3 Ways to Simplify Life During Hectic Seasons

3 Ways to Simplify Life During Hectic Seasons | Herbal Academy | The holidays needn’t be a time of hustle and bustle. In fact, it is possible to simplify life during hectic seasons. Here are 3 ways to do just that!

The holidays needn’t be a time of relentless hustle, bustle, and unfulfilled, unrealistic expectations. It is easy enough to get swept up in the pressure and commercialism of the holiday season. Even for the most centered among us, you may find yourself getting stressed out about gifts for loved ones or pressured to be merry and bright at holiday gatherings, regardless of your true emotional state. And then, after all the holiday pressure and overindulgence, there is the boomerang effect of guilt and unrealistic New Year’s resolutions. However, I have good news! It is, in fact, possible to enjoy the best of the holidays and to enter the new year with ease, simplicity, grace, and acceptance. It is possible to simplify life during hectic seasons.

3 Ways to Simplify Life During Hectic Seasons

1. Give Simple Gifts

I grew up in a family that enjoyed the traditions of Christmas to the fullest. I fondly remember the holidays and recall a brightly decorated tree, overflowing Christmas stockings, traditional Cioppino on Christmas Eve, and the titillating excitement of wondering what Santa would bring. Every year, my grandmother would take my three siblings and me to pick out a new Christmas ornament for the tree, and we would wander the ornament shop for what seemed like hours, painstakingly selecting the decoration that most spoke to our young hearts. Some 30 odd years later, I still own many of those ornaments, and each one reminds me of my grandmother’s kindness and patience, as well as sharing in the holiday excitement with my two brothers and one sister.

As my siblings and I matured into adulthood, marriages, jobs, and grad school spread us out across the country, and our holiday traditions have changed with the times and in an effort to simplify life during hectic seasons like Christmas. However, it is my feeling that the heart of the holidays has remained intact in our family, and I believe our practices in simplicity and flexibility have assisted in that.

3 Ways to Simplify Life During Hectic Seasons | Herbal Academy | The holidays needn’t be a time of hustle and bustle. In fact, it is possible to simplify life during hectic seasons. Here are 3 ways to do just that!

One such example is our tradition of gift giving. Perhaps more than a decade ago, my parents, siblings, and I decided to simplify our Christmas gifts. Each family member is assigned to give to one other family member. This practice eventually evolved so that the gifts were restricted to handmade goods only. We rotate who gives to whom each year, and I find this to be a wonderful way to spend time really thinking about the person to whom I am gifting. The gifts are unveiled on Christmas Eve, and each year we marvel at the creativity and care of each offering, no matter how humble. These handmade treasures have included a terrarium; handmade jewelry; hand-drawn, screen-printed clothing; paintings and photography; and delightful edibles such as homemade truffles, a kitcheree making kit, cranberry chutney, and pineapple salsa.  

Last year, I made Kate O’Donnell’s Sunbutter Truffles as a gift for my father-in-law. I highly recommend these delightfully creamy, simple truffles as a gift or addition to your holiday spread.

3 Ways to Simplify Life During Hectic Seasons | Herbal Academy | The holidays needn’t be a time of hustle and bustle. In fact, it is possible to simplify life during hectic seasons. Here are 3 ways to do just that!

Sunbutter Truffles

These truffles feature sunflower butter, which is considered in Ayurveda to be lighter and easier to digest than peanut butter. Sunbutter truffles also contain an adaptogenic boost of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) for extra resilience around the holidays.

[recipe_ingredients]

Filling:

2 tsp melted coconut oil
1/2 cup sunflower butter
1 tablespoon raw honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup almond meal
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) root

Chocolate Coating:

3 tablespoons melted coconut oil
1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons cacao powder
Shredded coconut for outside (optional)

[/recipe_ingredients][recipe_directions]

  • Mix together melted coconut oil, sunflower butter, honey, and vanilla in a small bowl. Add almond meal, cinnamon, and ashwagandha. Mix well. Cover the mixture and freeze for 45 minutes.
  • To make the chocolate coating, combine 3 tablespoons melted coconut oil with maple syrup and cacao powder in a warm saucepan. The coating must remain liquid for dipping, so working out of a warmed saucepan helps.
  • Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Remove the sunflower butter filling from the freezer, and shape into one-inch size balls, dropping them one at a time into the chocolate coating mix. Coat sunbutter balls evenly (using two spoons helps). Once coated, place them onto the parchment paper. Sprinkle with a bit of dried, shredded coconut if you like. These wonderful truffles are creamy, simple, and divine. Keep refrigerated until ready to eat!

[/recipe_directions]

I share my family’s traditions not to dictate what you and your loved ones should do. It is merely to plant the seed for ways that you might be able to simplify life during hectic seasons so you can relish the joy of the holidays, and hopefully, reduce pressure and stress. I think my family members will agree that by changing this one aspect of how we celebrate, we have become more liberated to enjoy the holidays, and we also suffer less from the stress and financial strain that can accompany the pressures of extravagant gift giving.

2. Let Go. Do Less.

Whatever your traditions may be, winter can provide a wonderful opportunity for reflection, release, and rethinking about what really matters. Something that I love about the holidays is that our collective priorities seem to shift. Professional ambition gets a chance to take a back seat to social engagements and quality time with the family. As we take time away from work and day to day responsibilities in order to celebrate and connect with dear ones, it seems there is a common understanding that productivity is slowed and that it is a time to rest, retreat, and revel allowing us the perfect opportunity to further simplify life during hectic seasons. I would like to emphasize that the choice about what to do with this special time of year lies with you. For some, time away from work is not an option, but if you have that luxury, I suggest you take a moment to truly consider what you want to do with the gift of downtime. What are the traditions that you want to invent, adhere to, or toss aside with the outgoing year?

3 Ways to Simplify Life During Hectic Seasons | Herbal Academy | The holidays needn’t be a time of hustle and bustle. In fact, it is possible to simplify life during hectic seasons. Here are 3 ways to do just that!

