The first time I saw and smelled a real lavender plant, was in the year1986. The plant stood against the outside wall of the gîte rural, where I stayed for some weeks together with my family. It was the only plant there. The gîte was located in the surroundings of the (then) small village with the name La Roche-de-Glun in the department Drôme in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of southeastern France.
The small shrub, where I found the name of later, was bathing the entire day in the heat of the sun, and despite that it never looked as if it was in a need for water. Used to the wealthy-leaved shrubs in Dutch gardens I was touched by the heat-resistant leaves of this one, and their colour: greyish green. The unique, fresh, strong, uplifting, relaxing, wonderful, charming smell has since then become my most favourite one. The colour of the lavender flowers is light purple, violet.
Since I am working with herbs from Crete, I searched for Cretan lavender, and found on the website “Wild Herbs of Crete”, a blogpost about it. According to this blogpost there are two different kinds of lavender: the Lavandula Stoechas, which seems to smell more sweet, and the Lavandula Vera. I assume that Lavandula Vera [“vera”, which is Italian for “true”] is the same as Lavandula Angustifolia, also known as Lavandula Officinalis. For my Cretan-Garden.shop I use Greek lavender, the Greek Lavandula Angustifolia.
The colour of natural lavender soap
When one googles on images with “lavender soap”, one is overwhelmed with the colour violet, or purple, not only because of the purple wrappers or boxes, but also because the soaps are purple, violet. When I started to make lavender soap, with infusing 12 litres organic olive oil with 720 gram dried lavender flowers, I was curious how the colour of the olive oil would become after three months infusing, pulverizing the filtered infused lavender and adding the result back into the infused oil. The colour is black. Not purple. The liquid soap is as all herbal soaps this colour, and dried it has a beige / khaki colour. Not purple.
When the infused oil becomes soap during the saponification process the almost black colour turns into orange/brown, sometimes, that depends on the herb, it is red/brown. The colour of the lavender soap becomes even lighter than the colour of the other herbal soaps. The smell however is not lesser strong. On the contrary. Important to know is that the skin-nourishing ingredients of extra virgin olive oil, organic herbs, and essential oils are not affected in the saponification process.
Whenever you would like to have a violet coloured bar of lavender soap, and you find one, be aware that the colour is not natural, but synthetic. Often even perfumes, which contain synthetic fragrances, or pure synthetic fragrances have been added to mislead you even more.
Handcrafted lavender soap smells the same as the lavender plant. How does lavender smell? The scent of the lavender plant is strong, charismatic, and intensely botanical. Underlying its floral sweetness are green and spicy notes, and a woody accent. When a herbal soap comes in a contact with water the smells of the ingredients become more active. After washing, showering or bathing the smell slowly disappears: natural smells evaporate quickly when they are exposed to the air. Only when you would use your own body-oil, in this case your own lavender body-oil —see Cretan Garden info, §7— the smell of the lavender essential oil will accompany you for a longer time, in a modest way, and will not -like perfumes and fragrances- take over the personal airspace of others. Be aware of what kind of smell you “wear” when you are going to spend time in nature. Perfumes and fragrances do not fit there.
The toxic truth about perfumes and fragrances
“The toxic truth about perfumes and fragrances” is the title of a blog post, written by Karen Kingston. Since I agree with every word and sentence, I would like to recommend this blog post. You can click here to read the post.
In September 2015 I was for a week on Crete and visited Knossos, and the Minoan Palace, the largest Bronze Age archaeological site. I had already seen many pictures of the palace on the web, but when there I was touched by the atmosphere in a surprising way. Because thousands of tourists visit this site day after day, and so many tourist buses and cars fill the parking places, I expected that it would become a noisy, stressy experience, but the visitors were silent, calm, and did not even talk with each other. The atmosphere was so intense peaceful that it is justified to comparethe site with a holy place. I remember what I once read about powerful energy spots on earth, in the magnetic field of the earth, in the soils, and all the layers beneath the surface.
Monasteries were also built on these special spots. Stonehenge is another example. The Minoans who lived in the palace of Knossos were highly civilized, not only rationally, but also spiritually. Priestesses were also living in the palace of Knossos, an enormous complexity of buildings with even four storeys. The Minoan Lady, also named La Parisienne, was a priestess. Continue reading below the picture.
