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  1. The Spruce tree is a symbol of nobility, generosity and peace. Today I am making a herbal vinegar infusion with Norway Spruce 'Picea Abies'. I am lving in the UK where we have Norway Spruce trees growing abundantly in our woodlands. They are not Native to the Uk but were introduced to the UK from Scandanavia in the 16th century. Spruce trees are evergreen conifers, that means that their needles stay green all year around. It is February here in the UK, I find this time of year great for gathering fallen branches, the trees have been damaged in the high winds of a recent storm and are still fresh and alive. I like to gather and make my medicinal vinegars, before the needles completely dry out. If you squeeze a needle between your fingers you can smell the rich aromatic oil, this essential oil can be distilled and has many healing properties. It has a sharp balsamic aroma with fresh, fruity undertones. The needles are rich in anti-oxidants and bio active compounds. Spruce similar to pine has traditionally been used to treat respiratory ailments, inflammation and muscular aches. Great for pain management and clearing the airways. The best thing about Spruce for me is the monoterpenes present in the volatile oils counteract stress and have an elevating effect on your mood, how cool is that! I am very drawn to the Spruce tree, I think emotionally it evokes a feeling of grounding and strength. Energetically, the essential oil is recommended for states of physical and emotional exhaustion.

    It is the goodness of that oil that I want to extract into my vinegar and then use the vinegar medicinally. My favourite way to do this is to make a salad dressing once it has been infused, I will provide the recipe for this below.

  2. natural insect repellent recipeWe are coming up to the end of March here in the UK and after a long dark Winter the sun made an appearance here at the beginning of this week. Oh the joy, lets get out and tidy up the garden, sit and soak up some much needed warmth and light. It also quickly reminded me that in order to exist outdoors I urgently need to make some insect repellent! I am Irish and I have the typical Irish complexion which is fair and also an Irish blood type that attracts mosquitoes from far and wide, whilst others in my company usually get left alone. With that in mind and having travelled abroad in the past to very hot countries where the mosquitoes are no joke, I have lots of experience in defending myself naturally, and I refuse to use Deet. I have never been a fan of citronella, and some of the common insect repellent blends just smell so over powering, why would you want to cover yourself in a repellent that doesn't actually smell nice? You want to repel the insects not yourself after all. There are many essential oils which act as an insect repellent, I will list a few of my favourites below.

    • Citronella
    • Peppermint
    • Lemongrass
    • Catnip
    • Lemon Eucalyptus
    • Tea Tree
    • Geranium
    • Patchouli
    • Clove
    • Fennel

    You can experiment with any one or combination of these oils. What is important of course is that you like the smell. You don't want to be slathering on an essential oil blend that makes you want to climb out of your skin when it is applied. The point I'm making is insect repellent can smell lovely! Trust me on this one, I will give you a recipe below that is totally unoffensive, I think it smells really great.

    Lemon eucalyptus is one essential oil I always add to my blends, this essential oil has been proven to be as effective as deet in repelling mosquitoes. What is deet? 'Diethyl-meta-toluamide' is a chemical which is present in many over the counter insect repellents. "It is highly toxic if inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin." we are all now aware that we absorb everything we put on our skin into our systems. There are many side effects from using deet and personally having travelled and spent long periods of time in countries such as Cambodia, India and Thailand, I have managed just fine without it. It is especially hazardous for children, seizures being listed as a possible side effect, I think that is enough reason to find a safe alternative.

    Another point I would like to make about an insect repellent being effective, especially if you are in a country with big biting critters, you need to cover all of your skin that is exposed in repellent. Yes making a spray is useful and I will add a recipe for that below but covering exposed skin is a must. Here is the recipe and it is simple to make. 


    • Jojoba Wax        14g

    • Candellila Wax  11g
    •  Sunflower Oil   75g
    •  Coconut Oil      10g
    •  Neem Oil       3g
    • Vitamin E
    • Lemon Euc   20drps
    • Rosemary     22drps
    • Clove              8drps
    • Fennel            4drps


    I like to steralize all of my equipment before hand. You can use a bowl that fits over a saucepan of water to melt the ingredients together, essentially you are melting the wax and oils with the steam, this is called a double boiler. Gently stir and remove from the heat as soon as it has all melted, then add your essential oil blend and vitamin E, stir this well. Pour into your chosen pots and leave to cool. The vitamin E acts as an anti oxidant, it basically extends the shelf life of the oils. Make sure to label and put a BBE, these will last anywhere from about 8 monts to 1 year if you have steralized your equipment.



    As I mentioned above, a spray is useful as a second point of defence! I would cover myself first in my lotion repellent, then bring my spray in my bag whilst I was out and about, spritzing my hair and around myself if I was sitting outdoors in the evening. Here is a nice recipe for that.

    • Spritz bottle
    • Witch Hazel 50ml
    • Distilled Water 50ml
    • Peppermint oil 10 drops
    • Rosemary oil 10drops 
    • Lemon oil 6 drops

    This spritz is cooling and refreshing if you are in a hot place, its lovely to mist around your face and head to cool down and smell the refreshing oils. Rosemary is also good for your hair!

    Personally I would use up this spritz in a couple of weeks as it does not contain a preservative. Alternatively you can add a preservative.

    It is important to sterilize your bottles and equipment before use as this prevents bacteria growing on your formulations