One of the things my boys and I love to do here is to capture the fragrance of the forest around us. On hikes, the boys excitedly pinch leaves to find new fragrances. (I’ll take a moment to admit that I have bribed my almost-13-year-old into this activity with a buck for any new fragrance he finds. It’s hard to compete with mobile apps these days.)
When we find a fun fragrance, we will often try to capture it as an air freshener. We do it just for fun for the most part but I do keep strategic fragrances around for aroma therapy-like purposes. I keep lavender near my bed to help with sleep and rosemary and sage around the house to help with both mood and mental clarity. I love each of these fragrances and find that simply spraying a fragrance that you love is a mood-lifter. We found a fragrance we liked on a recent trip to the central coast, so much that we bought the plant at a coast nursery and are planting it here.
On occasion I have found my boys engaged in spraying “fights,” one with Cleveland sage and the other with the Sierra Nevada-specific “bear clover,” a highly fragrant plant that some people consider “stinky.” Bear clover and Cleveland sage do not make the best of perfume combinations. I can assure you that we have proved here that the combination will never make the marketplace.
How can you get these fragrances from a leaf into a spray bottle?
What if you only have an essential oil?
It is straight-forward in each case.
There are two simple approaches you can use if you have fresh herbs available. Each of these works with dried herbs too.
Infuse your fragrant plants in alcohol. The process is simple:
Use your alcohol extract as the scent in your air freshener:
You can capture the fragrance of a plant in water using a stove top method of distillation. It’s a total hack but you’ll love it for playing around with scents. Read the instructions here.
Use the herbal water straight as an air freshener or dilute it by half or more, depending on your preference. For a longer shelf life, keep it in your refrigerator.
In our household, we use both of the methods for “fresh herbs” — alcohol extracts and hydrosols. I keep some of my favorite fragrances stock in both forms but when we bring in a new fragrance we’re experimenting with, the method I use usually just depends on my mood. Depending on the plant you’re working with, you may be dissatisfied with the level of fragrance you have captured. In the case of the alcohol extract, you can infuse the same alcohol multiple times as I describe in the case of mint extract (here). For the most part, I haven’t had an issue in getting enough fragrance using the hydrosol approach.
In any case, this is a fun project to try. It’s simple and you get a customized product out of it.
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