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Lavender DIY

What are Essential Oils?

What are Essential Oils?

They are oils that are derived from plants and have wide variety of uses; from ingredients in commercial products to home health remedies. The term “Essential” is due to the fact that the oils are a concentrated form of the “Essence” or intrinsic nature of the plant.

One of the characteristics of these oils is that they contain the concentrated scent of the plant and they are very aromatic. The use of these special oils for therapeutic purposes has a long history and has given rise to the term “aromatherapy”. There are about 300 essential oils in use today.

How are the oils extracted?

A process called distillation is the primary method used to extract the oils from the plant materials. This is the same process used to extract alcohol from corn (think moonshiner’s still). Water containing plant material is boiled. As the steam exits it carries molecules of the oil with it. The steam is cooled and the water condenses back from a vapor to a liquid. As the liquid settles, the oil rises to the top and can be skimmed off. The amount of plant material required to extract a given amount of oil varies greatly from plant to plant. It may only take a couple of pounds of lavender buds to yield an ounce of oil, but about 500 – 600 pounds of rose petals may be required for an ounce of rose oil.

Other methods such as solvent extraction or expression may be used to coax the oil from the plant material. The particular method used is dependent on the type of plant. Some methods work better than others with various types of plants.

What About Lavender Oil?

There are 3 main reasons why lavender oil is probably the most popular of all the essential oils. First, it has a wonderful aroma. It is used as a natural fragrance in perfumes, air fresheners, bath products and candles. Second, it has a wide variety of therapeutic uses. Lavender oil is used as an antiseptic for killing germs, a topical pain killer, and for treating wounds, sores, burns and even headaches. In aromatherapy lavender oil is used to relieve stress and promote sleep. Third, lavender oil is affordable. Compared to most of the other oils, the cost is quite reasonable. Few natural products are as pleasant, versatile, effective and yet relatively inexpensive as lavender.

What About Aromatherapy?

Essential oils are what aromatherapy is all about. Different oils and mixtures of these oils are used to treat different symptoms. You have probably used this therapy without even realizing that you did. Remember the strong smelling salve that your mother rubbed on your chest when you had a cold? The aroma tended to help open your sinuses and allow you to breathe better. It likely contained eucalyptus or another aromatic oil. Over-the-counter commercial products for treating cold and flu symptoms using aroma can even be found at your local pharmacy. Air fresheners with different oils are being marketed based on the moods they induce. While this approach to wellness is just beginning to go mainstream, it’s not something that is just practiced by the societal fringe that couldn’t escape the sixties.

How do you buy Essential Oils?

The most important factor when making a purchase is to ensure that the oil is 100% pure and natural. There are synthetic copies of some oils on the market that are less expensive than the real thing, but they don’t have the same healing and beneficial properties as the natural product. If you are only planning to use the oil for its aroma, it might be OK, but if your intent is a therapeutic use you will want the natural oil.

If you have never used essential oils before, start with the smallest quantity you can buy so you that you can make sure you really like it before making a large investment. If there is an aromatherapist in your neighborhood, you may be able to sample some oils before you buy. Some of these oils can be purchased at many health food stores, and just about anything you want can be bought online. Before buying online try to find independent reviews to learn if the seller is reputable and the products are of high quality.

Another thing you might consider before making a purchase is the possibility of buying your oils in a kit. This is often a good way to get started in your experience.

How do you use Essential Oils?

With hundreds of oils, and thousands of combinations of those oils, and hundreds of applications, you can see how this could become a significant area of study.The two primary means that are used to apply the oils are through inhalation of the aroma and massaging the oil into the skin with a carrier oil. I highly recommend purchasing a reference book on essential oils, which will contain many recipes and directions for application.

Caution – Essential oils should never be taken internally, and should never be used on the skin undiluted, they should always be mixed with a carrier oil. The one exception is lavender, which can be used in very small amounts to treat pain or aid in healing wounds.

Another interesting use for these oils that is often overlooked is for natural flea control . It is a great way to battle the parasites without applying toxic substances to your pet.

Lavender DIY

How to Cook with Lavender?

When they hear about cooking with lavender, some people are surprised. Lavender’s sweet smell is becoming well-known as an enhancement to many household products such as soaps, lotions and air fresheners. Many have enjoyed growing lavender in their gardens.

More and more people are learning of the powerful therapeutic properties of lavender essential oil. But using flowers as a seasoning? Cooking with lavender can add a unique flavor to a variety of dishes.

Culinary Lavender – All types of lavender are edible, but some are better for cooking than others. It’s most important that the lavender be pesticide free, so it is best to purchase lavender that is specifically marketed for cooking. The other alternative is to grow your own lavender, knowing that you kept it away from any pesticides or other toxic substances. Probably the most common variety of lavender used in cooking is provence. It provides a light sweet flavor without overpowering. If you are interested in adding infusions with color, hidcote is a good option.

General Usage – When cooking with lavender, use it lightly as you would with any dried herb such as rosemary. Remember that a little goes a long way, and too much will leave a bitter taste. In addition to seasoning, lavender will add color to your dishes and fresh lavender blossoms make a beautiful garnish. To keep blossoms fresh until ready to use, wrap in a paper towel and place it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Desserts – One of the favorite uses of culinary lavender is in preparing desserts. An easy way to add the taste of lavender is to make lavender sugar. Simply mix one tablespoon of dried lavender with four cups of sugar and let it sit for a couple of weeks. Sift out the lavender and use the sugar normally. Lavender can be used in many dessert recipes such as cakes, cookies and ice cream.

Meats – Lavender provides a unique flair to meat seasoning, including beef, pork, chicken and fish. Whether you prefer meat seasoning that is spicy or sweet, in the form of a rub or a marinade, cooking with lavender adds special flavor that is tasty and aromatic. If you are grilling your meat, try sprinkling some dried lavender on the hot coals. Not only will this add savor that is pleasing to the taste buds, it will also add scent that is pleasing to the nose.

Beverages – Adding lavender to drink recipes is another way to enjoy this wonderful herb. Lavender Lemonade and limeade are summer favorites. This will add a great spin to the taste, and it can also add beautiful color to the beverage (try hidcote). Lavender punch is a great hit at parties. Try dropping a few fresh lavender florets into a glass of white wine, or use a lavender stem with the flowers still attached as a swizzle stick.

Vinegar – Lavender vinegar provides an extraordinary way of cooking with lavender. But since vinegar has so many different uses, adding the scent and color of lavender will make even common uses seem extravagant. Use lavender vinegar for salad dressing, dipping bread or marinading meats. Try it as a hair rinse or a facial scrub. Clean with lavender vinegar or use in the rinse cycle of your dishwaser for spot free dishes.
The possibilities of cooking with lavender are only limited by your imagination. Experiment with some of your favorite recipes or try some new ones. If you have never cooked with this exceptional herb, you are in for a whole new adventure in delighting your palate!