Using Herbs from the Garden

Using Herbs from the Garden


One of the things I remember most about growing up with my mom is her herb garden.


Our friend Billy came and installed a raised bed with cinderblocks and bricks when I was four years old. It wasn’t long before I was pinching the Rosemary, Basil, Oregano, and Sage to smell their unique aromas.


It’s so amazing when I think about it—how we’ve figured out that we can distill these plants and collect concentrated essences of what we smell. I’ve worked with oils in bottles for a long time. I’m familiar with how to dilute them and use them in blends, but I’m just now starting to get to know the herbs themselves.


It feels like coming home.


In the Inner Sanctum, we regularly walk with Sylla through her garden (or as she calls it, her “yarden”) to see what’s going on. I love how the garden contains so many life lessons.

This time around, Sylla explains that you’ve got to cut back the abundance of growth from the summer. That way, you can get rid of what’s run its course or isn’t growing to make room for what’s yet to come.


Here’s the great part about cutting back: you get to enjoy what you reap! For Sylla, this means collecting and drying all the herbs that she’s been growing.


Ever since her trip to France in the 90’s (and presumably after she ran out of the herbs that she got there), she’s collected and dried her yarden herbs, calling them “Herbs de Sylla’s Yarden.”

This time around, she’s got:
  • Oregano
  • Marjoram
  • Basil
  • Fennel
  • Peppermint
  • Spearmint


Some, like the mints, she’ll use in tea. Others, like the Oregano and Marjoram, she’ll dry and sprinkle on meals. The rest she will save and give as gifts to her friends.



What a simple and fun way to use what you’ve got! What herbs will you cut back and use in your kitchen? Leave us a comment below!
Nyssa Asks Colleen Dodt

Nyssa Asks Colleen Dodt

What makes a rose smell like a rose?

This was the question that hit Colleen Dodt when she was in her garden one day—the “lighting bolt” moment that began her journey with essential oils. Colleen is an herbalist and essential oil enthusiast with over three decades of experience. She’s also someone who I consider as part of my aromatic lineage.

I first met Colleen Dodt in 2013. My mom was speaking at the Alliance of Aromatherapists Conference, which was held in Tampa Bay that year. Her speech was focused on honoring other elder aromatherapists. She wrote about Colleen Dodt on her blog and wondered what she was up to these days.

It was important for my mom to be able to honor as many aromatherapy “elders” as she could. Colleen was there when aromatherapy was first gaining momentum in the United States, but she was seldom honored since then. My mom was determined to get her to the conference, and that she did.

I remember it fondly, sitting in a hotel room with Colleen, Marge Clark, Doreen Deserres, and my mom. I loved hearing their stories about the early days of aromatherapy. I remember Colleen sharing the magical story of how she got to England in the 1980s, found Robert Tisserand, and soaked up whatever essential oil knowledge she could from him.

There’s something about Colleen that stirs within me an awareness of the magic of every day. She brings the wisdom of the plants to us. She has the ability to sum up truths into poignant one-liners that you can’t help but remember. I’m so thrilled to share a part of her story here in the Inner Sanctum.

In this interview, you’ll discover:

  • The lengths that many early aromatherapists and herbalists took to learn and share their crafts
  • Why beginners are the best students
  • How herbalism and aromatherapy are one and the same
  • The best way to use more herbs (it’s easier than you think!)

I’m so glad that you get a chance to share in the joy that is Colleen Dodt. Now tell us, what’s your favorite saying of hers? What plants are you getting to know these days?

Let us know in the comments below!

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Blending with Helichrysum

Blending with Helichrysum

For this month’s Blending Guide, we’re going to use a different format. Instead of breaking the blending down into groups, we’re going to break down how and why Sylla uses this oil for therapeutic reasons.

Helichrysum is a very expensive oil. It’s one of those oils that should be hoarded and used with precision.

It’s not to be diffused. Save it for the healing it gives the skin!

It’s not to be used in the bath. This would be a waste of good oil!

It can be sniffed or added to a special blend for mental purposes, if the situation is present.

Sylla only uses Helichrysum for wounds, bruises, or other traumas. She rarely uses it for the smell, but rather saves it for healing. That being said, there are several choices when it comes to blending.

Sylla loves Blue Tansy, Tannacetum annum. This is great to use with Helichrysum because it adds a strong anti-inflammatory property to the wound-healing properties of Helichrysum. Blue Chamomile or Roman Chamomile will work as well. This would be the best choice for an immediate serum on any wound, infected pimples/spots, or a bruise.

We recommend avoiding blending Helichrysum with any hot or irritant oils because the counter-effects can make both null.

If needed, adding some anti-infectious oils could help if treating a wound, like Tea Tree and Palmarosa. Even Lavender or Rose Geranium could be blended for general first-aid and wound care after an initial trauma, to decrease any infection.

Save this oil for special people and situations!

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Helichrysum Meditation

Helichrysum Meditation

Helichrysum is also called Everlasting or Immortelle because its flowers retain their bright yellow color long after being picked. There is something inspiring about a plant that continues to appear to be alive, despite having been separated from its life-force. All lives contain deaths of many kinds. Helichrysum reminds us that we can still find peace after the pain of separation.

Turn to Helichrysum when a part of you has been bruised—physically or emotionally. A bruise is a place of trauma that’s being repaired. On the body, it’s discolored by the presence of stagnant blood, and it’s made better through movement. In the case of the emotions, a bruised ego or heart may appear in the form of long-lasting worry or pain.

