Herb Walk: Homemade Lavender Oil

  I am really going to miss our walk to kindergarten once school ends in a few weeks and Mycie and I move out of our current neighborhood and in with Adam.

Downtown Nevada City is an extremely charming place, especially in spring.

Gorgeous old buildings and Victorian houses exists side by side with giant redwoods and an abundance of bright and happy flowers.

Mycie and I make so many stops on our walks to and from school- a snail here, a 19th century stained glass window there, a hedge of hundreds of roses here, a friend walking to the coffee shop there. I am a total town dweller at heart; I love being so close to all the activity and the people. Adam's house is in a more residential neighborhood but is still a five minute walk to town, and I can't imagine that my herb wanderings and my frequent coffee dates with friends will slow down much.

Yesterday we finally made some medicine with some of the herbs we pass by every day. We happened to run into Jen in town and she snapped this quick photo of us (I've been wanting to show off this red gingham dress for a while!).

There are a number of lavender plants on the street our school is located, and some seem to be runaway plants that are coming out of cracks in the sidewalk and are quite a ways away from the nearest garden. So Mycie and I took her herb gathering basket and, being careful to avoid the many bees losing their minds over the sweet blossoms, picked off some flowers along with the top 3rd or so of the stems and leaves (the medicine lies in all parts of the plant).

Next we cut the plant material up into many smaller pieces, exposing as much of the plant as possible to the oil it was about to come into contact with so that as much of the medicinal properties as possible could be absorbed. Mycie added a few spearmint leaves and rose petals too.

Body oils are by far my most used herbal remedies. I hardly ever make tinctures these days because I have such a large backstock of remedies I made years ago that I'm going through very slowly. But I use body oils a few times a week, for the sole purpose of calming my nervous system. Oiling the body is an age old relaxation technique, and even using plain olive (or whatever) oil with no herbal additions is extremely effective to this end. No herbal product that I have ever taken internally has been as effective at dropping my body into a state of true relaxation as rubbing oil on it has. It immediately penetrates the skin and gets to work massaging out all the kinks in the nervous system. And it becomes a rhythmic self care ritual that is in itself soothing and grounding.

And herbal oils are extremely easy to make! (Let me say though- there are many different methods herbalists use to make oils. I prefer not to heat my oils, so this is the method I usually use). After cutting the plant material up into tiny pieces, pour them into a jar. You want the herbs to fill the jar up at least 3/4 of the way, but it can reach to the top if you so desire. Then simply pour the oil (I use bulk olive oil from my Co-op) over the top.

I have never had a mold problem, but I know it can happen. To prevent this, pour the oil to the very top of the jar so that it touches the lid when it is placed on top. The goal is to remove all air from the jar. Using a chopstick or some sort of utensil to slowly stir the air bubbles up and out of the oil is another helpful way to remove excess air. I used to do this fastidiously, but finally realized that it's impossible to get rid of all of the air, so I'm a lot more lax about it now.

St. John's Wort is my favorite herb to make body oil out of, and I look forward to making a big batch on the summer solstice next month when that plant is blooming in all of its sunshiney glory! I'll throw up a little post about it then, and why its medicinal properties are so useful in my life. I've also made oils out of pine needles, chickweed, rosemary, and calendula. What I love about lavender oil is that is smells soooooo good (if you have an aversion to lavender essential oil- another product entirely- I promise you that this form of lavender oil is much milder and more pleasant smelling) and, as with all members of the mint family, is specific to the nervous system in its medicinal, calming properties.

It's great to rub on yourself and/or your children as the bedtime transition nears. Back rub, foot rub, full body rub- a moment out of time at the end of a busy day.

I let my oils steep for about one moon cycle, give or take a few days. Some herbalists do two weeks, some do six. Since I started this so close to the new moon, I'll just keep it in the back of my mind to finish up at the next new moon. At which point I will strain, re-bottle, label, slather myself, and chill the fuck out.