How to make a natural air freshener, and assemble your own laboratory for concocting teas, salves, and syrups

Guestpost by Dale Mackey on Mar 17th

My favorite herbs. All photos by Shawn Poynter.

As a little girl I mixed up shampoos and lotions in my laboratory, trying to improve on the toiletries we had. I never came up with anything worth mentioning, but I did once get scolded for spilling my mom's shampoo all over the bathroom rug.

A friend of mine told me about the "laboratory" she'd had at age 12, in which she created, among other things, the cure for AIDs.

You probably won't cure any diseases with your apothecary, but you will scratch that youthful itch to create something useful out of ordinary ingredients. narfmore

I'll get your mad scientist career started with a list of ingredients to start a home apothecary, with which you'll be able to make herbal teas, salves, syrups, tinctures, eye pillows, and infused oils. I've also included a recipe for an air freshening spray you can make.

Starter herbs and their properties

You can find these herbs online or in stores with large bulk herb selections. If you grow them, or can find them fresh, use twice as much of the herb — fresh herbs are not as concentrated as dried herbs.

  • Lavender: Has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, is thought to work as an insect repellent, can ease headaches, encourage sleep and aid in relaxation.
  • Peppermint: Is a digestive aid, thought to aid in fever reduction.
  • Spearmint: Aids in digestion, reduces bloating, lots of antioxidants, super invigorating!
  • Milk Thistle: Thought to promote liver and gallbladder function, reported to detoxify and lower cholesterol.
  • Elderberries: Have shown great success in treatment of influenza.
  • Fennel: Long used as an aid to digestion and bloating. Thought to have diuretic properties, improve milk supply in breastfeeding mothers, repel fleas; long used in India to soothe coughs
  • Rosemary: Used to improve memory and circulation, sad to act as an anti-carcinogen.
  • Chamomile: Used as an aid for digestion, colds, and sleep.
  • Nettle: High in protein, iron and vitamins.
  • Ginger: Proven to be useful against nausea, diarrhea, and arthritis; thought to aid in digestion.

So, oils. We need those, too:

Starter oils

Most essential oils aren't cheap, but a little goes a long way. You can find them in health and hippie stores the world over, or online. I bought a starter set from Amazon years ago.

  • Grapefruit: Used as an energizer, thought to brighten dull skin and hair, and resolve water retention.
  • Lemon: Antibacterial; an astringent, brightens dull skin.
  • Orange: Antibacterial; thought to act as an anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and aphrodisiac. Boosts immunity.
  • Clary Sage: Thought to be useful as a mild antidepressant, astringent, aphrodisiac, sedative, and digestive aid.
  • Rosemary: Antibacterial, thought to stimulate hair growth and mental activity, be useful with respiratory problems and reduce pain.
  • Lavender: Has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, used to calm anxiety, promote circulation and good respiration.
  • Peppermint: Helps with indigestion and nausea, thought to aid with respiratory problems and headaches.
  • Spearmint: Antiseptic, repels insects, thought to act as a stimulant.
  • Eucalyptus: Antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, a decongestant and a stimulant.
  • Tea Tree: Antibacterial/microbial/viral, an insecticide and stimulant, thought to help with healing wounds and pain relief.

AND! You ave to mix your oils and herbs with a carrier.

10 starter carriers and accessories

  • Vodka (for tinctures and aromatherapy mists)
  • Olive or Jojoba Oil (for salves and moisturizers)
  • Tea ball, reusable tea bags or disposable tea bags (for herbal teas and syrups)
  • Sugar (for syrups)
  • Beeswax (for salves and balms)
  • Rice or beans (for eye and muscle pillows)
  • Strainerand/or Cheesecloth (to strain various concoctions)
  • Unscented castille soap (for shampoos and cleansers)
  • Old fabric (for eye and muscle pillows and sachets)
  • Jars, tubs, and bottles (to store your finished products)

Storage

While it's by no means necessary, I highly recommend designating a centralized spot for storing all these ingredients. Why?
1. It makes you feel like a wizard.
2. It just looks cool as decor. Yay, useful pretty things!
3. It makes it easier to whip up brews without having to go searching for everything.

I used a film drawer my librarian friend gave me — mounted on the wall in the bathroom.

Now, to get started actually making things: here's a starter recipe!

Lavender Mint Room Spray & Linen Mist

Here's a super simple recipe for a relaxing mist for your self and your linens (and your car and your friends and your dog and…)

Ingredients

  • 1 part vodka (1-2 cups)
  • 1 part water
  • 10 drops lavender essential oil
  • 10 drops spearmint essential oil

Mix water and vodka in a pump spray bottle or atomizer, add the essential oils, and shake thoroughly.

You'll want to shake this each time before you spray it to ensure it's all nice and mixed up.

For more recipes, I've found Make Your Place by Raleigh Briggs and Savoring the Day: Recipes And Remedies To Enhance Your Natural Rhythms by Judith Benn Hurley both extremely helpful. These books have great overviews on helpful herbs and recipes for a multitude of concoctions.

Good luck and happy mixing!

Why make your own air freshener? You ever thought about what's in that bottle of Glade?

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About Dale Mackey

Dale works for Knoxville Community Television by day and moonlights as an actress, writer, silkscreen artist, and creative writing instructor for prisons and women’s shelters, but likes having a day job too much to do any of these full-time. And? She's got a mess more information on tinctures on her website.

http://dalemackey.wordpress.com