Using herbs and spices to clean the air, disinfect rooms, improve moods and boost health has been a tradition for centuries.
Scent is the sense most closely linked to memory. An unexpected whiff of a familiar aroma can whisk us back to our childhoods. The effect is immediate and at times, overwhelming. The right scents can boost our moods, invoke a cozy atmosphere and create a welcoming space for family and friends.
Guests are greeted into our home and outdoor rooms not only by the visual and spatial cues but by the room’s scent. We always want our unique “house smell” to be pleasant and welcoming, but achieving just the right balance of fresh air and aroma can be difficult. Candles, spray fresheners and oil atomizers are popular scent-makers but can sometimes give off an overwhelming aroma. Some homeowners are also sensitive to the chemicals in the synthetic oils and manufactured perfumes released from these methods.
A herbalist’s approach to adding scents is to stick with an organic formula: use all-natural ingredients, water and heat. Many ingredients can be found in our own backyards and gardens, even in the wintertime. Get outdoors to gather ingredients like juniper berries, pine needles, tree bark and more. A visit to an herbalist store, a flower shop or a natural foods market can fill in the gaps. Many potpourri ingredients can be found at the neighborhood grocery store.
A popular winter simmer pot is a stovetop potpourri that makes use of the Christmas tree trimmings that may still be lingering around the house. Combine the evergreen trimmings with oranges and cloves and boil the mix in a pot of water. Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer and let simmer for as long as you prefer (make sure there is always water in the pot). An alternative to the stovetop method is to use a slow cooker with the lid off. A small, dedicated slow cooker is best, as aromas plant oils can cook into the ceramic, overwhelming food dishes prepared in it. An outdoor pot can be simmered on above a fire pit or even on a grill, but a dedicated slow cooker is an easy way to add scents to the patio.
Search on “natural winter simmer pot” for potpourri ideas. A typical list of ingredients contains oranges, cloves, cinnamon sticks, apples, coffee beans, 4-star anise, cardamom pops, allspice berries, and ginger.
Experimenting with different flowers, leaves, herbs and spices can be a fun family project. Perhaps you can find a “signature scent” for your home with each season having its own variation. Let nature be your guide and get to creating your own memories with unique blends of potpourri.