An Aromatic Tour of France, part two

Hand-processing linden blossom wasn’t the only activity we got to be hands on with. We also got to distill our own lavender (which is long gone, but used with care), using Len and Shirley Price’s home-grown lavender and their own still. We packed in the flowering tops, lit the fire beneath and waited with excitement as the steam and oil condensed and separated.

We stayed in a beautiful, rustic old monastery, on the side of a hill with amazing views of the valley below. We ate delicious, local French food outside in the courtyard, soaking up the sun and getting to know our fellow aromatherapy fans.

On a visit to a botanical garden in the hills, we learned about different healing plants, not just the ones we use for aromatherapy. The garden was laid out in a way that made you want to explore it, to see what was hiding around the next corner. It also had beautiful views of the surrounding highlands, and was where I took the photo of the old still at the side of a field in my previous blog post.

Seeing how the oils were processed and packaged was also fascinating. As aromatherapists (and general consumers), we normally buy essential oils in bottles of 10ml, so to see them in 1 litre (and bigger) bottles was amazing. I wonder how long it would take for me to use up 1 litre of peppermint oil?!

Essential oils in bulk

The picture below shows how St John’s Wort base oil is made. The process is called maceration, where the flowers are soaked in a vat of sunflower oil in the sun for a few weeks. The picture doesn’t really do justice to the deep red colour of the oil, which comes from the flowers when they’re bruised. Neither does it do justice to the beautiful French man who gave us the tour of the factory 😉.

St John’s Wort being macerated

The whole week was an amazing, unforgettable experience and has given me wonderful memories. It wouldn’t have been possible without our fabulous guides, Shirley and Len Price and Kate Nellist. I wish I could do it all again!

Shirley, me, Len and Kate

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