“Dear Reader – I write this because I love a garden that gives back. Flowers, fragrance, flavor…all of it. A true giving-garden is filled with herbs. Discover them. Grab a leaf, rub it, hold it to your nose and breathe in. Voila! That plain, leafy plant becomes so much more when you learn ways to use it. This is what I share with you.” Sue Goetz, The Herb Lover’s Spa Book
In the middle of a hard winter I couldn’t ask for a better pick-me-up than The Herb Lover’s Spa Book by Sue Goetz, just published by St. Lynn’s Press. This is a little gem of a book. Looking at the photos and skimming through the recipes for facial steams and oatmeal soaks and lavender heat pillows while the snow fell outside my window was a spa experience in and of itself.
I grow the standard kitchen garden herbs and I love cooking with them. Now Sue Goetz has inspired me to try out recipes for herbal preparations that heal, sooth, relax, and refresh. I’d been making a list of seeds to order for this year’s garden, and I’ll have to expand it to include new-to-me herbs like lemon balm and lemon verbena, scented geranium and camomile. I want to try the recipes and the end products myself, of course, and if all goes well, when holiday time rolls around I’ll have homegrown, handmade gifts to give family and friends.
A well-known garden designer, writer, and speaker from Washington State, Sue Goetz packs a lot of information into this little book, and her passion for using herbs in the home for pleasurable and nurturing spa experiences shines on every page.
The Herb Lover’s Spa Book has three parts: Surround, Grow, and Create.
You can enjoy the herbal preparations you’ll learn to make in this book in your very own private spa. Sue shows how you can create a retreat in your own home, indoors or outdoors, where you can read, relax, soak, sleep, or meditate. She suggests designs, colors, and textures conducive to rest and relaxation, whether in a garden or in a favorite indoor space.
You’ll find information about nineteen of the most common and popular herbs used for skin treatments and teas and infusions, including lavender, hops, dandelion, eucalyptus, sage, parsley, witch hazel, and thyme. Sue includes growing tips, healing properties, and suitable varieties for each herb, a list of seasonal herb garden tasks, and tips for harvesting and preserving.
In addition to over 50 herbal recipes, Sue provides information about sourcing and working with common ingredients and materials such as beeswax, baking soda, essential oils, epsom salt, ginger root and jojoba oil.
I loved leafing through the recipes. I didn’t know there are so many varieties of bath brews, each with its own effects. For a relaxing bath you can use chamomile, hops, and lavender. For a stimulating bath, try eucalyptus, lemon balm, mint, rosemary, sage, or thyme. For a healing bath, use calendula, lavender, lemon verbena, parsley, or spearmint.
First on my list of recipes I’d like to try is the Inspiration Bath. When you want to get your creativity flowing, put some calendula petals in a muslin sachet or directly into a warm bath, and add 6 drops each of lavender essential oil and rose essential oil.
Scroll down to the bottom of this post to see the complete recipe for Sue’s Basic Bath Brew. Other tempting concoctions: Peppermint Foot Soak, Midsummer’s Eve Floral Garden Water, Dusty Rose Body Powder, Winter Warming Steam, Chamomile Eye Soothers, Rosewater Cream, and Floral Water Skin Brightener.
Sue includes fascinating tidbits about historical aspects of the spa experience and herbal pharmacopoeia. I’d never heard of a stillroom, for example – a special room in homes of the early American colonies set aside to prepare household products from the garden. Sue says the lost art of the stillroom is coming back, and she encourages us to find a special space in our modern homes where we can store ingredients and experiment with herbal remedies.
I like that a glossary of commonly used terms is included at the end of the book, as well as a list of resources, including places to purchase herbs, oils, packaging materials, plants, and seeds.
I’m so impressed with St. Lynn’s collection of how-to gardening books. I’ve written about a couple of other St. Lynn’s titles here at Books Can Save a Life: Debra Prinzing’s Slow Flowers and Nancy Ross Hugo’s Windowsill Art.
I have a soft spot in my heart for small, inspired publishers with a strong sense of values and a well defined mission – I was an editor for such a publisher eons ago at the beginning of my career. I like St. Lynn’s because they make gardening so inviting and accessible to those of us who are beginners, and because they are strongly committed to ecology and our planet.
Make yourself a cup of tea and browse some of their other titles. (And if you want to know who St. Lynn is, click here.)
Do you make herbal preparations from your garden? If so, I’d love to hear about them, as well as books you recommend for those of us who want to learn more.