Homemade lip balms, lotion bars and body butters

homemade lip balm, lotion bar, body butter

By Charlynn Avery

I look around myself in the kitchen. Pots, pans, glass measuring cups, a digital scale, essential oils, beeswax and a whole lot of oil take up all of the available counter space. The music flows and the aroma of cocoa butter fills the room as I am immersed in one of my favorite activities — experimenting with new DIY body care recipes.

A simple solution to dry skin

My goal on this particular occasion was to create my own lotion bar to travel with. As a frequent traveler who doesn’t like to check a bag, I have my liquids all under control with the exception of lotion. Prone to dry skin, I have been moisturizing my skin since I was a child, and lotion or a skin care oil is something I cannot live without. Natural oil is my preferred method of moisture these days, but flying with the quantity that I need is a hassle and (can be) messy. A simple solution was introduced to me several years ago by a dear friend. We were traveling for a month out of the country and didn’t want to check bags, so she made lotion bars — whoa! What a perfect solution.

I spent a few years after that purchasing others’ lotion bars, and finally made it a priority to make my own. I found the process to be so easy and, in addition to making body butter and lip balm for several years, I now have a new item to add to my bag of natural skin care tricks. Continue reading

Preserve delicate flavor for year-round use with salt-dried fines herbes

Fines-herbes-1By Tom Havran

Fines herbes (feenz erbs) is a traditional French blend of delicately aromatic and flavorful herbs used to season subtly flavored dishes, such as eggs, buttery sauces, vegetables, chicken and fish. Gourmands prefer fines herbes made with fresh herbs, but you can salt dry fresh herbs to create an easily stored version with good flavor.

The classic fines herbes blend consists of tarragon, chervil, chives and parsley leaves. These herbs can be air-dried, but their constituents are so volatile and delicate that their unique flavors are largely lost into the air in the process. These same constituents are readily soluble into the fats and oils used in cooking — which is why they are preferred in their fresh form.

Fortunately, there is another way to capture some of fines herbes’ rare and elusive goodness. Salt-drying the fresh leaves will quickly desiccate the herbs and provide you with a delicately-seasoned salt to use long after the fresh herbs are no longer available. The addition of salt dramatically shortens the drying time, while the vast surface area of the crystals and their interlocking structure help to contain and fix the fugitive flavors of the fines herbes. Continue reading

The magic, art and science of stovetop distillation

rose mist

If you have access to fresh, pesticide-free roses in your garden, use those!

By Tom Havran

I’m as fascinated by how the essences of aromatic plants are extracted as I am by the essences themselves. Distillation is equal parts magic, art and science, and when I learned how to do it for myself at home with herbs and flowers from my own garden, a world of learning, possibility and mystery materialized in the steam before me. You can experience the mystery too with the following technique for a stove-top distillation of your own essential oil/hydrosol rose mist.

Although you would need to distill hundreds of pounds of plant material to get an appreciable amount of pure essential oil, this method will readily yield a few drops of essential oil floating upon a few ounces of water-based hydrosol in perfect, ready-to-use proportions. Continue reading

Scent Your Space Naturally with Homemade Air Fresheners

By Charlynn Avery

homemade air freshenerHave you ever considered what creates the aroma of that “new car scent” air freshener dangling from your rear view mirror?

Sure, it may help you ignore the reality that your car is not, in fact, new. But it won’t give you the benefits of pure essential oils. Below, I’ll give you ideas for how to make your own homemade air freshener that smells great, looks good and is perfectly natural.

Most commercial air fresheners come in one strength, which is often overwhelming. With a homemade air freshener, you can choose the strength of the aroma and refresh it as needed. So, as you create your own air freshener, you’ll use essential oils and your creativity to formulate an aroma that works best for you, in terms of both preference and aromatherapy benefits. You control the naturalness as well as the potency of the resulting air freshener.

Continue reading

Simplicity is the Secret to a Natural Glow


Charlynn Avery is an aromatherapist and educator for Aura Cacia.

By Charlynn Avery, Aura Cacia aromatherapist and educator

Beautiful skin is something many of us desire. However, we often believe that to have glowing skin, we need to buy expensive creams with long lists of complicated (and sometimes potentially harmful) ingredients. Our skin is our largest organ, and an indicator of our health, so we should approach its care naturally, safely and with simplicity. Switching to a simpler regimen can benefit your skin, your wallet and the environment. To make it easier for you, here are some of the skin care questions I’m most commonly asked. Continue reading