• per fume or through the smoke

    natural secrets • Feb 24th, 2020

    I’ve been experimenting with aromatic plants for a while now. The oil blends for the reed diffusers I made in November are still going strong though the reeds I bought don’t really move the oil to the tips so I just flip them regularly for a good slip stream of  pine and citrus scents, low tech, safe for children and pets and easy all round.

    My favourite way to perfume a room is to use an oil burner: water and oils in the saucer and my own beeswax tealight to give enough heat for a wonderfully scented vapour.  I much prefer this method to making a wax melt which might last longer but doesn’t produce a scent that’s strong enough with natural ingredients alone.

    So I’ve been making some scented oils; crushed juniper berries with orange zest and finely chopped sage give up their oils with gentle heat and time. Essential oils are usually made by steaming the leaves, berries or bark and condensing the steam which has the droplets of oil given up by the plant, the equipment needed might be a future investment. The sage leaves responded well to steaming before adding to almond oil, about 20ml for a small bunch of sage. The juniper berries smell of pine and release their fragrance as you press them, again adding only  a small amount of oil.  After two weeks in a warm cupboard,  I filtered the mash and had enough for my 10 ml bottles.

    You might think this is a lot of work and takes too long; essential oils are available to buy, of course, but there’s a lot of variation in quality and the good ones are super expensive.  It’s quite magical to use a plant you’ve tended, so that your infusion comes from a place you love and care for. The part of the plant you use, the time of harvest and its subspecies all make a difference to the infusion which is why commercially produced oils are so variable.

    Blending is the most fun, I use a little silver spoon and just go with my nose, less of the pungent more of the sweet or woodsy and maybe a little more orange zest freshly grated. Perfume is often described by notes which refer to time so orange is the sweet citrus you smell first, the top note, then the fresh, piney juniper, the heart note and then a while later you appreciate the base note of sage, which is the medicinal aroma that will linger till the next day.

    I chose these scents because they take me to the south west of the United States where my son lives; the landscape and its plants are now part of our family story and I’m so grateful to know them a little, like the mesquite bean tree in the first photo and the under storey of small plants like juniper with hard skin to save its oil and water from the sun in the second.

    The project continues with different plants and maybe a few oils I have sourced for aromas like a downpour on a dry garden.




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