For centuries, candles were essential for
lighting the darkness. While candles today remain an option for
light during a power outage, most U.S. homes enjoy the luxury of
electric lights at the flip of a switch. Since the incandescent
glow of candlelight is one not easily recreated by modern
technology, candles continue to intrigue and enlighten. The appeal
of modern candles often involves scent, raising the “wick” of
appreciation and making lit candles not only perfect for romantic
ambiance, but also relaxing and therapeutic.
Whether you create them for your own enjoyment or as gifts for
others, making and decorating candles is fun and easy or can be as
complex as you like. Here are a few basic candle-making suggestions
followed by some simple yet stunning ways to add herbs to candles
you’ve already poured or purchased.
You can find more information on the details of wax from any of
the resources listed , and you may want simply to experiment on
your own to find what works best for you, but here are the brief
Paraffin, a common candle wax, is a petroleum byproduct (read,
“bad for the environment”) available with different melting points.
It often requires additives to keep it from shrinking. Beeswax, a
stellar, all-natural alternative with a naturally pleasant honey
scent, is more expensive but comes in a variety of forms, is easy
to work with, burns longer and doesn’t shrink when it cools. Keep
in mind that it’s important to purchase domestically collected
beeswax to avoid possible pesticides. A relatively new product in
the world of candles is soy wax. It’s all-natural, burns cleaner
than paraffin, is often microwaveable (check the brand’s
instructions on the package), and doesn’t shrink as it cools.
You’ll also find it’s less expensive than beeswax.
When decorating your candle with herbs, it makes sense to scent
it with your favorite herbs as well. There are a few methods to add
scent to candle wax. You can use fragrance oils, essential oils or
dried herbs that steep in the hot wax and are then removed.
Aromatherapists would point out that only true essential oils from
herbs and spices — not fragrance oils — offer the healing,
relaxing, rejuvenating, stress-relieving or sensual properties
suggested by scent, but some candle makers prefer fragrance oils
because they mix better with wax than essential oils. If you choose
to use pure essential oils, remember that a little goes a long way
and test them in small doses before you make a large batch.
Alternately, if you have some dried herbs, flowers or spices on
hand, they’ll do the same trick. Though they require the mess of
straining, they cost less than essential oils. They also can add a
bit of their natural color to the mix.
If you’ve purchased an unscented candle to decorate and wish to
add scent to it, you can add a drop of essential oil to the wax
well in the top each time before burning it, or you can pierce
holes in a thick candle and fill them with essential oil. To do so,
heat a metal ice pick over your stove’s heating element and then
press it down into the candle, leaving a hole that you can fill
with essential oil. For larger candles, make two or three holes to
fill, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the wick.
EMBEDDED HERBS CANDLE
Light-colored taper candle
Candle mold (1 to 2 inches wider than base candle above)
Whole spices, dried herbs or flowers
Essential oil, optional
Translucent or light-colored wax
Melting pot, such as a double boiler
Lightly coat the inside of the mold with vegetable oil. Set
taper candle upside down in the center of the mold. Trim the bottom
of the candle so it’s lower than the top of the mold. Tuck the wick
through the wick hole in the bottom of the mold and plug with mold
sealer. Put enough whole spices, dried herbs or flowers around the
taper to fill about half of the open space in the mold. Follow the
manufacturer’s instructions for melting wax. If you want to add
scent to the wax, do so just before pouring it. Pour wax over the
herbs, flowers, or spices and mix gently with a skewer. Add more
botanicals and wax before it begins to cool and set, trying to keep
the taper candle centered. Place mold in a cool-water bath and top
off the wax to even out the bottom of the candle.
When burning this type of candle, keep the wick trimmed and make
sure the base taper candle is burning down the center and not the
outer layer you’ve created. Once the center has burned down a bit,
you can place a tea light in the cavity and replace it as needed to
keep from disrupting or burning the exterior spices and surrounding
PRESSED HERB CANDLE
Premade pillar candle, in a color to contrast herbs
Pressed herbs and flowers
2 to 4 ounces wax (for overdipping)
Essential oil, optional
Metal skewer or corncob holder
With your candle lying on its side, arrange the botanicals on
that side as you’d like and then attach them with wax glue. Repeat
as necessary all around the candle until it’s completely covered,
taking care not to disturb those you’ve already applied as you go
along. Melt wax according to package/manufacturer’s directions. If
you want to scent this wax, add a few drops of essential oil just
before dipping. If the melting pot is large enough to accommodate
your candle on its side, simply insert a corncob skewer in the
bottom end and hold it in one hand, with the wick in your other
hand, and skim the candle, rolling gently through the hot wax to
coat the entire exterior of the candle. If the melting pan is too
small for the candle to fit lengthwise, quickly pour hot wax into a
shallow baking pan and roll your candle in it instead. Set candle
on parchment paper to dry.
Dawna Edwards, a former Herb Companion editor, is a freelance
writer who spends her time writing about and enjoying the scent,
flavor and beauty of herbs.