Sunday, May 08, 2011

Lilac Extract Experiment

Here in the Greater Boston area we're in early-to-peak lilac season and it is heavenly! Shades of lilacs in milky white, blue-purple and rich burgundy can be spotted in many front and side yards. They are popular along the fence lines for extra privacy in the summer. But their short spring season is a delight to the nose and the eyes.

As a recent graduate of a clinical aromatherapy program I thought to myself, "surely these must have some kind of therapeutic application?" A quick scour of the internet gave me a recipe from the wisdom of Jeanne Rose, famous aromatherapist and herbalist who has written several volumes on plant subjects. My inner mad scientist was sparked at once and I collected several stalks of lilac and a bottle of alcohol.

I used a 1.5 liter jar and loosely filled it with fresh picked lilac blossoms (trimming leaves and the woody stems). Then I placed a clean stone (I run mine through the dishwasher in a lingerie bag but stones can also be boiled gently in a pot of water on the cooktop), on top of the blossoms to weight them down. I poured a liter of vodka over the flowers, sealed the jar and labeled it with the date.

Here in Massachusetts it is nearly impossible to obtain higher octane alcohols, I've been told it is due to abuse by the very young drinking population. It doesn't make it easy for those of us who wish to preserve plant materials for cosmetic or oral use. I would have preferred something like Everclear brand as that is what I used when I actively made herbal tinctures back in New Mexico. However, in a pinch (since I'm not driving to Providence or New Hampshire before lilac season is through), my experience is that vodka is a reasonable substitute.

I'll post a follow-up, even if I'm left with a jar of toxic sludge, in the coming weeks. I plan to replenish the pot with fresh lavender blossoms as long as I can find them! If you're near Stoneham and want to donate some stalks to my cause I'd be happy to hear from you! :-)

"The spring is fresh and fearless
And every leaf is new,
The world is brimmed with moonlight,
The lilac brimmed with dew.

Here in the moving shadows
I catch my breath and sing --
My heart is fresh and fearless
And over-brimmed with spring."
- Sara Teasdale, May Night, 1920

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