When you give a gift made in your home, or grew in your garden, it is one of the most special exchanges between friends and family. It is as if you are giving a piece of yourself and a piece of your environment, that can live with the person you give to, in their home. Shirin, our co-founder, shares some of her favorite natural gifts to share.
In our home are all these little reminders of the people we love - a reminder of my mother in a pot of Elderberry jam, of my husband in the lingering scent of lavender from our homemade essence. It gives meaning to every little thing. In the winter, for someone under the weather, bringing over a small homemade remedy can lift their spirits and bring them on the path to recovery sooner. Here are some of my favorite homemade gifts, many of which with healing properties for when your loved ones are feeling un peu malade.
1. Elderberry Jam
My mother makes this jam and brings it to us whenever she visits. It has a distinctive earthy flavor that is perfect addition to a breakfast parfait, or as an afternoon snack with tea and toast. When my siblings and I were ill, my mother would dissolve a teaspoon of the jam in a cup of hot water, creating a natural cough syrup of sorts, that soothes sore throats and coughs. I always keep a jar of it at home, and now I use the remedy for my own children.
2. Lavender Honey
When you mention the south of France, everyone immediately thinks of the amazing, expansive, purple fields of wild lavender. It really is THAT beautiful, and we are lucky to have a lot of lavender in our garden in Aix. Not only are the lavender fields a stunning sight, but many bees in Provence are mono-floral, meaning they only harvest from lavender and produce lavender honey. The refreshing lavender taste is a beautiful complement to the sweetness of honey. You can add it to tea or spread over a fresh piece of brioche. The soothing properties in lavender honey have also become part of our family’s nightly ritual. Before bed, I give my children warm milk with lavender honey, which helps put them right to sleep.
3. JHP's Peppermint Oil
For headache sufferers, peppermint oil has been proven to alleviate stress related headaches and migraines by inhibiting muscle contractions. Simply breathing in a small amount of peppermint can promote relaxation, and can open up the sinuses. Peppermint can also help with digestion and reversing digestive issues, making a tea with a drop of peppermint essence, or a homemade peppermint tea, a great part of your after dinner ritual. My favorite is a Japanese oil called JHP by Rodler Pharma. I always bring it with me when I'm traveling as a quick cure-all. I would not recommend this particular one for tea because it is very strong! The minute I start to feel a cold or cough coming on, smelling the oil or putting one drop on my tongue helps me to keep from coughing and reverses the cold.
4. Bastide’s Miel de Lavande Collection
Lavender has become so special to me over the years because its powerful scent immediately reminds me of my husband. Frederic likes to have the smell of lavender around him at all times. He even puts a drop of lavender essence on a tissue and keep it under his pillow to help him sleep. Since lavender has anti-inflammatory and sleep-inducing qualities, it is a perfect gift for anyone battling a cold or a small ailment that requires a good night sleep to fully heal. Bastide’s Miel de Lavande collection has the perfect balance of a familiar lavender paired with delicious honey. In the evenings, we burn the Miel de Lavande candle, and it is especially calming. I also like to keep a tube of the Miel de Lavande hand cream by the bed - it takes great care of my hands and has a subtle soothing scent.
Thanks to the climate, which is perfect for olives to grow in, natives from the south of France often harvest their own olives and make their own oils, which allows them to experiment. In Aix, you will often find a homemade bottle of olive oil adorning your neighbor's table. This is another opportunity to experiment with lavender. We add lavender to our olive oil to make a beautiful salad dressing, and it can be served with vinegar and freshly baked bread. Since olive oil has phenomenal hydrating purposes as well, it can also be used a nicely-scented skin or hair mask.