There may be an unspoken pressure to follow suit when it comes to holiday traditions. However, interestingly enough, when one person leads the way in the rethinking and simplification of rituals, that choice often takes the pressure off others, and everyone can enjoy the freedom of eased expectations. For instance, I have shared my family’s gift-giving tradition with friends who have then been inspired to adopt it among their circles. When we encounter ritual, therein lies the perfect opportunity to explore and question what we want to keep and what actions are motivated purely by obligation, expectation, or even guilt.

3. Enjoy The Space Between

It may be comforting to listen to messages from nature as the days turn dark and cold. You may delight in festive food and twinkling lights (I do!), and yet, it is also helpful to remember that winter signifies the end of the life cycle. It is a barren time, and in many ways, time for stripping away, letting go, and reflecting on the year that has gone by. I often feel a tinge of sadness in the quiet days between Christmas and the new year. It amazes me how quickly the years pass, and perhaps I am simply feeling the existential melancholy that comes along with all human shortcomings. I am keenly aware of all that I failed to do and all the unexpected surprises, twists, and turns that the road of life has taken me on. Yet, in this quiet window, when the noise of holiday gatherings dies down, I can often get a glimpse at humbling self-acceptance, and that type of acceptance is relieving. With the pressure to do, be, and create temporarily lifted, there is a chance to realize that we are not our accomplishments. There is a beauty in the quiet, the stillness, and the space between, and in this space, one can find ways to simplify life during hectic seasons.

3 Ways to Simplify Life During Hectic Seasons | Herbal Academy | The holidays needn’t be a time of hustle and bustle. In fact, it is possible to simplify life during hectic seasons. Here are 3 ways to do just that!

Rather than making stringent or grandiose New Year’s resolutions that will be forgotten by Valentine’s Day, the dawn of a new year can be viewed as the ideal time to enjoy some quiet reflection and to clear the way for the activities of the year to come. A few new year’s practices that I enjoy are taking time for silence, cleaning house, throwing away to-do lists, and retreating to somewhere quiet and restful for a few days.

Silence has a wonderful purifying effect, and you don’t have to go on a retreat to practice it. A decision as simple as choosing not to speak from sundown to sunrise for a few days can be a lovely way to reset and step away from the noise. The post-holiday time is also a great chance to purge the excess from your home. Excess clothing, odds and ends, and unnecessary paperwork can all be tossed out, donated, or recycled to make space for the freshness of the new year. I find the transition from one year to the next to be a good time to reassess my to-do lists and expectations. If there are tasks that are truly important, I try to accomplish them before the start of the new year. However, I may look at what I set out to do and realize that some of it can be put off, crossed out, or simply thrown out.

3 Ways to Simplify Life During Hectic Seasons | Herbal Academy | The holidays needn’t be a time of hustle and bustle. In fact, it is possible to simplify life during hectic seasons. Here are 3 ways to do just that!

In regards to to-do lists, a lawyer friend once shared his experience after leaving a high-stress job at a law firm. He was cleaning out his desk and came across a long list full of tasks that he never accomplished. He then realized that although he had never done any of those things, nobody else ever cared or even noticed. He was still completely successful at his job and moving on willingly. Seasonal transitions, as well as life transitions, provide a prime opportunity for revamping, releasing, and making space to rethink our true intentions for the road ahead.

My message to you as you clean up holiday messes, return from travel, and transition into the year to come, is don’t rush in. Before you get caught up in the collective ambition of the new year, enjoy a little time to exhale and pause. Take a moment of silence, a walk in the snow, turn off your phone, throw away your to-do list, and hang out in the in-between for a moment. When you reflect on the year gone by, and all that there is to do and become, I suggest you consider how you can simplify and what you can let go of. By doing so, you give permission for others to do the same, and perhaps we can all move closer to a state of purity and grace as we strive to simplify life during hectic seasons.

3 Ways to Simplify Life During Hectic Seasons | Herbal Academy | The holidays needn’t be a time of hustle and bustle. In fact, it is possible to simplify life during hectic seasons. Here are 3 ways to do just that!

REFERENCES

O’Donnell, K. (2015). The everyday Ayurveda cookbook. Boulder, CO: Shambala Publications, Inc.

9 Herbal DIYs for the Holidays

9 Herbal DIYs for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Sneak in a little plant love by making herbal DIYs to gift to friends and family this holiday season. Here are 9 herbal DIYs to get you started!

The holidays are a time to gather, join in community, and be with those we care about the most. We come together around the table to share in festive feasts and stories of the past year and plan for the coming year. We celebrate and show our appreciation for our loved ones, often through the practice of giving gifts during the holiday season.

It is easier than ever to give gifts to those we care about near and far. We are able to order online almost up until the last minute and can even have our gift shipped halfway across the country within a few days. We can find great in-store deals months before the holiday, We are even fortunate to be able to support local makers at a variety of handmade markets popping up in our communities.

Sometimes, though, it can feel overwhelming to choose from the seemingly endless options online, in stores, and at markets. We may feel like the person we are shopping for already has everything they could want, or we simply don’t know where to begin. It could even be that we feel that buying something isn’t special enough.

If you’re someone that finds yourself in this situation, a fitting option is to make your own gifts this holiday season. You can also sneak in a little plant love and natural wellness by making herbal DIYs to gift to friends and family. Think herbal beverages, natural skincare, candles, and more!

There are countless DIY recipes and how-tos out there, so I’ve done some of the refining for you and curated this collection of herbal DIYs for the holidays below.

Why Do It Yourself?

9 Herbal DIYs for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Sneak in a little plant love by making herbal DIYs to gift to friends and family this holiday season. Here are 9 herbal DIYs to get you started!

This might seem like a silly question for those of you who already regularly gift your own creations. The benefits of making your own gifts, especially around the busy holiday season, are numerous.

1. Save Money

You can create a very special gift that may cost less than it would to buy it from the store. Or, rather than feeling the pressure to buy something with a higher price tag in order to feel that your gift is worthwhile, special, or more meaningful, you will naturally have those qualities come through in the gift you’ve made yourself.

