After about a year of using only essential oils in our baby creams and skin care products, we were looking to cut costs and produce more of our own goods at the same time.
Essential oils are highly concentrated plant-based oils. Rose oil, for example, takes about 2,000 petals to make a single drop. They are made by steam distillation, and sometimes by CO2 extraction. Herbal extracts, on the other hand, are a fraction of the strength of their essential oil counterparts.
Our lavender was full size and thriving. We began to harvest wild yarrow from around the homestead. We started a culinary herb garden with parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme and much more. And eventually, we planted chamomile and calendula.
Chamomile and calendula are very powerful oils for skin regeneration. We’d been using only chamomile oil, and it was quite spendy. By growing the herb ourselves, we were able to infuse our base oils before blending with beeswax. Not only do we save on importing essential oil, but every ounce of this blend is saturated with herbal healing power.
We have infused herbs in olive and coconut oil, in alcohol, in glycerine, and in white vinegar. From perfumes to hair conditioners to cocktail mixes, household uses for herbs and oils are virtually endless.
When planning our garden, aromatic medicinal herbs were a natural choice. So many herbs are drought-tolerant perennials or hardy self-seeding wildflowers – and all are beautiful to grow.
Herbs are also quite fragrant, as you might expect. In an arid landscape, a small herb garden can provide a wonderful sensory experience, the mix of moist air and sweet intoxicating aromas will captivate your senses. The scent will release as you brush against the plants, and as you go about your work in the garden.
Herb gardens are a perfect place for children. Not just the brilliant scents, but the touch and feel and textures and variations can be a very calming experience. I’ve read of organic farms that planted entire beds of chamomile, just for children to roll in.
Our little cottage garden has brought us immense reward. Our house looks so much nicer against the sea of bright, deep and pale green foliage, all year round. My cooking has improved, and my food bill has dropped. In summer we cut nearly all the ingredients we need to make our own ranch mix and seasoning blends. And the money we save on essential oils has been tremendous.
I make my hair conditioner from fresh lavender, sage, rosemary in white vinegar. I make my salad dressings from garlic-infused olive oil and basil/thyme-infused vinegar. I cook with parsley and cilantro and chives and countless others. I make my perfumes and room sprays with lavender, chamomile, cornflower and good alcohol. I use dried lavender, chamomile, yarrow, calendula and mint in my soaps and body products. Almost anything I need, from head to toe, can be made from my herb garden.
I’ll share recipes and tutorials along the way. Follow along, and see what you can make with plants growing right outside your door, too.