Spring is springing and wonderful scents from the herb gardens surround me. Some of these aromas lift my spirits, while others put me in a thoughtful mood. Some scents give me energy and still others seem to clear out whatever’s congested, from my sinus passages to the thoughts lodged in my head. Many people recognize this phenomenon as aromatherapy. To me, it’s a way of life. I plant peppermint near my front door to give me a lift each morning. Lavender grows near my back bedroom window to relax me to sleep on warm summer nights.
Everyone can enjoy and benefit from these scents in the bath, a dream pillow or — my favorite — in handmade candles. Candles are easy to make and you can blend just the right aromatherapy scents for the benefits you want to achieve. If you are unclear about the candle-making process and what oils to choose, read on. We’ll give you detailed instructions, list some essential oils along with their therapeutic value and a few blending suggestions.
The first thing to consider in making candles by hand is what type of wax to use. Because you will be using essential oils that release their fragrance quickly when heated, purchase a paraffin wax with the lowest melting point possible. This is usually around 130 degrees. Don’t use paraffin from the supermarket. This wax is for sealing jars and does not work well for candles. Visit your local craft store and purchase a high quality paraffin wax.
Although it’s possible to use beeswax for herbal candles, it melts at a higher temperature than paraffin and will cause the essential oils to evaporate more quickly.
Among the candle-making supplies, you’ll find colorants, along with an array of commercial fragrances. Only essential oils will provide the benefits of aromatherapy and burn cleanly, so check the labels of bottled fragrances before you buy. As for colorant, I like to use dried, powdered herbs in my wax. I use approximately one tablespoon of herb to one pound of wax. This usually produces a pretty green color. Many times I use no color at all. The color chips you can find at the craft store are easy to use, give bright beautiful color, and they won’t interfere with the aromatic benefits of your candle.
As for the container to use as a candle mold, almost anything fireproof and wide-mouthed will do. Sturdy glass, ceramic and metal are all suitable. Just be sure it doesn’t leak and isn’t flammable. You will also need to purchase a paper core wick. These come in small, medium or large, according to the diameter of the container you will be using.
Essential oils can be purchased at your local natural foods or herb store as well as by mail order from many of the companies mentioned in this magazine. (Caution: Choose essential oils from a reputable source that bottles only pure essential oil.) A good starting point for your oil/wax ratio is one teaspoon for every pound of wax. Don’t use more than one tablespoon per pound of wax or you may have pools of oil in the finished candle.
Note: All equipment should only be used for candle making.
1 double boiler (or one large pot that a coffee can will fit
into as a melting pot)
Paraffin wax (enough to fill your mold)
1 ice pick
1 pot holder
1 small metal washer
1 candle mold
1 paper core wick
1 chopstick, skewer or long nail (for resting across the top of the mold to hold wick)
My candle burns at both ends; It will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends It gives a lovely light! — St. Edna Vincent Millay
Start by covering your working area with a thick layer of newspaper. Never pour candles in your sink: Any wax that splashes out could clog your drain. Fill the large pot one quarter full of water and put it on a medium-low heat. Determine how much wax you will need to fill your container and place this amount of wax in your melting pot and add a little extra wax to this to use as your second pour. Four ounces should be enough. Then place your melting pot inside your large water-filled pot. It should barely float. Stir occasionally while the wax melts and check the temperature of the wax with the thermometer. Never heat paraffin wax over 200 degrees and never leave your melting wax unattended. Overheated wax can catch fire.
While you wait for the wax to melt, grind your herbs if you’re using them as your colorant. Cut the wick long enough to tie around the middle of your wick bar and tie the metal washer to the other end. Suspended the wick bar over the center of the candle container. The washer will weigh the wick down to the bottom and center of the mold.
When the wax has melted, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool — not so cool it hardens but just above the melting point of the wax. The cooler the temperature at which you add the essential oil, the more fragrance your finished candle will have.
If you’re using herbs or color, add them first. (Follow package directions for adding commercial colorant.) Stir gently. Then add essential oils and stir just enough to mix them in. Pour the liquid wax gently into your container, creating as few bubbles as possible. Allow to cool undisturbed for approximately one hour. Then, with the ice pick, make three holes adjacent to the wick. Push the ice pick down almost to the bottom of the container. This will open up any air pockets that formed during the cooling process. Now warm up the leftover wax to fill in the air pockets and level the surface of your candle. Pour just enough to level the top of your candle. Allow to cool overnight.
There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of even one small candle. — Robert Alden
Untie the wick from the wick bar and remove it. Trim wick to 1/4 inch. You now have a beautiful aromatherapy candle. The scent will be gentle when you burn it, and if you ever need more scent, just add a drop or two of essential oil to the melted wax pool around the flame. This will give you an abundance of fragrance.
Marguerite King is a medicinal herbalist who owns and operates The Herb Patch Nursery & Soapworks in Pocatello, ID.
SCENTED CANDLE SOURCES
Bear Creek Candle Company
P.O. Box 3425
Evergreen, CO 80437
Way Out Wax
251 Harrel St., Ste. C
Morrisville, VT 05661
2433 University Ave. #D
Madison, WI 53726
Candles and Supplies.com, Inc.
500 Commerce Dr.
Quakertown, PA 18951
Memphis, TN 38112