Arts & Crafts

Smells are Free!

Most of the time we take our sense of smell for granted; yet it is the one human sense which improves with use, and it can add so much pleasure to our lives.
What are your favourite smells?
My list would not necessarily be flowery.
My spirits are lifted by many different aromas, not all of them sweet or romantically associated: hot tar, frying bacon, old books, liquorice, new-baked bread, and seaweed, as well as the fresh smell of clean washing, taken off the line on a sunny day, or a breath of lavender on the summer breeze.

Sometimes, when I open the back door in February or March, I can smell SPRING......
On warm summer mornings I can smell Africa.....
I had a lovely safari holiday there with my daughter, and she can smell it too.
Smells trigger memories, and can cure a headache or calm a troubled mind.
I was delighted when I found that the Nursery in my local Primary School used essential oils in the classroom, with some success, to settle disturbed and autistic children.

What are essential oils?
Essential oils, also referred to as "essences", are botanical extracts of various plant materials, and do not only originate from flowers, but from herbs, trees and other plant material.
They are highly odoriferous, volatile (they evaporate when uncovered), and have therapeutic properties which can be used to promote health and well-being.
The use of essential oils has a long history: they have been used, over centuries, for their healing power.
They are extremely concentrated, and are found in tiny amounts in all aromatic plants.

The essences, in minute quantities, are used in diffusers and candles to scent a room, or in massage oils, cosmetic creams, shampoos and perfumes.
They are very strong, and must be diluted for use on the hair or skin.



I put this one first because it really does keep insects at bay.
Every traveller should keep a bottle of citronella in the hand luggage!
Citronella candles are a bonus at a summer barbecue, ensuring both sweet scent and an insect-free meal.
We are told to be careful with this oil when dealing with animals, particularly dogs; they have very sensitive noses and find citronella extremely powerful.
Add a drop or two to your bedroom drawers and keep them moth-free.

Attar of roses

This oil is distilled from rose petals; it becomes quite solid at cool temperatures.
It takes thirty individual roses to make one drop of rose oil.
Therefore, the real oil is incredibly expensive: there are many imitations, so be careful when you buy!
It really is worth its weight in gold....



This is probably the most familiar essential oil, and certainly one of the most popular.
It has been used in many ways:
In the treatment of burns, as it accelerates cell growth and repair.
As a sedative and analgesic.
Even as an antidote to black widow venom!
A drop on your pillow will help you to sleep and calm a headache.
It can be used for blisters, bruises, bites and stings.
A sweet, woody, summer smell......
Have you tried lavender shortbread? It is delicious!
You can buy it in the shop at Kew Gardens.



I have never lived in a house without rosemary in the garden.
It has been said that rosemary only grows well when the woman is head of the house, but I can assure you that this is not always true!
Rosemary is a Mediterranean coastal plant.
Its Latin name means "dew of the sea."
It is powerfully aromatic.
It has many uses;
Used in massage oil, it comforts muscle aches and pains, rheumatism and arthritis.
In shampoo, it adds lustre to hair and helps to clear dandruff and headlice.


This oil has many uses, and is gentler than peppermint for children.
It is used in cases of asthma, bronchitis and catarrh.
It is particularly good for digestive disorders including colic, flatulence and nausea and has value in treating headaches.
All around us, even in a big city, there are natural remedies for our ills, often free.


Many years ago, when I could walk and stand easily, I made my tiny front garden into a herb chessboard.

I alternated pink paving-slabs with squares of cream chippings into which I planted different herbs; rue, thyme, feverfew, tansy, chives, dill, mint, tarragon, sage, basil and chamomile.
It was so pretty, sweet-smelling, and very easy to keep neat.
When my father died in 1983, I took a cutting from the rosemary bush in his garden and now have a large, aged bush in the front garden.
It is thirty years old this year!
Although bent and showing signs of wear, it still flowers profusely for much of the year, and I pick an aromatic sprig on my way to church every Sunday.
I often see passers-by pick a flower-head and smile as they breathe in the scent.
Whenever she cooks lamb, one of my local friends takes a sprig or two....
What would our lives be, without plants?


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