Our sense of smell is one of the strongest ways we connect to our memories. Pine needles conjure up the holiday season, this or that soap takes you right back to Grandma’s house, wet earth for spring and pumpkin spice for autumn; it goes on and on.

Surrounding ourselves with pleasing scents is an easy, effective way to provoke feelings of comfort and calm. Commercial air fresheners exist, but they’re chock full of chemicals — some potentially carcinogenic, some certainly toxic, and many that are known allergens. Using fresh or dried herbs instead is a natural way to fill your space with the scents that you love the most. Here are 7 simple ways to get your groovy fragrance on:

Boil

Spices such as cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, cardamom pods, fennel seeds, etc, can be boiled in a pot on the stove. They’ll fill every nook and cranny with a warm, spicy, autumn-y aroma. To shake it up a bit, throw some orange slices in there.

burning pinecone in fireplaceBurn

During the winter, you can use pine cones, dried rosemary branches, and cinnamon sticks as kindling in your fireplace. These awesome little fire starters will leave the whole place smelling quintessentially seasonal.

Grow

Aromatic plants like jasmine, honeysuckle and tuberoses can all be grown indoors. Herbs such as rosemary and mint are also easy houseplants, though they’re less fragrant then their flowery alternatives.

Potpourri

A beautiful bowl of potpourri is perhaps the most straightforward solution to scenting up your abode. The mix can be made from any number of flowers (think roses, lavender and chamomile) or herbs (think lemon balm, peppermint, cinnamon sticks and rosemary). You can also add fruits, such as lemon or orange peel. Make sure all the ingredients are completely dried before mixing and setting out.

feet sticking out from under bed sheetsSleeping dust

Mix 1 part dried, freshly ground herbs (use a blender or mortar and pestle) with 1 part baking soda. Sprinkle a bit of the powder mixture directly onto your mattress each time you change the sheets. You’ll notice a lovely, subtle smell that permeates your resting place.

[skipwords]Carpet dust

To freshen up your carpet or rug, combine 6 parts baking soda, 3 parts dried ground lavender and 1 part corn starch, then set aside the mixture for a few days. Once it’s fully steeped, sprinkle the concoction over your carpet, allow it to penetrate for at least an hour and then vacuum it up.[/skipwords]

Sachet

A sachet is just a small bag filled with dried, freshly crumbled herbs. Lavender, sage, or spearmint are all lovely choices. Sachets can be thrown in the dryer to freshen up your laundry, or they’re great for drawers, chests and in other small spaces that hold clothing or linens. Many herbs, like lavender, have natural pest control properties.

Are there any other ways you like to use herbs to spruce up your living space? Please share in the comments!

Sayward Rebhal originally wrote this story for Networx.com. It is reprinted with permission here.

Related green home improvement stories on MNN:

Click for photo credits

Photo credits:
Pinecones: Natashalatrasha/Flickr

Sheets: Yoni Lerner/Flickr