When I decided to start a web shop to sell the seven soaps, made out of Cretan olive oil, herbs and essential oils, and searching for the picture that could be used for the logo, the icon in the media and blog, my thoughts went almost immediately to that one picture that I made in the Archaeological Museum in Heraklion, in 2015. It was an intuitive choice. For me the Minoan Lady was and is what I would like to represent in my products: ethics, values, respect, dignity, esthetics, beauty.
It is a pity that I lost the article that I once read about Minoan priestesses in Knossos and their role in the herb garden: only priestesses were allowed to pick the herb salvia fruticosa, or Greek sage. For that sage ritual they had to wear a white dress, because that herb was holy. When I smelled dried Greek sage some years ago -for the first time in my life- I understood. Because of that intense smell I also understand why it is used in rituals to clean the atmosphere in rooms, in buildings with negative energies, graveyards, in a diversity of cultures, world wide.
The use of soap in the Minoan Civilization
It is not certain if the Minoan Lady has used soap herself. There is nothing written about the use of soap in the palace of Knossos, though the first soaps seem to have been made in Greece, during the Minoan time. Here are some articles with information that explain for instance the use of salt in bathing rituals:
“Before modern medicine, salt water treated patients as a healing remedy. Before modern spa day, firm believers of its healing created a concept of therapeutic bathing. In order to cleanse the body, they infused salt with herbal blends, lavender and bay laurel leaves that extracted daily toxins. Another contribution salt progressed into was basic soap making. Dated around 2800 BC, the Greeks were one of the first soap makers who created mixtures of alkaline salts with local vegetable oils, animal fats and wood ashes to form soaps and detergents. By contrast, today an individual uses soap for bathing or personal hygiene, in ancient times, it was produced for cleaning cooking utensils, goods and medicinal purposes.”
“The oldest archaeological findings in Europe related to bathing habits date from the Bronze Age (2,400–800 BC). In the palaces of Knossos and Phaistos in Crete, the population of the Aegean Minoan civilization has left traces of special chambers devoted to bathing. Alabaster bathtubs excavated in Akrotiri (in Santorini Island), as well as wash basins and feet baths, showed how people from the Minoan civilization maintained their personal hygiene.”
“Lustral Basins were first identified by Arthur Evans at Knossos and consist of a sunken rectangular room reached by an L-shaped or dog-legged stairway. There is often a balustrade running alongside the stairway, normally ending with a pilaster supporting a column. All of the examples at Knossos, like the one at Mallia (above) were lined with gypsum and so Evans thought they were used for bathing—a clay tub was even found in one of them. However, a few of them were found in areas of the palace, the Throne Room for example, where relaxing in the tub seems unlikely. In those cases Evans believed they were used for ritual purification through lustration—hence the name”
Sources and additional information
Minoan woman or goddess from the palace of Knossos (“La Parisienne”) – Khan Academy
The popularity of cosmetics derived from natural sources is increasing. Such products are ecologically “ethical” and are effective and safe to use.
Vitamin E is the main lipophilic antioxidant that inhibits peroxidation, especially if associated with “natural” moisturizers such as the lipids in olive oil and olive extract. Vegetable oils containing EFAs have proven to be of great use in the production of cosmetics as either active incipient or raw materials for the synthesis of novel compounds. EFAs are easily integrated into the skin’s hydro-lipid film and are nourishing, moisturizing, and protective.
Some of these substances have been used for centuries yet can still meet the needs of today’s consumers. Apart from their moisturizing and soothing effects, and anti-inflammatory and immune-modulatory function, these products reduce aging of the skin with their antioxidant, stabilizing action on the cellular membranes. Treatment with olive oil has no side effects. Olive oil does not burn or traumatize the skin.
More scientific research:
Virgin olive oil as a fundamental nutritional component and skin protector – ReasearchGate
The skin is an utterly sensitive organ that is kept healthy because of a constantly regenerating, ingenious circulation system of water, lymph, blood, and fats. Because of the complexity of the skin, to understand how the skin is built, how this organ functions, it is helpful to watch one or more educational videos about it. I collected these in a playlist.
How to maintain a healthy skin?
