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Friday, June 24, 2011

Herbs, essential oils, and natural fragrances for scenting your home

For anyone who loves herbs, essential oils, and natural fragrances, a wonderful way to improve daily happiness is to use them in scenting the home. I have listed some daily suggestions, which I have found enjoyable. Many also make easy and unusual gift ideas.


Kitchen wreaths using spices as well as herbs can be as simple or complex as you wish. You can purchase a ready-made wreath and add a few sprigs from your garden, or make one up from scratch. Many books are available on his art. Small bunches of dried herbs and spices are fast, effective, and fragrant additions to wreaths. Try rosemary and purple sage cut to three-inch lenghts and tied with mauve and green ribbons, or bunches of cinnamon sticks tied with red. Tiny muslin bags of mixed herbs, called bouquet garni, can be tied on to a wreath and cut off to add to soups and casseroles. Just pinch the herbs as you walk past to release a scent.

Plants on a window sill add fragrance and oxygenate the air. The list of scented herbs and flowers suited to pot growth is immense. Try jasmine, balm of Gilead, lemon thyme, marhoram, lemon verbena, and scented geraniums (pelagorniums). The cultivation of scented geraniums can become a hobby in itself! These fascinatinog plants come in a variety of fragrances such as lemon, rose, mint, spice, and even chocolate! They are easy propagated, so you will soon have lots for a big display or to give away, and the leaves retain their scent when dried for use in potpourri. Note that the flowers are not spectacular nd the showy red and pink geraniums do not carry the scents.

Don't just keep the pleasure of scent for yourself and your family - make a catnip mouse for your cat. No time to sew? Simply take a small fabric toy or cushion, snip a seam open, poke some dried cat mint and sew it up. The cat won't mind is it's not too tidy.

Glue cinnamon sticks onto a stiff board base for a scented pot stand that will release its fragrance each time warm pots are placed on it. This won't last forever,, but should give good service if you try to keep it fairly dry. Muslin sachets of herbs stitched into fabric mats have the same effect.

Dried herbs need to be in dark, airtight containers to retain their scent. However, be sure to string up some bunches of fresh and dried herbs for pinching as you pass. Rosemary, sage and lavender are particularly long-lasting and fragrant. For a change, hang bunches of southernwood which, in addition to being a haunting scent, has insect repellent qualities.

To fill the home with a lovely fragrance there is no need to spend a lot on specially marketed simmering potpourris. Just throw orange peel, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and bay leaves into a pan of water and boil it up to fill the home with a warm smell. Alternatively, sprinkle a few drops of your favorite essential or fragrance oil, with some potourri if you have it,into a pan of warm water ont he stove. This is fast and effective and gives a good strong scent, where scented candles and the like can be too subtle.

Sitting Room

Potpourri is an age-old way of scenting the home and can be cozy, elegant, spicy or flowery according to your mood and the season. Try making your own from one of the many recipes available, or simply add your own touches to a purchased base. Throw some small fir cones, cinnamon sticks, or gold painted bay leaves to a Christmas mix. Dry petals from a sepcial bouquet to add to a flower base. Don't worry if they are not too scented, as color and form are as important too, and essential oils can be added to a bowl that has lost its aroma.

If you become interested in potpourri you might like to try making the old-fashioned version where rose petals were sandwiched in alternate layers with salt in a lidded china pot. The mixture should be pressed down and kept lidded other than when you are in the room. Add to the pot as more petals become available. This mixture turns black and is not attractive to look at, but the aroma is very long-lasting.

Rub cool light bulbs with cotton wool soaked with scented oil and enjoy the fragrance pervading the room as the bulb heats.

Scented cushions can be made using the principles of aromatherapy, with sachets of herbs sewn into larger cushions. Try chamomile or lavender for relaxing qualities, or rosemary or pine for stimulation. For general use, however, you can’t go wrong with perennial favorites such as rose. As with potpourri, boost the petals with a drop of oil when the fragrance fades.

If you, or a friend, have an open fire, a lovely touch is to throw scented cones into the flames. Melt some beeswax (or old candle stubs) in a washed can placed in a pot of water. Using a can inside the pan means you can simply throw it away and are not left with any waxy pan to try to clean. Add a few drops of scented oil. Leave to cool and thicken very slightly and drop cones in. Remove the cones with tongs and leave them to drain on aluminum foil. Don't waste expensive essential oils on this - cheaper fragrance oils are just fine. Keep a big basket full of these by the fire.

When cooking or crafting, save all your stalks and twigs. Dry them well and bag them up into small brown paper bags. Tie them up with string or raffia and throw them into a log fire for a burst of scent. A basketful of cones or twig bags makes a charming holiday gift for friends - be sure to attach a label explaining their use.

Don't confine herb and spice wreaths to the kitchen. A large circle can make an unusual and spectacular year-round display - try making a wreath with alternate bunches of green and purple sage.

As an alternative to the wall, place your wreath on a (protected) table top, perhaps with a bowl of fruit or flowers in the center. If the wreath base is bound with damp moss, herb cuttings have even been known to take root in wreath bases bound with damp moss.

One of the most popular ways of incorporating perfume into the home is the scented candle. These can be expensive. If you have a bottle of fragrance oil around, light a wide candle and add a drop or two of oil into the little pool of melted wax around the flame. Relax and enjoy.

Add fragrance to the bookshelf by pressing costmary (alecost) leaves, their minty balsam scent, between the pages of favorite books to deter silverfish.. Large, rose-scented geranium leaves also add an ethereal Victorian aura to precious journals, and are a joy to discover nestling between the pages of a book unread for a few years.

In a food processor, mix dried herbs with equal parts of bicarbonate of soda and salt. Sprinkle liberally on the carpet and vacuum up an hour or so later. This is a natural carpet freshener.


Oils can be added to the bath for scent alone or for their beneficial properties. Full details are outside the scope of this article, so consult any goood aromatherapy book or practitioner. Just remember that if you are using essential oil (rather a synthetic fragrance), only a few drops are needed.

To use herbs and flower petals for your bath, put them into small muslin bags that can be fished out before you get in. The idea of fragrant herbs floating in the water may be temptingly romantic, but the reality is a mass of soggy brown herbage clinging to and scratching the body. Believe me, stick to bags! A soggy rose petal is a depressing thing.

There are, of course, endless possibilities for incorporating fragrance into one's daily bathroom routine and an easy and effective one is the herbal hair rinse. Make a strong infusion of an herb of your choice. Strain it, then add two drops of essential oil if you wish and use as your final hair rinse. Try roses and lavender combined for a feminine scent or rosemary or bay for something less flowery for men and women.


The sleep pillow is a comforting use of natural fragrance and many people swear by its effectiveness. Calming and soporfic herbs include hops, chamomile, and lavendar. Just take care to make moderate use of lavender, as it can be overpowering.

Potpourri can, of course, be delightful in a bedroom, and a bowlful on a dressing table is especially welcome in the guest room. Beware of putting it on the bedside table as it may be knocked over in the night as people reach for clocks or water.

We have all seen lavender bags, but do break the mold by making little sachets filled with something different - a handful of a fine potpourri is a good substitute. Slip these sachets into drawers or sew on ribbons so that they can be tied onto coat hangers. Use pine, bayberry, and rosemary for a more masculine scent.

Pressed herb bookmarks may retain some scent themselves or can be made using scented cards. Choose a fairly pourus card and place it in a box with a pad of cotton wool soaked with essential oil. After a few weeks the card will retain the scent for quite a long time.

I do hope you try at least one of the above ideas and have fun scenting your home with fresh herbs and natural oils.

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