2. Meaningfulness

A gift found online or from a big box store may be nice, but tends to be just like something anyone could buy on a whim. A way to gift more meaningfully is to make your own gift for your loved one.

3. Learn

You may learn something new in your quest to DIY your holiday gifts! It’s a wonderful opportunity to try a new craft you’ve been interested in or to hone one you have practiced a time or two.

4. Have Fun!

Yes, it can definitely be a fun experience to create handmade gifts. The fun starts with the actual making but continues on to when you get to see the gift opened by the recipient.

How to DIY: Make it a Party!

If you want to have extra help and just more fun making your own gifts, consider making it a party! You can gather friends and/or family together for your own DIY gift night. Assign each guest to choose 1-2 herbal DIYs they want to use. They’ll need to bring the recipe(s) as well as all materials for the DIY and even an appetizer to share. You now have an idea for a holiday-themed get-together with a unifying purpose!

If you’re an herbal entrepreneur, another spin on this idea is to consider hosting a class or workshop on how to make herbal DIYs. This is something people are very interested in, but those new to DIYing can be deterred because of an intimidation factor. Being guided by an experienced teacher can be very helpful!

Herbal DIYs To Make

Pulling from the Herbal Academy’s plentiful blog archives, I’ve created this list of 9 herbal DIYs to try giving as gifts this holiday season:

9 Herbal DIYs for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Sneak in a little plant love by making herbal DIYs to gift to friends and family this holiday season. Here are 9 herbal DIYs to get you started!

1. Wintertime Herbal Infused Whipped Body Butter

This rich, nourishing body recipe features several herbs known for their skin-loving properties.

Gift For: Anyone with extra-dry skin.

9 Herbal DIYs for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Sneak in a little plant love by making herbal DIYs to gift to friends and family this holiday season. Here are 9 herbal DIYs to get you started!

2. Herbal Culinary Salts

Herbal culinary salts are a unique spin on adding flavor to cooking. The great part is making them is a rather simple process that just involves blending salt(s) with herbs of your choice. They can make a big impression, though, for the right recipient.

Gift For: The foodie or grill master who loves working with new seasonings.

9 Herbal DIYs for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Sneak in a little plant love by making herbal DIYs to gift to friends and family this holiday season. Here are 9 herbal DIYs to get you started!

3. Hand-Poured Herbal Candles

Candle-making is an ancient practice that everyone should try at least once. Making your own herbal candles with some friends is a fun and rewarding DIY that yields a practical gift many can enjoy.

Gift For: The homebody who loves to curl up with a good book.

9 Herbal DIYs for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Sneak in a little plant love by making herbal DIYs to gift to friends and family this holiday season. Here are 9 herbal DIYs to get you started!

4. Marshmallow Root Lip Balm

Making lip balm is often the gateway into DIY natural skincare. It’s an accessible process that commonly consists of ingredients many of us may already have including coconut oil, or that are easily-acquired such as beeswax and other vegetable oils. This recipe for Marshmallow Root Lip Balm is a great option for last-minute gifting.

Gift For: That friend who’s always applying lip balm.

9 Herbal DIYs for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Sneak in a little plant love by making herbal DIYs to gift to friends and family this holiday season. Here are 9 herbal DIYs to get you started!

5. Herbal Homemade Wine & Mead

If you want a more advanced DIY and have some time (several weeks before the holidays), making your own wine and mead could be the perfect fit. If you have a friend or family member who loves trying new adult beverages, then this is for you. The process of making wine and mead itself isn’t hard; it just requires following steps carefully, the right materials, and time.

Gift For: The local brew enthusiast.

9 Herbal DIYs for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Sneak in a little plant love by making herbal DIYs to gift to friends and family this holiday season. Here are 9 herbal DIYs to get you started!

6. Essential Oil Solid Perfume

If you’ve got a bit of a chemist in you, making an essential oil solid perfume will be an interesting DIY gift. This recipe details how to blend essential oils as an aphrodisiac, so this gift won’t be for your mom.

Gift For: Your significant other.

9 Herbal DIYs for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Sneak in a little plant love by making herbal DIYs to gift to friends and family this holiday season. Here are 9 herbal DIYs to get you started!

7. Herbal Tea Blends

Herbal teas are one of those things that can be done in so many different ways. Creating your own unique herbal tea blends, or using the ones in this recipe, is a great way to gift a useful and wellness-promoting gift to show you care.

Gift For: Anyone! Herbal teas are rather widely-enjoyed, so this is a great gift for most, especially this time of year.

9 Herbal DIYs for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Sneak in a little plant love by making herbal DIYs to gift to friends and family this holiday season. Here are 9 herbal DIYs to get you started!

8. Herbal Oxymels

Oxymels are an herbal extraction of apple cider vinegar and honey. If you like to get a little witchy in the kitchen and enjoy working with herbs, making your own herbal oxymels could become your favorite new hobby.

Gift For: The bee lover or biggest sweet tooth.

9 Herbal DIYs for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Sneak in a little plant love by making herbal DIYs to gift to friends and family this holiday season. Here are 9 herbal DIYs to get you started!

9. Pine Resin Salve

This DIY requires getting out into the forest and harvesting your own ingredient of pine resin. It may also require significant forethought to be able to find pine resin at the right time for harvest. If you’re up for an adventure and want a gift that will be sure to be unique, making your own pine resin salve is for you.

Gift For: The earth-loving relative or friend who understands your herby ways. 🙂

Whether you’re interested in herbal DIYs this season to save money, to offer a more meaningful present, to learn, or just to have some fun, you’re sure to experience a little of each if you try any of these herbal DIYs. One thing is certain, your gifts will be one-of-a-kind, and you can’t buy that in stores!

9 Herbal DIYs for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Sneak in a little plant love by making herbal DIYs to gift to friends and family this holiday season. Here are 9 herbal DIYs to get you started!