Since the nourishment of the skin takes place in the skin itself via the body systems and not on the surface, it is essential to eat healthy food and drink enough water (1-2 litres per day) next to other liquids like coffee, tea, soup, juiceses, etc.. Coffee and black teas de-hydrate the body. Breathing fresh air, being also physical active, contribute to an optimal digestion and therefore for a healthy skin as well. Daylight is also part of the natural skin care. Daylight creates a natural vitamin D that is adopted and transported by the skin into the body. The maintenance of the skin from the outside is part of the daily hygiene to keep bad smells, bacteria, viruses and fungi away, to avoid illnesses. Skin-friendly body oils moisturize the skin, and together with exfoliating the skin and massages a way to keep it vital, elastic, and shining.
It is astonishing that soap manufacturers of for instance the so popular Aleppo soap, Savon de Marseille, and Castile soap do not offer information about the pH value. The pH value of all natural soaps is 9. The Cretan Garden soaps are natural soaps, comparable with the Aleppo soaps, and have a pH value of 9 as well. This pH level is related with the formula for handcrafted natural soaps according to old traditions. There are manufacturers of the so-called neutral soaps, or so-called ecological degradable soaps who do not offer any information about that either. There are natural soap manufacturers who add natural acidic substances of for instance aloe vera to lower the pH level. For me its has been a conscious choice to follow up the old traditional methods and formulas. Though the Cretan Garden olive soap is alkalic, the skin needs just 15 minutes to come back to its own pH. The benefits of the olive oil, herbs and essential oils in the soap are all still present in the thin film that remains on the skin, nourish, protect and keep the skin elastic.
*Advice. In case the soap is used for scalp and hair washing: use argan oil after washing, on the towel-dry hair if you have dry and/or curly hair. Grey hair can be very dry as well. Argan oil is also used in the so-called Moroccan oil, but argan oil is pure oil, does not contain perfumes, or any other kind of chemicals. To make the argan oil more yours you can mix one drop essential oil with the argan oil in the palm of your hand before spreading it over the hair, and rub it in the hair and the scalp for about a minute.
*Advice for the use of soap on the skin of the face: Do not use soap too often. Use luke warm water and pat the skin of the face dry.
2. A skin-friendly body-oil
Make your own skin conditioner: Buy organic olive oil, and the essential oil used in the soap. Add 200 ml olive oil / 20 drops essential oil [for external use only!] in an empty and well cleaned fluid soap bottle with pump. Add just a little hand full of the homemade body oil immediately after washing to the wet and warm body from face to toes, spread it all over the skin. Then dry yourself with a towel. A very thin film is left. It offers a matt effect to skin, without weighing it, without leaving oily traces. It improves skin elasticity while preventing moisture loss that can contribute to the aging process. It keeps the skin smooth and soft, while leaving a natural healthy glow, younger looking result, and the wonderful scent of the essential oil. You can buy essential oils at House of Deli, Crete.
Attention: the advised total of drops essential oil on 200 ml olive oil, for a body oil is a safe total. On the website of the Aroma Therapy Foundation is written that the total depends on the power of each single essential oil: they are all different in weight, which means that one drop of lavender is lighter than one drop of oregano, for instance. They recommend for a body oil 20 – 40 drops on 100 ml olive oil. I recommend the maximum of 20 drops on 200 ml olive oil, to be used on body and face. Your skin could react on it anyway. Advice: try your home made body oil on a small spot on your arm, and wait to see how the skin reacts, before using it on the entire body. Do not use the body oil as a sun-oil. You can use it as an after-sun treatment. Protect your skin against the sun with a high protection factor cream. The best protection however is to avoid direct sunlight, by wearing a sun-hat, or to sit in the shadow.
3. Exfoliating the skin
Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells from the outer layer of your skin. If you do this well, in the way that fits with your skin type, this creates a bright, healthy looking skin because the circulation in the skin has improved. The right way of exfoliating allows a better absorption of body oils and creams. See also the Cretan Garden blog post: Exfoliating the skin.
*Advice: the skin of your face may not be exfoliated in the same way as the skin of the body. Because the skin of the face is constantly uncovered, dealing with variations in temperatures, air pollution, overdose of aggressive sunlight, dry air inside the house in winter, airco in summer and winter, the skin of the face needs a mild maintenance Not any kind of exfoliating is mild, unless one uses a wash cloth carefully.
