Finding Peace in the Garden

By Karen Kennedy
HSA Education Coordinator

LemonBalmClose200911The lazy days of summer quickly transition to the more scheduled and hurried days of autumn. While glorious hues are found in changing leaf color and late season blooms like goldenrod and Joe-Pye weed, the pace of our world undeniably quickens during this season. Add the additional stress and worry about the Covid-19 pandemic and the message is clear–take time to personally cultivate peace and manage stress.

Research by environmental psychologists like Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, as well as landscape architects like Clare Cooper Marcus and Naomi Sachs and others, points to the overall positive impact of plant-rich environments and contact with nature on reducing mental fatigue and increasing feelings of restoration, recovery from stress, and improved mood (Haller, Kennedy and Capra, 2019).

Gardeners, without knowledge of the research, often say they find peace and solace in the garden. The act of gardening, tending plants, and focusing on their care and growth, is a peaceful and mentally renewing activity for the gardener. Does fragrance have a role in the enjoyment and satisfaction of gardening? 

Passionflowerincarnata2019.2NervinesSedativesOne of the most enjoyable aspects of the garden is fragrance. The sense of smell is closely tied to our limbic system and can have a powerful impact on feelings of well-being. The fragrance of herbs such as lavender has a well-known association with relaxation and stress relief. Lavender also has a long history of having skin soothing properties, is a sleep aid, and can even relieve headaches. This favorite garden herb is now easily found in all sorts of self-care products from shampoo to body lotions. 

To have a bit of lavender to carry beyond the garden, see below for directions on how to make a roll-on lavender oil blend. This portable project is a wonderful treat to add to a self-care strategy and quite literally, add to one’s tool bag (purse, backpack or pocket)! Especially as we all grow weary of wearing a mask for many hours, putting some on the edge of your mask or on the bridge of your nose will give access to the fragrance where it is needed the most.

Author and HSA member Janice Cox, in her workbook Beautiful Lavender, A Guide and Workbook for Growing, Using, and Enjoying Lavender, shares the following recipe for making roll-on lavender scented oils. 

To make one Roll-on Lavender Bottle:

1 to 2 teaspoons almond, jojoba, argan, avocado, olive, or grapeseed oil

¼ teaspoon dried lavender buds

1 to 2 drops lavender essential oil

1-ounce glass roller bottle

Add dried herbs to the bottle. Top with oils and secure the top.

To use, roll a small amount behind your ears, on your wrists, temples or even on the edge of your face mask. Inhale and let the lavender aroma soothe your spirit.IMG_0584

Experiment with other herb combinations such as:

  •     Relaxing blend – lavender, chamomile, and cinnamon
  •     Energizing blend – lavender, dried citrus peel, and mint
  •     Refreshing blend – lavender, eucalyptus, and cedar

Note: use only dried plants when making scented oils. Adding a couple drops of vitamin E oil will act as a natural preservative, making the oil blends last longer.

Herbalist Maria Noel Groves of Wintergreen Botanicals Herbal Clinic and Education Center has additional information on making infused oils in her blog. You can read more about a variety of methods there: https://wintergreenbotanicals.com/2019/08/28/diy-herb-infused-oils-2/

MariaGardenCalendulaWithLogoAndBooksMaria will share other aspects of using peaceful herbs in The Herb Society’s upcoming webinar: Growing & Using Peaceful Herbs. She will talk about growing herbs that promote sleep, boost mood, quell anxiety, and encourage calm energy. She will discuss growing herbs in any size garden. The webinar will take place September 23rd at 1pm EDT.  Our webinars are free to The Herb Society of America members and $5.00 for guests. Become a member today, and enjoy all of our webinars for free along with access to the webinar library with over fifty program titles. To register, visit  www.HerbSociety.org/hsa-learn/hsa-webinars/.

Photo Credits: 1) Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) (Maria Noel Groves); 2) Passionflower and garden bouquet (Maria Noel Groves); 3) Essential oil roll-ons (Janice Cox); 4) Maria Noel Groves (Maria Noel Groves)

Medicinal Disclaimer: It is the policy of The Herb Society of America, Inc. not to advise or recommend herbs for medicinal or health use. This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a recommendation or an endorsement of any particular medical or health treatment. Please consult a health care provider before pursuing any herbal treatments.

References

Haller, R. L., and K. L. Kennedy, C. L. Capra. 2019. The profession and practice of horticultural therapy. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.


Karen Kennedy has been the Education Coordinator for The Herb Society of America since 2012. In this position she coordinates and moderates monthly educational webinars, gives presentations, manages digital education programs and produces educational materials such as the Herb of the Month program,  https://www.herbsociety.org/hsa-learn/herb-of-the-month.html. In addition, she is a registered horticultural therapist (HT) with over 30 years of HT and wellness programming experience in health care, social service organizations, and public gardens. Karen loves to garden, knit, drink tea, and is a big fan of her daughter’s soccer team. She lives in Concord Township, near Cleveland, OH, with her husband, daughter and schnoodle, Jaxson.

Herbal Aromatherapy Encourages Sleep

Herbal Aromatherapy Encourages Sleep

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

Falling-Rock_Serenity-Room_Nemacolin-Woodlands-Resort (6)
Sleep is a pillar of good health and at least one-third of Americans are getting less than they need. That might result in higher health care costs and lower quality of life. Herbs and essential oils can play a role in the solution.

“When you look at recent research, sleep deprivation can really have some damaging effects on our long-term health,” says Katlyn Hatcher, director of spa and wellness at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. “It affects mood, relationships, work functioning. It can affect your mental health and increase your risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia, Long-term studies have even shown that consistent lack of sleep can drop your metabolism up to 40 percent.”

Woodlands Spa - ExteriorTo help people manage sleep-related issues and improve their health, experts at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, just outside Pittsburgh, are pioneering a Sleep Revolution Retreat. Guests sign up for immersive two- or four-night packages that include exercise, yoga, meditation, relaxation treatments, journaling and essential oils. The workshops are conducted at the five-star Falling Rock boutique hotel that’s part of the Nemacolin complex.

“One thing that blew me away is that, in 2015, Americans spent $41 billion on sleeping pills and sleeping aids,” says Katlyn. “People want better sleep, but may not have the tools.”

Among the many tools she offers is aromatherapy, using herbal essential oils to encourage healthy sleep. She says

  • Lavender is calming to the nervous system. It lowers blood pressure and heart rate. It can be rubbed on pressure points like the wrist and neck or used in a diffuser in the bedroom.
  • Citrus aromas like lemon and bergamot relieve tension and anxiety. At the resort’s spa technicians use lotions with a bergamot scent to finish treatments.
  • Clary sage helps with relaxation and some research suggests it has an antidepressant benefit.

 

Nemacolin-Woodlands-Resort-relaxationThe spa has a local vendor custom blend essential oils with carrier oils for their use.  Proprietary blends of essential oils are mixed with two-thirds fragmented coconut oil and one-third grape seed for massage oil. “If you want to make your own massage oil, you can add more or less to your liking,” Katlyn advises. “It’s a great thing to incorporate at home. Rub it onto your hands, hover hands over your face and do three deep inhalations.”

Of course, herbal teas have a place in sleep preparation as well. “I think the act of making and sipping tea can be a meditation and very relaxing,” sh says. “Herbal tea can be great for your routine. Jasmine tea has a sweet aroma. Chamomile is great for calming as well.”

“Aromatherapy is great,” she says, “but, you do have to be careful. I don’t recommend ingesting essential oils.”