5 Ways to Make Your Home Smell Good for the Holidays

5 Ways to Make Your Home Smell Good for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Make your home smell good this holiday season without having a negative impact on your health. Here are 5 safe and natural ideas to get you started!

It’s that special time of year when we open our homes to friends and family from near and far to gather together and celebrate the holidays. During this time of year, we want to make our homes cozy, warm, and welcoming for the holidays. Soft blankets, pumpkin pie spice, twinkling lights, and hot cocoa add to the warmth and cheer of the season.

But for many of us, the aromas of the pumpkin pie, hot cocoa, and fresh pine of the tree wrapped in twinkling lights are what bring back memorable moments shared in past years. Scents are powerful, and these holiday smells add to the comfort we seek to share with loved ones in the present.

I’ll admit, it was only a handful of years ago that I would bring home holiday-scented candles, potpourri, and room sprays galore from big box stores! Little did I know, they were made with artificial fragrances created by chemicals that were harmful to my health.

Since then, I’ve learned how to make my home smell good using natural products. While I still get to enjoy the classic scents of the season, I can do it without the negative impact to my health.

I’d like to share 5 simple ways you can make your home smell good for the holidays naturally!

What to Avoid When Making Your Home Smell Good for the Holidays

First, we need to understand what the term “fragrance” means. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), fragrance or “parfum” on a product label represents an undisclosed blend of various scent chemicals (Environmental Working Group, n.d.). This includes dispersants of fragrance which contain phthalates, a hormone-disrupting chemical that’s a health risk to all ages (Powers, 2007). Phthalates have been linked to cases of breast cancer, low sperm count, and other negative health issues (Stuart, 2016).

While we think we are making our homes smell good for the holidays, we are consequently damaging our health. The good news is, this isn’t a case of “the damage is done, so why stop now?” Repeated exposure to phthalates doesn’t mean phthalates stay in the body for long periods of time like many other toxins (Stuart, 2016). This means we can improve our health simply by not bringing these synthetically fragranced products into our home!

4 Natural Ingredients to Make Your Smell Good for the Holidays

Nowadays, to bring the warmth and cheer of the holidays to life, I turn to the direct source instead of synthetically made fragrances. Here’s a look at the natural ingredients I use to make our home smell good all year round.  

Spices

5 Ways to Make Your Home Smell Good for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Make your home smell good this holiday season without having a negative impact on your health. Here are 5 safe and natural ideas to get you started!

What’s not to love when it comes to spices? We use them everyday to add flavor to our meals, but alone, they are incredible just the same. Take a look at a few favorite spices I use to make my home smell good for the holidays.

  • Cinnamon sticks (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
  • Whole nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)
  • Cardamom seeds (Elettaria cardamomum)
  • Star anise (Illicium verum)
  • Whole cloves (Syzygium aromaticum)
  • Vanilla beans (Vanilla planifolia)

Herbs

5 Ways to Make Your Home Smell Good for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Make your home smell good this holiday season without having a negative impact on your health. Here are 5 safe and natural ideas to get you started!

While I love having fresh herbs within reach to use in my homesteading recipes, I know from experience that not all herbs do well indoors during the winter months. Luckily, the dried version can be just as potent when it comes to scent! Peppermint (Metha x piperita), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), and sage (Salvia officinalis) are some of my holiday favorites!

Fruits

5 Ways to Make Your Home Smell Good for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Make your home smell good this holiday season without having a negative impact on your health. Here are 5 safe and natural ideas to get you started!

Who doesn’t love the smell of citrus and other fruits? Oranges, apples, grapefruits, and lemons are wonderful to use in holiday decorating, and they smell divine. To use them in holiday potpourri and decor, simply dry them in a dehydrator. If you don’t have a food dehydrator, drying them in the oven is easier than you think!

4 Quick Steps to Drying Fruit for Holiday Decorating:

  1. Slice fruits around a 1/4 an inch thick with a paring knife.
  2. Arrange sliced fruit on a bakers drying rack and place in the oven.
  3. Bake at the lowest setting possible, usually between 150 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes to 2 1/2 hours.
  4. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and using an oven safe spatula, scoop dried fruits on the lined sheets to cool before use.

Essential Oils

5 Ways to Make Your Home Smell Good for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Make your home smell good this holiday season without having a negative impact on your health. Here are 5 safe and natural ideas to get you started!

This ingredient list would not be complete without the powerful scent of essential oils. When kept in a cool place away from direct sunlight, spiced essential oils can last for years — making their investment worth it! They also provide a great refresher to fruits you may have decorated with before that aren’t as fragrant as they once were.

To refresh dried fruits such as grapefruit, place dried grapefruit slices in a sealed bag or container. Then add 10 to 20 drops of their corresponding essential oil. Shake well and remove fruit to release their renewed scent. Use caution not to get undiluted essential oils on your skin.

Now that you know some natural ingredients that can be used, let’s look at how to put them together to make your home smell good for the holidays.

5 Clever Ways to Make Your Home Smell Good for the Holidays

#1 – Holiday Citrus Diffuser

Skip the pricey holiday flower displays and save money with a gorgeous aromatic centerpiece of citrus bowl diffusers. Pick a few sprigs of peppermint from your herb garden along with sea salt and fruit from the kitchen, and you’ll have yourself a one-of-a-kind centerpiece. Your holiday guests will rave about the sweet, fresh aroma and creative presentation!

Holiday Citrus Diffuser

[recipe_ingredients]

4 oranges
1 cup coarse sea salt
8 drops peppermint essential oil (Mentha x piperita)
8 drops sweet orange essential oil (Citrus sinensis)
12 fresh peppermint leaves

[/recipe_ingredients][recipe_directions]

  • Slice each orange in half and hollow it out using a spoon or paring knife.
  • Pour 1/8 cup sea salt into each orange bowl.
  • Add 2 drops of peppermint and orange essential oil to each orange bowl. Mix well.
  • Garnish with fresh peppermint leaves.