Because Wikipedia offers a very excellent article about massage, types of massages, massages in history, and therapies with massages, I only would like to add some notes.
Massages stimulate the muscles, blood circulation, organs, metabolism in the cells, are balancing the body systems, unblock chakras, create a bridge between your mind and your body, and activate the skin as well, because the skin is the medium between the hands of the therapist and the body beneath the skin. To get used to a therapeutical massage one could start with foot massages. Videos: playlist 1, playlist 2 The Thai yoga massage is a possible next step: you wear comfortable clothes. Videos: playlist.
The skin is our natural border between our inner physical body, our inner world, our self, and the outside world, The human eveolution, related with the so-called civilization, brought changes in habits, also in clothing. Our ancestors did not wear clothes, they used the skin and fur of the animals they killed for food, to protect against cold. They did not live in closed houses but in caves, huts or tents. Fresh air was a constant factor. The air was not polluted in that time. The skin could bath day and night in clean air. Fresh air, oxygen, is necessary to keep the skin in a good condition. Opening windows, at least for an hour or two per day, is a must to keep the air-hygiene optimal. In summer I do this every morning, after waking up at about six o’clock, and close the windows after an hour or two. During winter I do this twice per day, for just five minutes: it is extreme cold in the Norwegian mountains.
Taking a daily walk, also in winter, in an environmentally healthy area, creates a healthy blood circulation. The blood is enriched by breathing in pure oxygen. The blood system transports the oxigen to also the skin.
We are the offspring of the humans who were living in the open air, with abundancies of daylight. We must realize that our skin did not change so much during evolution as our habits in clothing and living. We live almost constantly in a closed house, office, working place, car or any kind of public transport, with artificial light. Natural light, daylight, is essential for our well-being, and to keep a healthy skin. Note: daylight is created by the sun, but being in the full heat of a burning sun is not healthy. Also the shadow offers natural daylight
7. Water and healthy food
What you eat and drink can significantly affect your skin health. Drink at least a liter water per day, next to all other liquids like coffee, tea, juices or soup. Healthline offers excellent information about good food for a healthy skin.
“Olivia” is the name of the body oil that I used when I was pregnant, this year fifty years ago (I am from 1948). This oil prevents the so-called striae or stretch marks in the skin of the belly, caused by the growth of the baby inside the womb. The name “Olivia” is of course related with the oil: it is olive oil.
This was the first time that I got acquainted with olive oil.
Olive oil was in that time (early seventies) only used as a kitchen oil, but kitchen oils were not so often used either, not as frequent as some years later, when there came more and more interest in healthy diets with healthy fats. Healthy fats create a good cholesterol(HDL). I remember that, when I started to use Olivia, it felt a bit strange to massage the skin of the belly with olive oil. But it smelled beautifully mild, not oily, and the skin became indeed more elastic.
The second time that I got acquainted with olive oil, other than using it as a kitchen oil, happened when I became interested in therapeutic massages, in the beginning of the nineties. Massage oils are a mix of a carrier oil(like olive oil, almond oil, coconut oil, etc.) and a wonderful smelling essential oil. When I started myself with therapeutic massages I found the wonderful Weleda oils to work with. I was (and am) really enthusiastic about the product. When I read the information on the box, I discovered that the main part exists of olive oil. I decided to try to make my own massage oil. It seemed to be very easy. A small bottle of organic extra virgin olive oil can be bought in every supermarket. The essential oils are in all sorts and scents available in good health shops. The home made massage oil smells exactly the same as a massage oil of the excellent brand, costs much lesser though, and has the same quality.
I still use olive oil: in the kitchen, but also in the bathroom, everywhere where I wash my hands, as a home made body-, hand- and foot oil, and in the soap room, where I make olive soaps.
How to make a home-made body oil
Formula: 200 ml olive oil / 20 drops essential oil [for external use only!] Put this in an empty clean fluid soap bottle with pump. Add a little bit in the palm of your hands and spread the oil after washing over the wet and warm body from face to toes, then dry with a towel. A very thin film is left. It offers a matt effect to skin, without weighing it, without leaving oily traces. It improves skin elasticity while preventing moisture loss that can contribute to the aging process. It keeps the skin smooth and soft, while leaving a natural healthy glow and younger looking result.