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End-of-Day Herbs

In addition to supporting health and enlivening celebrations, herbs can enhance our everyday rituals. Take bedtime, for instance.

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Bedtime Bath

Baths rejuvenate or soothe, stimulate or relax; it all depends on the herbs (and the temperature) you choose. At bedtime, of course, you’ll want to select comforting, relaxing herbs and warm water. (Water that’s close to body temperature is thought to be more relaxing than very hot water.) Spend some time creating the right atmosphere, too—use candlelight and music (or opt for blessed silence, if it’s been a noisy day), put a bath pillow or your favorite, fluffiest towel behind your head and your cozy bathrobe within easy reach. And don’t underestimate the power of an herbal bath to help even the rowdiest toddler to unwind.

Simple Ways to Use Herbs in your Bath:

  • Make an herbal infusion (which is basically a strong tea), using a handful of herbs and a quart of boiling water. Let it steep for half an hour to an hour, then strain and add to the drawn bath.
  • Soak a handful of herbs in a quart of warm milk for several hours. Strain and add the milk to the drawn bath.
  • Place herbs in a muslin bag or tea strainer. Then place the bag or strainer under the water as you run your bath. When the bath is drawn, place the bag or strainer in the tub. You might also place a bar of castile soap in the bag and use the bag for washing up.
  • To make your bath more emollient (skin softening), add almond meal or skim milk powder. Or soak finely ground oatmeal or barley in warm water, strain, and add the water to your herbal bath.

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Sleep Pillow

Tuck yourself or a little loved one in with a soft array of herbs, and the scent will envelop and lull during sleep. To make a sleep pillow, simply combine handfuls of your favorite relaxing herbs with a powdered fixative, like orris root or ground lemon peel, and place in a covered glass jar or container for a few weeks (to meld and set the scent). Make a small pillowcase, leaving one side open. Put some thought into the fabric you use—fun flannel for a tyke, fancy batik for a teen, homey ticking fabric for a cottage dweller, or sensuous velvet or silk for yourself or a partner. For added softness, wrap the herbs in a bit of cotton batting before adding them to your pillowcase. After stuffing the pillowcase, simply sew up the open end. (If you like, you can first place the herbs in a muslin case and then make another, outer cover, which can be removed and washed.)

Good choices for herbal pillows include:

Angelica
Chamomile
Hops
Jasmine
Lavender
Lemon Balm
Lemon verbena
Marjoram
Rose Petals
Rosemary

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Relaxing Evening Spray

Scenting your bedroom with a relaxing aroma is a wonderful way to make the transition to sleep. Lavender is a favorite for room or linen spritzers, but try other aromas, too, like lemon verbena, jasmine, or rose, for example. To make your own spray, simply steep about a tablespoon of herbs in one cup of boiling water for 15 to 30 minutes, then strain through a fine strainer or cheesecloth. Once cooled, place in a spray bottle and store in the refrigerator. Spritz your bedroom just before it’s time to turn in. To scent your linens, squirt your spray on your sheets and pillowcases before you put them in the dryer, or make your own dryer sheet with a small, clean cloth that’s been soaked in the spray and then tossed in the dryer with the linens.

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Herbal Nightcap

Make a cup of herbal tea part of your evening ritual, perhaps right after bath time or while sharing a bedtime story with your little ones. Experiment making teas with herbs— individually and in blends—that are known for their relaxing affects.

Likely to lull you:

Catnip
Chamomile
Dandelion
Hops *
Lavender
Lemon Balm
Red Clover *
Sage
Scullcap
Saint John's Wort
Valerian

* Don’t drink during pregnancy.

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Ask the Experts

Can I make my own herbal body powder?

Sure, easily. Start with a base like arrowroot, cornstarch, or fuller’s earth. (You may even want to try sifted rice flour, which was used for body and face powder for centuries.) Add herbs that you’ve pulverized with a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder— lavender or rose petals for example—and a bit of orris root to fix or hold the scent. (Use about equal parts base and herbs.) Store your powder where it won’t get damp, in a covered container.

How long will homemade herbal products keep?

Herbal cosmetic or body care products won’t last as long as those you’ll find in the store, because they don’t contain ingredients to preserve them. Some products will last in the refrigerator for weeks, but if the recipe doesn’t specify, you’ll want to replace homemade items made with herbs (or any food products) after a few days or so. And don’t forget, when you’re making herbal body care products, to be sure to use perfectly clean, non-aluminum utensils and containers.

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