[/recipe_directions]

Enjoy the aroma from each holiday citrus diffuser for five to seven days. When you are done, remove the leaves and pour the sea salt into a glass jar. Grate the rind of the orange halves into the salt, add a teaspoon of carrier oil (such as sweet almond oil), and use as bath salts.

#2 – Holiday Non-Toxic Candles

5 Ways to Make Your Home Smell Good for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Make your home smell good this holiday season without having a negative impact on your health. Here are 5 safe and natural ideas to get you started!

Did you grow an herbal garden during the warmer months too? If you answered “yes,”  then you likely have a good amount of dried herbs to savor during the winter months ahead. So why not use them to make holiday herbal candles? All it takes is a few essential oils, natural wax, and a handful of herbs. Learn how to make your home smell good for the holidays with DIY hand poured herbal candles in our post, DIY Hand Poured Herbal Candles.

#3 – Orange Clove Carpet Powder

One of the biggest challenges to living a more natural lifestyle is cleaning the home. During the holidays, frequent guests can really give our carpets a lot of wear and tear, and you can bet carpet cleaners with all their odor-masking fragrances likely contain phthalates, too!

I’ve found essential oils and baking soda make the perfect solution for keeping carpets fresh and looking new! Orange essential oil, also called sweet orange oil (Citrus sinensis), does wonders on odors and tough stains. Derived from the outer peel of the common orange, it, like most citrus oils, acts as a natural degreaser and combats stains without harsh chemicals. I’ve used it in my natural carpet stain remover on new and old stains with great success! Combine it with a spicy holiday favorite essential oil such as clove bud (Syzygium aromaticum), and you’ll have yourself a non-toxic tool to refresh your carpets and make your home smell great!

Orange Clove Carpet Powder

Yields: 1 cup

[recipe_ingredients]

1/2 cup baking soda
1/4 teaspoon clove bud essential oil (Syzygium aromaticum)
1/4 teaspoon sweet orange essential oil (Citrus sinensis)
1 airtight 8-ounce container

[/recipe_ingredients][recipe_directions]

  • Combine a half cup of baking soda with a 1/4 teaspoon each of clove and orange essential oils in a small mixing bowl. Stir until all baking soda clumps have dissolved.
  • Pour orange clove carpet powder into an airtight container.
  • Sprinkle Orange Clove Carpet Powder over rugs and carpet and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Vacuum the powder to reduce odors and release the warm spicy scent of clove and orange.

[/recipe_directions]

#4 – Christmas Tree Room Spray

5 Ways to Make Your Home Smell Good for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Make your home smell good this holiday season without having a negative impact on your health. Here are 5 safe and natural ideas to get you started!

Don’t you love how a mist or two of a room spray can make a space smell amazingly better in seconds?

After learning about the hazards of synthetic fragrances in mainstream room sprays, I began to make my own, and surprisingly, all you need is three ingredients instead of a label full of questionable ingredients!

I’ve been using this natural Christmas Tree Room Spray recipe for a few years now. You’ll love how it brings to life the fresh scent of pine (Pinus sylvestris; Pinus strobus L.). You can literally spray it on your Christmas tree or keep a bottle in the bathroom to freshen the air when needed.

Christmas Tree Room Spray

Yields: 5 ounces

[recipe_ingredients]

3 ounces distilled water
2 ounces vodka
12 drops of pine essential oil (Pinus sylvestris)
1 fine mist five-ounce spray bottle

[/recipe_ingredients][recipe_directions]

  • Using a funnel, pour water and vodka into a spray bottle.
  • Remove the funnel and add 12 drops of pine essential oil into the bottle.
  • Close the lid and shake well to combine.

[/recipe_directions]

Note: Not for topical use!

#5 – Holiday Spice Potpourri

5 Ways to Make Your Home Smell Good for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Make your home smell good this holiday season without having a negative impact on your health. Here are 5 safe and natural ideas to get you started!

What I love most about potpourri is that it not only creates a lovely aroma, but it’s also visually pleasing. Making potpourri is a great excuse to go foraging for acorns, pine cones, and berries. (For an autumn inspired potpourri, why not bring home brightly colored leaves?) You can even customize your potpourri to match your home decor, current season, or holiday you’re celebrating.

Holiday Spice Potpourri

[recipe_ingredients]

5 whole nutmeg
6 cinnamon sticks
3 dried apple slices
3 dried orange slices
1 tablespoon whole cloves
3 bay leaves
2 pine cones
5 star anise pods
4 drops sweet orange essential oil (Citrus sinensis)
6 drops of cinnamon leaf essential oil (Cinnamomum verum)
4 drops of nutmeg essential oil (Myristica fragrans)
6 drops of clove bud essential oil (Syzygium aromaticum)

[/recipe_ingredients][recipe_directions]

  • In a metal or glass bowl, combine all spices, fruit slices, and pine cones. Carefully mix together.
  • Add essential oil drops and scoop into a bowl or two for display. You can even package your Holiday Spice Potpourri in small linen bags to gift for the holidays.

[/recipe_directions]

Whether you are opening your home to guests for the holidays or wanting to bring the joy and warmth of the season to light, these five methods to make your home smell good for the holidays will not only make a great impact on your guests but a good impact on your health as well. Start with a quick carpet refresher, then create one-of-a-kind citrus diffusers, candles, and more to make your home smell good all season long.

5 Ways to Make Your Home Smell Good for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Make your home smell good this holiday season without having a negative impact on your health. Here are 5 safe and natural ideas to get you started!

REFERENCES

Environmental Working Group. (n.d.). Fragrance: Health concerns of the ingredient. [Online Article]. Retrieved from https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/702512/FRAGRANCE/#

Powers, J. (2007). Common air fresheners contain chemicals that may affect human reproductive development. New York, NY: Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Stuart, A. (2016). Go lo tox. Available from https://www.lowtoxlife.com/

How to Create a Simmering Herbal Potpourri

How to Create a Simmering Herbal Potpourri | Herbal Academy | Banish every day odors throughout your home without causing health hazards with this simmering herbal potpourri recipe, perfect for the holidays too!

