Homemade aromatherapy

My Story: Old Spices

contributed by Anne in New Orleans, LA


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Depending on the herbs and spices, many lose their potency in about a year. When replacing them for fresher cooking condiments, save the old ones for these simple and healthful uses.

Aromatherapy for Your Carpets

Use to freshen the vacuum cleaner and clean the floor and rugs (spot check rugs first for possible staining). Mix the old herbs and spices into an airtight plastic container (two to four cups). You can mix all of them willy-nilly, or pick the ones you especially like. I like a base of rosemary and thyme (from Italian herbs or Herbes de Provence) with cinnamon. I like clove, nutmeg and ginger, too. These can be crushed, powdered, or in pieces such as whole cloves. Shake the container to mix. Sprinkle some on the floor or rug and vacuum. This cleans out the vacuum, freshens the air, and even helps to kill some bacteria. In winter, cinnamon is particularly pleasant. In summertime, I used old dried orange and lemon powders for a fresh scent. All that with what would have been discarded.

Homemade Aromatherapy

Use spices for aromatherapy that is cheap and personalized to your moods. Put a large saucepan on the stove with water 3/4 full. Add old spices and herbs. Let simmer slowly for about half of an hour. Be careful not to let this boil out. Top off with more water as needed. This can also be done in a slow cooker. It washes out easily as there are no artificial perfumes (as with most expensive aromatherapy products) to permanently mar the saucepan or crock. The whole house will smell wonderful. In winter, I add eucalyptus to help ease congestion. It drifts all throughout the house this way. Do not discard the remains after simmering.

Simmering spices on the stove can also help cut down the mildew, which is definitely a concern not only in New Orleans since the hurricane but also anywhere that is humid.

One friend simmered cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger on her stove when she was showing it to sell, and the first person who came to look bought her house. The real estate agent and the buyer said the fragrance was a definite selling point.

Aromatherapy for Your Home

After simmering the spices, you can recycle them once more by spreading the spent mixture outside the front or back doors in the dirt. They will decompose naturally and add a pleasant fragrance when someone is entering or leaving your house. Without harming them, spice mixtures (especially with cinnamon, allspice, citrus and ginger) discourage wandering cats from using that particular spot for an outdoor litter box.

Destress with Homemade Aromatherapy

The point is that spices and herbs have almost nine lives. And aromatherapy is one way to relieve stress, a number one health concern these days. Always use natural herbs and spices and not "fragrances" or artificial perfumes and scents, which have been linked with health problems and even cancer.

Some of my friends who have tried this have begun to buy all kinds of exotic herbs and spices at the dollar stores where they are less expensive in order to jazz up their cooking and with no fear of waste. If they don't like a spice in food, they add it to the aromatherapy list.

This is a way to create a personal favorite recipe to liven up your day and add a healthy aroma to your home.

Freshen Your Laundry with Herbs

Forget toxic dryer sheets but still freshen your laundry! Place a mix of old herbs and spices in an odd sock (check for holes) and tie it off. I usually include some lavender flowers, which actually never get old but are inexpensive when bought at health food store in the bulk herb section. Toss this in the dryer with your laundry. The sock can be changed, the mixture can be adjusted, and extra herbal socks can be added for larger loads. These herbal packages last a long time as the heat activates essences in the dried spices that would normally be thought absent. The bonus is that this technique also cuts down on static electricity.


"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it to MyStory@stretcher.com

Take the Next Step:

  • Don't throw away those herbs yet. Experiment with your favorite aroma.
  • Save even more money by learning to grow your own herbs.

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