, like Jasmine, yield oil one blossom at a time. That oil is frequently collected by the 'enflourage' method, which has many steps from harvest to oil reconstitution, making it much more labor intensive. Then there are some oils where the first distillation is the best, but subsequent distillations are also made and sold for a lower price.
Still other oils get re-distilled. We carry a Peppermint Oil that is a triple distilled product - and gives you that wonderfully cool breeze fragrance. Some single distilled Peppermint oils smell like leftover mint tea.
The fact that these products come from natural plant sources make them subject to the environment in which they grow. The environment is not just Mother Nature, but whatever political and economical situations people add to the mix. Years when the weather is stable Oils are generally consistent. Droughts and high precipitation wreak havoc on all farming. Botanical products gathered wild or produced in politically unstable regions have their own set of market perils. As an example, Sandalwood products are now monitored by the Indian government, partially to insure that in the future there will be some Sandalwood left. The oil comes from the heartwood of the trees, so it is not an easily renewable resource. It requires a lot to process it, and now it is under some form of rationing. Each factor adds up to force the price higher. Should we just not use it? I'd recommend finding alternatives when possible, but sometimes nothing else will do. Besides, the people who work with it for a living still deserve our support.
What does ritual and fixative mean?
Ritual and fixative herbs are botanicals with a specific range of uses.
Ritual herbs are botanicals used by people in a diverse number of ways. Sometimes they're burned as incense to help set the mood for meditation or other spiritual work, or to cleanse the energies of a location. They are also used in the making of spiritual tools - whether as a consecration incense, or "wash", or as an actual ingredient in a charm or talisman. All people have some form of ritual herb use, usually associated with the older Deities from their cultures. The gifts of the Magi, Frankincense and Myrrh resins, were herbs used by spiritual adepts of a much older culture before the Christians started using them. Many people now burn Nag Champa from the Tibetan Buddhists. My favorites are the Native American herbs. I find them cleansing, balancing, and grounding.
Fixative herbs are botanicals used primarily to 'fix' or stabilize the fragrances of herbs and oils used to make Potpourris. Many of these herbs have magical associations and long histories as well. Oak Moss, for instance, was found in the tombs of some of the Pharaohs, though it's unclear if it was for use in perfumery, or as a fermenting agent for beer making in the afterlife.
Vetiver Root smells wonderful as a dried ingredient accenting floral notes in a potpourri mixture, but also makes a nice addition to incense, has a long history as a moth and insect repellant, is used as a sedative in aromatherapy blends, and sometimes appears in older magical formulas under the name of Khus Khus. A good source of information about multiple uses for herbs is Jeanne Rose's "Herbs and Things", but there are also many other authors now writing about the magical uses of herbs.
Do you grow all the herbs yourself?
I don't grow all my own herbs--much as I would love to. Long ago I dreamt of doing that, but life in "zone four" just doesn't allow a long enough season to grow, harvest, process and then blend, and still get out to the available markets. I purchase most of what I work with to produce the goods I sell. I try to purchase the best quality I can for consistency of products, through certified organic growers when possible. I do grow some herbs, and forage for a few as well, but most of that is for personal use, or by request from friends who need wild things from here that don't grow where they live. Many of the things I offer won't grow in New York--or even in this hemisphere. Native herbs such as Sweetgrass and White sage are purchased from a Native owned cooperative whose practices are in harmony with the land.
Between the challenges of clay soil and a Deer population that is way out of control, growing anything where I live is a challenge. It's a challenge I dive in to annually and enjoy, but not one that could produce the quantity or types of botanicals I need on a regular basis. The one item I sell on an ongoing basis that includes something I do grow are the catnip toys; the catnip inside them is a blend of commercially grown organic catnip and semi-wild catnip I have growing in patches all over my property.
If I want to become an herbalist or
perfumer, where should I start?
Big question, and one that will take a long answer. If you really want to become an herbalist/perfumer/healer type of person, my best suggestion is to just start reading everything you can get your hands on about the subject. Start collecting a supply of herbs to 'experiment' with, and if possible, start a garden (whatever that means to you, be it on a windowsill, or in your yard). There is a lot more information available now than when I started out, and many more people teaching. Keep it simple. Start out with simple uses - teas, baths, culinary blends, sachets- which ever area interests you most will be easiest to learn about first. (Yes, I know it's all interesting.)
Why start simply? Because by keeping it simple, you will keep it safe, create solid base to build on, and be able to more directly connect with the materials. For instance, if you are a woman with a history of menstrual difficulty, or the Mother of an emerging young woman, you might find simple teas to help ease symptoms a good place to start. Do some research. Herbals by Susun Weed, Deb Soule, or Rosemary Gladstar are a good place to start.
Check out products with a good history at your nearest health-food store, or your favorite mail order herb source, and try using some gentle teas for a few months to see if they help. Eventually you may find you can save a little cash by growing your own herbs, or purchasing them in bulk and blending your own teas. If you have no local resources, The Herb Companion magazine is an excellent resource, and is available in many supermarkets and bookstores.
On the Internet, I'd recommend the herbnet.com site. If you live in the Northeast, you can get a directory of regional herbalists of many types from the North East Herb Association by sending $4.00 to NEHA, PO Box 10, Newport NY 13416 or email them at: email@example.com
There's a link to Herbnet on my home page.
Can you tell me more about finding a
If you are searching for a teacher, take your time. Do some research, find out what kind of credentials they have and see if you are comfortable with them. There are many kinds of learning experiences out there now. Books galore, weekend workshops to year long intensives, to mail-order classes that can go at whatever speed you need. Look for someone you would be comfortable communicating with regularly, who has some experience, and hopefully someone who will inspire you to do your best. Then, be prepared to work hard and find out that the more you learn, the more there is to learn. Remember, you're going to be dealing with a vast body of lore, some ancient, some new. You are setting out on a learning process that will take years, and really should never end.
Got other questions? Drop me a line!
your question to me.
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