As I get older, I want simpler, and the medicine chest is no exception. You may recall me also admitting that I want a more tactile life, and one of the ways I’ve started to accomplish that is to amp up the type of DIY I do. One of the problems I really suffer from on a regular basis is insomnia and poor sleep patterns. I’ve tried all of the conventional solutions, including over-the-counter sleep aids and even prescription sleeping pills. While the sleeping pills were effective, the side effects were awful. Oftentimes conventional drugs have side effects that are worse than the issue they’re trying to cure. Don’t get me wrong – they have appropriate uses, and there’s certainly a time and place to use them. But my point is, they don’t have to be the only option.
So I’ve started to explore the use of essential oils to supplement my sleep routine, which includes trying to go to bed at the same hour evening, and at a time which allows me to (hopefully) get a minimum of seven hours a sleep. For me, eight to nine hours is even better, but I have to get up before the crack of dawn to leave for work and I just can’t go to bed an hour after I get home at night – I’m sure you’re just as familiar with compromises that affect a good sleep routine. But with a minimum of seven hours sleep, limiting screen time at least an hour before bed, and trying to cut off caffeine by mid-afternoon I can get to a state that’s functional.
It’s getting that seven hours which is the trick. As it turns out, lavender can be a fantastic sleep aid. Lavender is soothing and relaxing. I like to use lavender as triple threat before bedtime – as a lavender salve on my hands and the pulse points on my wrists, as an oil roll-on on my temples, and heat diffused into the air in my bedroom.
Naturally, you can make all three yourself with easily obtainable ingredients. For the salve, you’ll need the following –
1 cup carrier oil (I really like grapeseed oil, but olive, jojoba or almond would all be suitable)
¼ cup beeswax pellets/granules (I really recommend these over grating your own from bars because it’s a terrible mess to clean out of a grater, but you could certainly grate your own)
10-20 drops lavender essential oil
½ cup dried lavender flowers (optional)
1 or 2 quart mason jars
Bamboo skewer or wooden chopstick
Cheesecloth or a loose-weave muslin
2 4 ounce jelly jars (or other small glass or metal containers, to hold your finished salve – try to avoid plastic)
You’ll notice I listed the lavender flowers as optional above. You can make a perfectly good salve with just the essential oil, but if you infuse your carrier oil with flowers as well, your salve with pack a double punch, so I recommend it. To make the infused oil, put your carrier oil in one of the mason jars along with the lavender flowers. Place the mason jar in your saucepan, with a few inches of water in the saucepan, in order to create a double boiler. Heat up the oil until the water in the pan is simmering, and let it heat up for a few minutes. At this point you’ve got a few options – you can proceed with the recipe if you’re the instant gratification type, or you can let your oil continue to infuse for a period of time. The longer it infuses, the more potent it will be. You can even skip the simmering step by just placing the jar in a sunny window for a few days or a week if you want. If you do that, just make sure all of lavender flowers stay fully submerged in the oil so they don’t go moldy.
Once your infused oil is the way you want it, use the cheesecloth and strain the oil into a clean mason jar. Discard the flowers. Now you can proceed with actually creating your salve. Add the beeswax to your carrier oil, and put the mason jar back into your saucepan with a few inches of water. Bring the water to a simmer, and stir the oil periodically with the skewer until all of the beeswax has melted. Once it’s fully melted, take the jar out of the pan and off the heat. Stir in the essential oil, and pour into your storage containers. I love the four once jelly jars by Ball – two of them hold the entire recipe, so it’s perfect for making one for yourself and one for a friend, and the jar is just the right size to sit on a bedside table. And they’re cute too!
Try not to disturb the jars while the salves are setting up – I like to place the jars on a small towel in an out of the way spot on the counter so they can firm up undisturbed. They were fully solid in about a half hour of being poured, so this was a really quick activity. They should keep for up to a year at room temperature – just make sure you only dip into the jar with clean hands to prevent anything unwanted from getting into the salve and spoiling it.
Lavender roll on oils are also great, and they’re perfect to keep in your bag so you can have relief on the go – not only is lavender good as a sleep aid, it can also be really effective with stress relief and as a headache remedy. The best part about the roll on is that no double boiler is needed – just your ingredients and a roll on container. You’ll probably have to order them online – I don’t recall ever seeing them at craft stores in my area. But you can get a dozen at a reasonable price and then you have plenty of bottles on hand to make all kinds of essential oil roll ons for your DIY medicine chest. But to start with, you’ll need a roll on bottle, lavender essential oil and a carrier oil. Since I tend to use this one on my temples, I wanted a carrier oil that did not feel or look greasy, and almond oil seems to be a good choice for that. Jojoba would also be a decent choice, followed by grapeseed. I’d probably avoid olive oil for an application like this, as it feels extra greasy to me, and has a strong aroma of its own that may overwhelm the scent of the lavender. All you need to do is put 10-20 drops of the essential oil into the bottle, top up with your carrier oil, and give it a good shake with the lid on to evenly mix it. And then it’s ready to use! These will keep for at least a year as well.
The final trick up my sleeve for decent sleep is to heat infuse a little lavender essential oil in my bedroom. There are ton of diffusers on the market these days – desktop models with batteries, ones that plug into wall outlets, candle diffusers – but I don’t bother with any of those. Part of my relaxation routine before bed is to read for leisure, so I always have a small lamp on for 20-30 minutes before bed. I simply put a few – no more than two or three – drops of lavender essential oil directly onto the lightbulb. It gently infuses the room with a relaxing lavender scent, and I don’t have to worry about blowing out a candle or having another gadget plugged into precious wall outlet space.
I’m happy to report that the lavender does help. I do still have sleep issues (stress and chronic illness play a pretty big part in this for me as well) but the lavender has done a lot to help me get closer to a more balanced sleep routine so I can function better every day. So if you’re suffering from sleep issues as well, give these remedies a try – there’s a lot you can do with one little bottle of essential oil!