Does your home ever get that stale feeling? Does it smell like a cast iron skillet or a dusty antique store?

Let’s be honest — odors happen!

If the weather isn’t ideal for opening the windows, then you may be looking for some help to freshen the air in your home! So, where do most of us turn for help? Room sprays.

In case you haven’t heard, the Environmental Working Group rates the average room freshener at a range of D to F for significant hazards to health and the environment (Amerelo & Geller, 2018).

The good news is that you can make your own natural room spray to freshen up a space. However, room sprays are best used for a quick fix, such as a spritz or two to deodorize the kitchen or bathroom, and just like most quick fixes, the results aren’t long-lasting.

Instead, you may be searching for a solution that cuts through nearly any and all odors with lasting results. One option is to make a simmering herbal potpourri to help banish odors throughout your home without causing health hazards.

How to Create a Simmering Herbal Potpourri | Herbal Academy | Banish every day odors throughout your home without causing health hazards with this simmering herbal potpourri recipe, perfect for the holidays too!

What Is A Simmering Herbal Potpourri?

A simmering herbal potpourri is basically an herbal potpourri mix of dry ingredients that you boil in water. Unlike chemical fragrances that mimic the real deal, the aroma of an herbal potpourri will last throughout the day and even after you’ve stopped simmering.  

Is It Safe To Boil Potpourri?

Boiling potpourri is safe, as long you as follow a few guidelines.

  • First, choose a large pot to simmer your herbal potpourri in.
  • Next, be careful not to overfill the pot with ingredients or water.
  • Keep an eye or an ear on the herbal potpourri while it simmers, being sure to not let the water get too low.  

What Do You Need To Make A Simmering Herbal Potpourri?

While having fresh herbs within reach to use in your recipes is ideal, I know from experience that not all herbs do well indoors during the winter months. Fortunately, dried herbs can be just as potent when it comes to aroma! Here’s list of aromatic herbs perfect for simmering herbal potpourri grouped by scent.

How to Create a Simmering Herbal Potpourri | Herbal Academy | Banish every day odors throughout your home without causing health hazards with this simmering herbal potpourri recipe, perfect for the holidays too!

Culinary Herbs:

This group of herbs is full of familiar scents. They are often grown for culinary purposes, and I’m sure you have enjoyed many of them in flavorful dishes.  You’ll find minty, citrus, and even candy-like scents, all of which are wonderful in herbal potpourri. If you have a culinary garden, you’ve just found a new way to use the herbs growing in it!

  • Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
  • Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
  • Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
  • Sage (Salvia officinalis)
  • Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

How to Create a Simmering Herbal Potpourri | Herbal Academy | Banish every day odors throughout your home without causing health hazards with this simmering herbal potpourri recipe, perfect for the holidays too!

Woodland Herbs:

In this group, you’ll find herbs that remind us of a walk in the woods. Each will add a breath of fresh air and woodland scent to your simmering herbal potpourri recipes.

  • Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica)
  • White pine (Pinus strobus L.)
  • Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)
  • Juniper (Juniperus spp.)

How to Create a Simmering Herbal Potpourri | Herbal Academy | Banish every day odors throughout your home without causing health hazards with this simmering herbal potpourri recipe, perfect for the holidays too!

Floral Herbs:

These herbs are some of the most popular for soap making and perfumes, and I can see why — each have a unique, incredibly soothing floral scent.

  • Lavender (Lavandula spp.)
  • Rose (Rosa spp.)
  • Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
  • German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
  • Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia)

How to Create a Simmering Herbal Potpourri | Herbal Academy | Banish every day odors throughout your home without causing health hazards with this simmering herbal potpourri recipe, perfect for the holidays too!

Spicy Herbs:

In the cooler months of the year, I crave spicy herbal aromas. Cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and cardamom have my name written all over them! Who doesn’t want to add a little spice to their life? Try a spicy herb or two in your simmering herbal potpourri.

  • Cinnamon sticks (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
  • Whole nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)
  • Cardamom seeds (Elettaria cardamomum)
  • Ginger root (Zingiber officinale)
  • Star anise (Illicium verum)
  • Whole cloves (Syzygium aromaticum)
  • Vanilla beans (Vanilla planifolia)
  • Coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.)

How to Create a Simmering Herbal Potpourri | Herbal Academy | Banish every day odors throughout your home without causing health hazards with this simmering herbal potpourri recipe, perfect for the holidays too!

Fruits

Many of us share a love of citrus, and a simmering herbal potpourri is a great way to enjoy your favorites. You can simply toss the peeled rinds into a pot after enjoying the fruit or can dry fruit slices in a food dehydrator to store in a dry potpourri mix. You can also dry fruit slices in the oven if you don’t have a dehydrator.  Here’s a quick list of aromatic fruits to use in simmering herbal potpourri:

  • Orange
  • Grapefruit
  • Lime
  • Apple
  • Lemon
  • Pear
  • Pomegranate

How to Make a Simmering Herbal Potpourri

When making a simmering herbal potpourri, keep in mind that ingredients and their amounts can vary. Each blend may be used as a new aroma to remove odors from the home or simply to enjoy on a rainy day. You’ll want to keep your dry ingredients at one to two cups total, allowing room in the stock pot for water and to reduce the risk of boiling over.

Here’s an example of a simmering herbal potpourri recipe I love to make.

Simmering Herbal Potpourri

[recipe_ingredients]

1 lemon, sliced
1 apple, sliced
2 cinnamon sticks  
3 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon lavender
4 cups water

[/recipe_ingredients][recipe_directions]

  • Gather your ingredients, slice or peel fruits, and tear or rub the leaves of culinary herbs to release their fragrance.
  • Place each item into a medium stock pot and pour in four cups of water. Bring the herbal potpourri to boil.
  • Boil two to three minutes, then reduce to a low simmer.
  • Simmer for up to four hours, while adding an additional half a cup of water every half hour as needed to avoid burning the ingredients.

