09 May 2012


I've had a love affair with lavender for a long long time. Which is funny because I am exceptionally sensitive to strong smells, and lavender is quite strong. But it is also a soothing scent, so maybe that's why I'm not immediately beset by sneezes when I smell it.

As a medicinal herb, lavender is like a swiss army knife. It is antiseptic, analgesic, and may even be antiviral(!). It is commonly used to settle and soothe agitated babies, and is gaining popularity in dementia care for the same purpose. It has clinically noted effect on anxiety and depression. It also can soothe migraine pain and insomnia. It is brilliant on dry skin and clinical disorders of the skin (excema, psoriasis, acne and fungal infections). And it grows like a weed here.

Anything hardy enough to grow like stink and reseed in our short short growing season is a winner in my book. Let's just say, if I could marry lavender, I would. I like to think the human version of lavender would look like one of these men:

Swedish Lavender

Western Canada Lavender

Hardy Northern Alberta Lavender
See? I love lavender. It's that simple.

And now.. Uh... I'm lost. *swoon*

Right! Lavender.

Because lavender is so versatile, it makes it a perfect plant for a Closet Crunchy's apothecary. And really, up until a couple of years ago, I was very much in the closet about my crunchy ways. I always kept lavender on hand. I had a jar of it beside my bed to help me sleep until a very helpful and handsy 5-year-old dumped it (on me. While I was sleeping. Because it would help me to sleep.) I just didn't tell anyone about my lavender lovethang.

When I started working more frequently in dementia care, we started seeing more and more prescriptions for lavender cream for agitation, and I really noticed how fake and stanky most lavender creams were. So I decided it was time to make my own. I had the means. I had the experience, from making salves from medieval recipes (note: lard does actually go rancid, and lard based ointments have a very limited shelf life). I pulled out my trusty medicine pot and went to work.

The end result was a beautiful hard salve. I had to do a heat infusion for the oil, but it is so lovely. I think if I'd had fresh lavender I would have worked harder to ensure a cold infusion, but I was working with dry materials, so in the back of my mind, I didn't really think it mattered.

No, actually, I can't spell lavender. Sue me.

See that big tin? It's sitting on my desk at work, and every morning, I rub a schmear onto my hands and rub the tin all over my elbows. I smell divine, my skin is happy, and the scent makes the lingering morning blah just melt away.

The basic recipe:
For every cup of oil, add 1 heaping tablespoon of beeswax. More for a harder salve, less for a softer one. If it's not hard enough, you can remelt it, and add more beeswax. If it's too hard, remelt it and add some extra oil. Add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of vitamin E oil as a preservative, and your salve will last longer. Yay!

To infuse oil:

Heat infusion: heat on low for 20 minutes. Allow to cool, strain through cheesecloth and really wring out the oil. I had a picture of me doing this, but I can't find it. Weird. I was making the world's most awesome 'wringing face' too.

Cold Infusion: put herbs into a jar, and cover with oil. Place in the window (or somewhere that gets natural light) for 2-3 weeks, shaking every few days. Strain through cheesecloth and wring out the oil.

Have fun!

No comments:

Post a Comment