Bring light and scent into your home – and help banish the winter blues – by lighting up the dark evenings with eco-friendly candles
Winter has arrived, the clocks have gone back and the nights are drawing in – and while many people enjoy the cosy, dark evenings of autumn and winter, for others the shortage of daylight during the winter months can be an ordeal.
Around two million people in the UK suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a condition that can cause symptoms ranging from tiredness and insomnia to depression. While people who are struggling to cope with SAD or the winter blues should always seek medical advice, there are some self-help measures that can be taken to relieve mild symptoms.
Keeping active – preferably outdoors, in natural daylight – is one of the best remedies. It's also important to eat a healthy diet, with plenty of protein and fresh fruit and vegetables. Not only will these actions help improve mood, but they'll also boost immunity – helping protect against colds and flu.
In Sweden, where they know a thing or two about long, dark nights and cold, winter days, it's traditional to banish the darkness by lighting lots of candles. As soon as the nights begin to draw in, candles appear in house windows, lanterns are placed outside shop doors, and café and restaurant tables are bathed in candlelight – even during the day.
While this practice alone may not cure the winter blues, there is something undeniably cheering and cosy about the sight of a flickering candle.
Candles have long been a symbol of hope and remembrance, lit in churches and cathedrals across the world to accompany prayers – and featuring as the logo for human rights organization Amnesty International. As the ancient Chinese proverb says: “It's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
There's just one problem with burning candles regularly, though. Most candles are made from paraffin wax, a substance made from petroleum that can have a detrimental effect on the environment – and possibly your health.
“Although paraffin wax candles are much cheaper to buy than natural plant alternatives, they emit high levels of carbon dioxide and have high smoke value – sometimes staining walls or ceilings nearby,” says Sharon Jervis, Founder of (www.beefayre.com). “Often noxious chemicals are used to scent cheap paraffin wax, and these release further pollutants into the atmosphere.”
Candlelit breakfast, Sweden
Need to know
When burning soy candles for the first time, allow them to burn for long enough to melt the wax across the whole of the top surface of the candle – right to the edge of the container. This will prolong the life of your candle by preventing tunneling.
Always place candles on a non-flammable surface well away from any items that could catch fire, and don't exceed maximum burn time (usually around three hours, but check your candle packaging for information). And, of course, candles should never be left burning unattended or within reach of children and pets.
While enjoying an occasional candlelit dinner is unlikely to do you any harm, if you light paraffin candles every day you could be exposing yourself to dangerous toxins that can cause problems such as asthma. Taking regular candlelit baths in a badly ventilated bathroom, for example, could be damaging to your health.
So what's the alternative? “A natural plant wax is a far superior wax to burn and lasts much, much longer,” says Sharon. “Soya wax candles are naturally biodegradable, non-toxic and do not emit soot – so no carcinogens are released into the air, unlike with petroleum candles.”
Natural wax candles can last two or three times longer than paraffin candles – so although they are more expensive to buy, in the long run they can represent better value. And, as many brands of natural wax candles are also scented using pure essential oils rather than synthetic perfumes, they frequently offer a superior fragrance.
We suggest seven superb scented candles – all made with natural plant wax – that will help banish the winter blues and add beautiful fragrance to your home. And with Christmas just around the corner, this is an ideal time to treat yourself or a loved one!
Producing gorgeous candles with minimal environmental impact, Pure Candles make soy wax candles that create a significantly cleaner burn and are biodegradable. The candles are presented in simple but beautiful packaging – a recyclable box finished with a ribbon – and would make a lovely gift. The attractive clear glass containers are satisfyingly chunky and solid – and, because the wax used is biodegradable, they can be easily cleaned and reused to hold a single votive or tea light. There is a wonderful range of fragrances available, including some unusual and innovative combinations such as Grapefruit and Bamboo and Patchouli and Vetiver. Pomegranate and Pepper has a delicate, warm and sweet aroma, that subtly fragrances the room whether unlit or alight.
Made in Wiltshire with clean burning organic plant wax, Green Tulip produces affordable votive candles that cost little more than a standard paraffin votive – but will last longer, burn cleaner and produce no nasty, toxic fumes. The Uplifting votive contains neroli, mandarin, lavender and rosemary, and is perfect for clearing the mind, lifting the mood and aiding concentration. All Green Tulip votives are made from natural, sustainable ingredients, hand poured into recycled glass pots – making them a sound ecological choice.
The fabulous smell of this aromatherapy candle reaches the nose even before the box is opened, thanks to the high proportion of therapeutic essential oils. The soothing blend of lavender, neroli and sandalwood, with subtle scents of clary sage and chamomile, will calm the senses after a stressful day – and placed next to the bed, it will also help aid restful sleep. Hand made in Britain using only natural ingredients and a significant proportion of organic oils, Wildheart Organics candles are not tested on animals and contain no petrochemicals or toxic substances – and all containers and packaging can be recycled. This is an ethical choice that's also luxurious – with its elegant blue and silver packaging and superbly relaxing aroma it would make a gorgeous gift.
Releasing a light, fresh, floral scent this lovely little candle will conjure up thoughts of spring – ideal for lifting the spirits during the darkest days of winter! The candle is contained in a white glass jar adorned with a golden bee. Handmade in England, all materials are sourced from the UK with other small businesses being supported wherever possible. Willow and Honey aims to “lift the mood of every room by creating a range of beautiful products and fragrances which deliver a euphoric and memorable experience." The French Pear and Freesia Mini certainly achieves this! There are some other wonderful fragrances to choose from, too, including Sweet Orange and Chilli and Fig and Cassis. A perfect Christmas stocking filler.
Scented with natural lavender and geranium essential oils, the Bee Calm candle promotes tranquility and harmony – perfect for unwinding after a hectic day. Presented in a beautiful glass jar decorated with a delicate white flower and bee illustration – when the wax has finished, wash out the glass and reuse it as a pretty tea light holder. Beefayre donates three per cent of all profits to bee conservation projects across the UK, as well as promoting bee awareness through their products and supporting research that helps bees. So each candle – or any other Beefayre product, including body butters, soaps and lip balms – you buy will help protect our vital pollinators!
Created in the Cotswolds with organic ingredients, this range of eco-friendly candles is hand poured and made from non-GM soybean wax – a naturally biodegradable and sustainable material – with natural cotton wicks. Little Soap Company's English Lavender candle is perfect for unwinding in a candlelit bath – the wonderful, relaxing aroma creating a luxurious, spa-like atmosphere in the bathroom. Also available in calming and soothing rose geranium. Both candles are scented only with pure essential oils – with no synthetic perfumes – creating a pure and natural aroma. All packaging – from presentation to postage – is also environmentally friendly and recyclable.
Little Green Space November 2016
Made with high quality, sustainably sourced, non-toxic ingredients, M & J London's candles are hand-poured into 100 per cent recycled glass tumblers, which are reusable. The large Sweet Beginnings candle has an evocative and nostalgic scent – a combination of lavender, manuka honey and cocoa. It burns for around 60 hours, filling the room with fragrance. Each of M & J London's candles are inspired by nature, travels and memories – browse through their website to read the stories and find out which candle is the best fit for your loved one. These candles are a luxury choice, and are also highly ethical – alongside the eco-friendly production methods, a donation is given to a UK-based women's charity for each candle sold.