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Homemade beauty from the garden: a romantic bath oil inspired by Apollo and Daphne

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© iStockphoto / stshank

Brrrr it’s a rainy, windy and cold February so why not warm things up with a steamy bath with your Valentine, enhanced by this bath and body oil says clinical aromatherapist and natural perfumer Tanya Moulding.

This month, we are taking our beauty inspiration from the bay leaf (Laurus nobilis), otherwise known as laurel, which is used widely in Mediterranean cookery. In Greek myth the beautiful nymph Daphne was pursued by the sun god Apollo, who had fallen in love with her. Desperate not to be caught, she called out to her father who transformed her into the evergreen laurel tree. Apollo wore a wreath of bay leaves so he could remember her forever.

The bay tree or laurel is rich in meaning and symbolism, being linked to creativity, prophecy, victory and immortality.

Let’s draw on the inspirational and warming properties of bay and combine them with comforting vanilla and sensuous, heady ylang-ylang essential oil which are both attributed with aphrodisiac properties!

Things you’ll need

100ml of fractionated coconut oil (suppliers listed below)

6-10 dried bay leaves

1 vanilla pod. I use Dr Oetker pods, which can be found in the baking section of the supermarket. They are stored in a tube which keeps the two pods quite succulent

3-5 drops of ylang-ylang essential oil (optional)

A jam jar or kilner jar

A bottle (100ml) to decant the infused oil into

A small funnel

Step-by-step

1. If you have a bay tree, gently pick six to ten glossy, undamaged leaves. Wipe them clean, dry them and then separate them out on to a wire tray covered in paper towel. Keep them somewhere warm where they can dry. Alternatively, to accelerate the drying process, heat up your oven until it’s very hot and then turn it off. Lay the fresh bay leaves on a tray and place them on the middle shelf of the warm oven and leave them overnight. You can then take them out and dry them further in a warm cupboard or room. (If you don’t own a bay tree, then you can always purchase good quality ready-dried bay leaves).

2. Place the dried bay leaves in your jam jar or kilner jar.

3. Cover them with 100ml of fractionated coconut oil.

4. Then, take your vanilla pod and carefully make a cut down the middle with a sharp knife to expose the tiny, fragrant seeds within.

5. Add the split vanilla pod to the jar with the bay leaves and fractionated coconut oil.

6. Agitate and stir the mixture so that the tiny seeds float out of the vanilla pod and blend into the oil. Seal the jar and leave it in a warm place for a few days for the ingredients to merge and infuse. Agitate gently every day.

7. After five days you can decant the infused oil into a more decorative bottle. You have two options:

a) You can lift out the vanilla pod and then, using a small funnel, pour the remaining oil into your bottle, discarding the bay leaves OR

b) If you want a mix with more visual impact that will also carry on infusing, decant the oil into your bottle using a funnel, then pick out a few bay leaves and the vanilla pod (trimming them if necessary), and pop them into the bottle too. Shake the bottle a little and the vanilla seeds will circulate.

8. Once you have decanted your oil, you can add three to five drops of ylang-ylang essential oil; a heady, sensuous floral which blends well with vanilla and will sweeten the warming, subtly spicy aroma of the bay leaves.

And voilà, your oil is ready to use as either a massage body oil or to pour into your bath!

About fractionated coconut oil

Fractionated coconut oil is a mobile liquid (mainly used by massage and beauty therapists) and is not the same as the coconut butter/oil you can purchase in the shops, which is a solid that melts at room temperature. Fractionated coconut oil is available from beauty suppliers and online at www.baldwins.co.uk or www.aromantic.com.

The oil possesses nourishing properties, is silky to the touch, smooth on the skin and holds aroma well; so it makes an ideal medium for infusing botanicals in, to create scented massage and bath oils. It can also be applied to the hair as a deep-conditioning treatment.

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