By Emma Merritt
For many of us who are mindful of environmental impact, we want to make sure we are making good decisions around gift-giving during the holiday season. We want to express our love and gratitude to our loved ones, while staying true to our values and not participating in wasteful consumerism.
Let’s reclaim gift giving as a beautiful, thoughtful means of connection. Instead of giving gifts for their own sake, what if we gave gifts that nurture stronger bonds, that create deeper connections to each other, ourselves, and the earth, and that have the ability to heal?
DIY gifts are perfectly suited for meaningful gift exchange. I’ve personally been making herbal products as gifts for my friends and family for the past decade. The products I make have become a tradition in their own right. My loved ones look forward to them each year, and I feel good about it knowing that I am engaging in a sustainable, life-affirming act. One that encourages self-care, nurturance, and flourishing health. No plastic, no box stores, no online orders and two-day shipping. Just simple, natural herbal remedies that are beautiful and usable. My friends and family love knowing that my intention and care went into each and every product.
The first year I made herbal products as gifts, I made three different cordials (a cordial is a blend of herbs and spices infused into honey-sweetened brandy). I found old apothecary bottles at dusty junk shops in central Vermont. I cleaned the bottles and made hand-drawn labels with colored pencils for each and every one. I felt like I had created a masterpiece! And my family agreed, although they may be just slightly biased. But the experience did confirm one thing: there is nothing quite like the joy of giving a hand made gift to a loved one.
Since then, I’ve scaled back my ambition just a bit. While I no longer have the time to illustrate dozens of hand drawn labels, I still do try to make my gifts special and unique (and I’ve discovered the virtues of a good color photocopy!).
My friends and family have come to count on me for their yearly supply of elderberry syrup and fire cider, which have become standard fixtures in everyone’s box of goodies. I’ve experimented with different products over the years. One year, I made cedar and vetiver scented bath salts and sumptuous lotions. Another, dream pillows filled with mugwort, lavender, rose, and chamomile. This year, I’ll be making special tea blends in pretty tins as well as luxurious massage oils and hand cream. Perhaps I’ll throw a mask-freshener spray in there, too. There are so many possibilities!
And I’m here to say that you can do it too! The sky really is the limit when it comes to what you can do with DIY gifts. If you’re not sure where to start, salve, tea blends, lip balms, and elderberry syrup are all great. They’re great gifts for all of your extended family who isn’t as familiar with herbalism. And if you’re new to herbalism yourself and feel like you need a little extra guidance, check out Railyard’s line of DIY Kits!
Here's a list of some of the recipes you can find on our blog:
Emma Merritt is a clinical herbalist and educator with over eight years of experience. She graduated from Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism’s Three Year Clinical Training Program in 2012. Emma believes that connection to the earth is where healing begins. She teaches classes on medicine making and basic principles of herbalism. As a clinical herbalist, Emma works with people with a variety of health goals. Many of her clients are interested in improving digestive health, relieving stress and anxiety, hormone balancing, allergy relief, and better sleep. She takes a gentle, client-centered approach to healing. You can book an herbal consultation with Emma here.
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