[/recipe_directions]

Creating a simmering herbal potpourri is not only purposeful, it is a beautiful experience. Foraging for woodland herbs, hand picking culinary herbs, slicing fresh fruits, and gathering whole spices is a rewarding adventure, and the result is an aromatic infusion of ingredients made just for you!

How to Create a Simmering Herbal Potpourri | Herbal Academy | Banish every day odors throughout your home without causing health hazards with this simmering herbal potpourri recipe, perfect for the holidays too!REFERENCES

(Amerelo, M. and Geller, S.). (2018). Chemicals in everyday products rival cars as source of air pollution. [Online Article]. Retrieved from https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2018/02/chemicals-everyday-products-rival-cars-source-air-pollution

Thoughts On Celebrating Earth Day As An Herbalist

April is one of our most exciting months of the year as two of our favorite holidays occur this month — Herbalist Day on the 17th, and Earth Day on the 22nd.

The month of April is a fantastic time for an Earth Day celebration as it marks the beginning of the growing seasons (here in the Northeast) and infuses our excitement with an intention to re-commit ourselves to connect with the Earth and act as its stewards.

As herbalists (or for those on an Herbal Path), we have no short supply of reverence for the natural world. One way we can show our thankfulness is by freely sharing our knowledge and enthusiasm with others in an effort to broaden the appreciation and protection of our wonderful wild spaces and the plants within them. Other approaches to reconnection and stewardship include reducing any wastefulness in our daily life, getting back outside, studying our favorite plants as they first emerge in spring, and finding new ways to connect to the green friends we are so grateful for.

In an effort to share our excitement around Earth Day, we have a downloadable graphic for you today (two of them, in fact)! Feel free to print this to hang on a wall or put in a notebook as a way to remind you that we are one with the Earth and to show appreciation for all that ways in which it supports us.

Celebrating Earth Day poster white

DOWNLOAD

Thoughts On Celebrating Earth Day As An Herbalist | Herbal Academy | Celebrate Earth Day with us! Plus, get a free Earth Day graphic download, too!

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Develop A Closer Relationship With Plants in our Botany & Wildcrafting Course

Our Botany & Wildcrafting Course will give you the chance to start a close and careful relationship with plants around you by studying their common structures and patterns. This deeper dimension of study gives us another way to speak the language within the plant world and also encourages us to get back outside to meet these plants where they grow. With knowledge of just a few patterns and structures under our belts, finding them out in the world can foster a new sense of comprehension and delight. However you choose to take part in the celebrations this month, we encourage you to share these experiences with others and direct your focus towards gratitude for the myriad ways in which the Earth sustains us.

Botany and Wildcrafting Course – plant identification

Things we are loving about the Botany & Wildcrafting Course:

  1. Learning about the complexity of these plant structures develops our appreciation for the ways plants nourish, protect, and reproduce themselves, and encourages us to protect their habitats.
  2. Taking plant walks to find and study plants in their habitat gets us out into nature, deepening our connection to wild spaces.
  3. Connecting the dots between related plants and their families reminds us of the interconnection of all species, and of the evolution and the ecosystems that sparked their development.
  4. Noticing patterns gives us a language to decode the natural world around us.
  5. Understanding this hidden language gives a sense of place and participation in the natural world, rather than as an observer or visitor to it.
  6. Understanding the properties and purpose of even the most common plants (often classified as weeds), we begin to see the value and potential of all plants throughout the ecosystem as well as our role in stewarding them.

Learn more about our newest Botany & Wildcrafting Course here.

8 DIY Herbal Face Mask Recipes for Holiday Gift Giving

8 DIY Herbal Face Mask Recipes for Holiday Gift Giving | Herbal Academy | Looking for gift ideas for this holiday season? Check out these 8 DIY herbal face mask recipes that friends and family are sure to love!

The holiday season is fast approaching, and with it the desire to create unique and beautiful gifts for loved ones. If you’re a budding herbalist, combining your herbal passion with holiday gift giving is a great way to make recipients feel special while sharing the gifts of herbs at the same time. Creating herbal products that are good for the skin is one way to do just that! This holiday season, why not gift an herbal face mask to loved ones so they can treat themselves to self-care during the busiest season of the year? An herbal face mask can be a memorable and decadent gift.

8 DIY Herbal Face Mask Recipes for Holiday Gift Giving | Herbal Academy | Looking for gift ideas for this holiday season? Check out these 8 DIY herbal face mask recipes that friends and family are sure to love!

8 DIY Herbal Face Mask Recipes for Holiday Gift Giving

The dry portion of these masks can be premixed, packaged up in a pretty jar for gift giving. Include information about the mask and instructions for how to prepare and use!

1. Anti-Acne Three-Herb Clay Mask

This herbal face mask includes a teaspoon each of arnica, calendula, and white willow bark. The willow bark contains salicin that offers up anti-inflammatory properties, and arnica and calendula are soothing and gentle herbs that combat stubborn acne.

Grind the herbs in a coffee grinder until powdered. Sift the powder using a fine mesh sieve, and add a teaspoon each of bentonite clay and French green clay with two teaspoons of zinc oxide. A little aloe vera juice adds hydration or use water instead. Apply to skin and let the mask dry, then rinse off with warm water. Argan oil is a nice moisturizer after the mask.

Get the complete recipe over at Humblebee & Me!

2. Thyme & More for Me Mask

Know anyone who needs more “me time?” Using a face mask requires a little break from business-as-usual! Thyme, lavender, and rosemary combine for this invigorating mask with antimicrobial and astringent properties.

Mix ¼ cup oatmeal with a tablespoon each of dried lavender leaves, rosemary leaves, and thyme leaves in a food processor. Add a small amount of fresh aloe vera gel. Seal the paste in an airtight container.

To use, mix the mask powder with enough water to moisten to a spreadable consistency, apply to face (avoiding eye area), and leave on for 15 minutes for a soothing and invigorating self-care ritual.