Helichrysum’s warm, earthy, and slightly spicy aroma has the ability to ground us, while it can also motivate movement towards greater healing. As you inhale Helichrysum, allow its energy to infuse your spirit with the peace of this moment.

If you feel trapped or unable to make change in your life, imagine a sunny field of green plants with yellow flowers surrounding you. Picture this field stretching out in each direction, and take a few moments to gaze in the distance all around you—before you, behind you, to the left, and to the right. With each glance, try to remain open to a new possibility or perspective through which you can view your problem or pain.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What lessons does this pain of the body, heart, or mind bring you?
  • What is the best possible good that can come out of all of this?


Let us know what insights you gain from this healing meditation. Leave a comment below!


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Helichrysum Exploration

Helichrysum Exploration

Common name: Helichrysum
Botanical name: Helichrysum italicum
(Italian Helichrysum or Everlasting or Immortelle)

Part of the Asteraceae family, Helichrysum is derived from the flowering head of the plant. The oil is often steam-distilled, but it is also made into an absolute and concrete. Helichrysum is sometimes called strawflower because the flowers were historically dried for arrangements.

When Sylla first started working with essential oils in the late 1970s-80s, Helichrysum came from Corsica, an island off the coast of France. The soil, conditions, and moisture made an ideal oil. However, the availability of oil from this area has changed due to the influence of big companies—those with the purchasing power to obtain it all. Companies buy a lot of Helichrysum for their skin-care products. Today, Helichrysum is coming from other places, including former Yugoslavia. Sources for Helichrysum oil include Bosnia, Croatia, Herzegovina, and Sardinia.

Looking at Helichrysum italicum var. Serotinum, its biochemical class is esters, neryl acetate, and ketones (diketones and italidiones). Corsican Helichrysum has a higher percentage of neryl acetate. The Italidiones are up to 20%. Esters are what give it that buttery, sweet smell.

Though there are no traditional herbal uses for this plant, we now know it has many great properties, including being anti-allergenic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, emollient, fungicide, mucolytic, and a nervine.

Helichrysum is a great oil for the skin. It is a wonderful trauma oil for bruises, open wounds, cuts, and scrapes—and it is especially great for bruising and swelling. It has internal and external uses. Sylla always used Helichrysum as her post-surgical oil.

Helichrysum can be used for dermatitis as it stimulates new cell growth. It’s also helpful in respiratory issues and musculoskeletal issues. It is a good anti-inflammatory or anti-spasmodic oil.

For the immune system, it has some bacterial and viral properties. For the digestive system, it is said to help clear the liver. For the genito-urinary system, it is known to help with Bartholinitis, which is the swelling of the Bartholin’s glands. Sylla once created a formula for a friend who was experiencing Bartholinitis, and within a week, it was gone.

For the nervous system, it can be used to help with depression, stress, shock, and phobias. It is useful and effective at low doses. It doesn’t take much because it is potent, especially for wound-healing. It is tested non-toxic, non-irritant, and non-sensitizing.

According to Tony’s book, the Helichrysum genus is composed of 600 species of plants. Helichrysum plants are known as Immortelles because of the lasting color of the flowers after drying. The plant is native to the Mediterranean including France, Italy, and Spain. It is generally distributed through Southern Europe and Africa.

Helichrysum plants do not grow very tall; they’re a foot or so in height. The plant has a woody lower stem and is multi-branching. Distillation of of the dried flowers produces a varying yield of .05% to 2%. Commercial oils come in a variety of colors from almost colorless to dark orange.

Tony writes that, “The oil has a fig-like odour with hay and animal character and slight fruitiness like dried apricots and slight caramel undertone. Dry-down is caramelic and hay-like with dried fruit and coffee undertones.”

The Croatian oil has a red-brown color with very strong hay/dried fruit odor notes. The dry-down is similar with a hint of coffee.

The Helichrysum absolute is solvent-extracted, followed by alcohol-extraction, producing a yellow-brown paste. It has a hay-like odour, is mildly leathery, and sweet with butyrate-like top note.

Adulteration of Immortelle is common because neryl derivatives can make up a considerable part of the absolute. These are easily added to things, so this is one reason it can be falsified.

There are several species of Helichrysum from former Yugoslavia. A low yield is obtained from the Italicium—about 4%. The formation of previously unknown sesquiterpenes was hypothesized. Odor is dried-fruity, but with a fresh camphoraceous aspect. Dry-down is hay-like, fruity. These oils are different than the Corsican oils.

Helichrysum italicum from Corsica is one of the “flagship” oils in aromatherapy because of the anecdotal beliefs regarding its wound-healing properties. “This oil is obtained by steam distillation of Helichrysum italicum (Rothm.) Guss. ssp. Serotinum Boiss. (Corsica).” This oil is only found in Corsica and only grows on the Iberian Peninsula.

In Tony’s book, he writes: “Since we are aware that many small distillers produce only a few hundred grams of helichrysum oil per year, and that neryl esters are cheaply available, there must be a major incentive for unprincipled distributors in the chain between distiller and customer to add synthetic esters. It is further possible that post-harvesting, drying, and storage conditions will profoundly affect the composition of these oils. Neryl acetate and linalool will be preferentially lost (than many sesquiterpenoids and higher molecular weight materials) from herbal material on prolonged storage resulting in less fruity-floral character and more hay-like endnotes.”

Authors report the concentration of components varies in maturity. There is a higher proportion of ketones and diketones in the early shoots and neryl acetate in the later flowering. This is definitely a plant that needs to be picked at the right time.

Watch as Sylla explores her Helichrysum samples.

We hope you enjoyed this segment! Let us know what you like and dislike about Helichrysum and how you use it.


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