Get the complete recipe over at Mind Body Green!

8 DIY Herbal Face Mask Recipes for Holiday Gift Giving | Herbal Academy | Looking for gift ideas for this holiday season? Check out these 8 DIY herbal face mask recipes that friends and family are sure to love!

3. Glow! Honey & Lemon Mask

Who fills the room with light when they enter? Your loved one deserves a honey and lemon mask that will treat them to glowing skin during the holidays.

This natural Ayurvedic herbal face mask has moisturizing and antioxidant properties. Mix a tablespoon of local honey with a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice and apply to face, avoiding eye area. Wash away after 15 minutes for glowing skin.

Get the full recipe in this UMA Oils blog post!

4. Hydrating Goddess Mask

You swear your sister is a living goddess, and you want her to treat herself like one. This is a mask you can do with her, perhaps before you pamper her with freshly brewed cup of tea and a pedicure! Whisk together two tablespoons of regular thick yogurt, honey, and a few drops of olive or coconut oil to make a creamy herbal face mask to replenish dry skin. Apply and let sit for 15 minutes, then rinse off with warm water.

Get the complete recipe over at Rodale’s Organic Life!

5. Golden Cream Mask

Know someone who has issues with acne or inflammation? This golden cream herbal face mask offers up a royal treatment centered around turmeric, yogurt, and honey.

Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory filled with antioxidants, while yogurt hydrates the skin. Honey provides nourishment and tones pores. Mix a tablespoon of turmeric with a tablespoon of honey. Then, add yogurt until a paste forms. Apply and let sit for 15 minutes, then rinse off with warm water.

Get the full recipe in this Tea Garden blog post!

6. Skin Detox Mask

8 DIY Herbal Face Mask Recipes for Holiday Gift Giving | Herbal Academy | Looking for gift ideas for this holiday season? Check out these 8 DIY herbal face mask recipes that friends and family are sure to love!

Have a shy friend who wants clearer skin and could use a stress-free detox? Make a skin detox herbal face mask by combining witch hazel, whole milk yogurt, turmeric, and activated charcoal. This mask buffs off the toxins and dead skin, especially in the dry winter. The activated charcoal absorbs toxins, while the yogurt hydrates and the turmeric gives a healthy glow and provides antioxidants to the skin. Witch hazel is an affordable, natural toner with astringent properties, that can reduce skin puffiness and lighten skin proteins (Top 10 uses, n.d.). Over application of witch hazel alone can make the skin very dry, but the yogurt will balance out the drying, detoxing ingredients.

You need a ½ teaspoon of each ingredient for one mask. Mix the activated charcoal, turmeric, and yogurt first, before slowly adding in the witch hazel. Apply and let sit for 15 minutes, then rinse off with warm water.

Get the complete recipe over at Scratch Mommy!

7. Lemon and Light Mask

Is your mom sensitive about dark spots or old scars? This lemony mask will help soothe skin and lighten spots.

Combine two tablespoons of raw honey with ½ tablespoon of lemon juice. Apply to skin and leave on for at least 20 minutes so the lemon juice can exfoliate the skin. The honey will moisturize and soothe skin as well. To remove, rinse with warm water.

Get the complete recipe on Living The Nourished Life!

8. Nutmeg Exfoliating Mask

Nutmeg is more than as a spice in holiday pie and cookies—it also has calming antibacterial properties best for sensitive skin and is a gentle exfoliant.

Make a nutmeg face mask by combining 1/2 tablespoon of ground nutmeg with a tablespoon of whole milk. Apply to skin and leave on for up to 10 minutes to soothe healing and sensitive skin before rinsing with warm water.

Get the complete recipe on New Beauty!

These recipes may be whipped up on the spot for an impromptu spa treatment or pre-package the dry portion and offer that as gifts; the wet ones need to be used immediately. Increase the ingredients ratio for a bigger size and surprise. A few drops of vitamin E oil can also provide additional antioxidants to the recipes as well.

During the holidays, surprise a loved one with a gift for self-care. Handmade herbal face masks make for a sweet gift that will make the recipient glow!

8 DIY Herbal Face Mask Recipes for Holiday Gift Giving | Herbal Academy | Looking for gift ideas for this holiday season? Check out these 8 DIY herbal face mask recipes that friends and family are sure to love!

REFERENCES

Top 10 uses for witch hazel. (n.d.). [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.drweil.com/vitamins-supplements-herbs/supplements-remedies/top-10-uses-for-witch-hazel/

The Medicinal Mistletoe

Mistletoe, Viscum Album

The familiar, white-berried token of the winter holiday season, mistletoe, is a parasitic plant that grows on the branches of several species of trees. Mistletoe burrows roots into the inner wood of trees and feeds from their sap, and a heavy infestation with mistletoe can kill branches of the host plant or even the entire host. Mistletoe seeds are mainly spread by bird droppings. Thirty or more species of mistletoe can be found worldwide, and Phoradendron favescence is the North American variety. However, it is the European mistletoe, Viscum album, that is the variety that herbalists have treasured for centuries.

Continue reading “The Medicinal Mistletoe”

5 Natural Ways to Relieve Stress During the Holiday Season

Thanksgiving is over and we are now officially in the middle of the holiday season. With the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, work, family, and keeping the whole family healthy through the cold and flu season, stress can really take a toll on our bodies. Without proper relief, stress can build up until it starts affecting everything from your immune system, to how much sleep you get.

Continue reading “5 Natural Ways to Relieve Stress During the Holiday Season”

Your Solution to the Winter Blues

With the coming of winter, many things will change. The days will be shorter, and the weather will be colder. But perhaps most significantly, the coming months can lead to much darker feelings.

This is to be expected, as whether or not we’re one of the approximately 20% of Americans who suffer from some form of seasonal affective disorder, it can be difficult to manage the emotions that come up when we take stock of our year, our achievements, and our life as a whole. And it can be particularly difficult to assess the state of our relationships.

Continue reading “Your Solution to the Winter Blues”