A Magazine about the Hudson Valley’s local economy, published by Hudson Valley Current.

Wellness by Candlelight

by Rebecca Shea   

We are deep into the “100 Days of Darkness”—the time between Halloween and Valentine’s Day when daylight could be mistaken for perpetual twilight. This lack of light can cause the dreaded “Winter Blues”.

One antidote for the winter blues is to jet to a locale closer to the equator and be kissed by the sun on a warm beach with only yoga classes on the agenda. A more realistic option that offers luxury in its own right—beauty, light, and health—is to stock your home with an abundance of locally-made natural beeswax candles. 
Burning beeswax candles is an elegant and simple way to counter the cold, blue light of deep winter. Beeswax candles emit a soft amber glow and they have a faint honey-like fragrance, that recalls the warmth and relaxation of summer days.

Many people prefer beeswax candles to paraffin candles, which are readily available in supermarkets and drugstores, because beeswax provides substantial health benefits. Burning beeswax emits negative ions that help clean the air, similar to how a rain storm helps clean the air outside. In forests, near waterfalls and streams in the countryside, there are many negative ions in the air, which share these salutary benefits. Usually sanitariums are located in forests so the patients can benefit from the negative ions, such as reduced tension, improved blood circulation, and a better immune system. Negative ions also help relieve tiredness. Try burning a beeswax candle while working on your computer. Studies have even found that the productivity of factory workers is higher when negative ion generators are put in place.

Paraffin, a derivative of the sludge of petroleum, coal, or oil shale is treated with carcinogens to create a usable product. Paraffin wax produces an abundance of soot. This soot can stain, sometimes leaving black residue on walls in your home that is difficult to remove.

Pure beeswax candles sometimes have a snob appeal because they are priced significantly higher than paraffin candles. But cost and value can be relative to each persons’ needs, experience, and access to information. Some would argue that companies misrepresent the savings you get from buying the less expensive paraffin candles. When comparing burn times, paraffin candles have a lower burning point and therefore tend to burn more quickly—two to five times faster then beeswax candles. Plus, beeswax is a renewable resource (as long as we keep bee colonies healthy). Paraffin wax made from fossil fuels is finite, and by limiting our role in that corrupted market, we free ourselves little by little from the stranglehold of oil.

Martha Stewart thinks that beeswax candle making is easy, fun, and very rewarding (she would). But she’s right—it can be a fun winter project to try at home. The materials for making beeswax candles can be found at the High Falls Food Co-Op and Hudson Valley Bee Keeping in Kingston. Follow Martha Stewart’s steps to beeswax candle making via a classic “vintage” video on her website or check out the simple instructions found at VisitVortex.com. Even the imperfect candles that you might hide away when guests come to visit will still come in handy when the lights go out during a storm.

There are also some wonderful local vendors that offer a range of beeswax candles for sale. The candles from Greentree Home Candle and Louvriere Candle Studio based in the Catskills are artisanal works of art created by master candle makers. Their tapers are perfect for dinner tables because they are essentially dripless and their height casts a pleasant glow onto the face of the plates, so you can see what you are eating.

Their molded candles make special gifts. Check out their Hob Nail Bottle candles and animal shapes. They even offer a black beeswax candle that is über chic. Find them online or in specialty shops throughout the Hudson Valley and Catskills.

Katherine Somelofski, of Dancing Star Studio also based in the Catskill mountains creates classic beeswax candles and her honey bear molded candles are charming. In the summer months she demonstrates the hand dipping process behind her pure beeswax candles at the Pakatakan Farmers Market. You can find her work at the Emerson’s Gift Shop.

When you are in Woodstock pop into Candlestock at 16 Mill Hook Road for a vast variety of candles ranging from the artistic to the spiritual, with many made on-site. They even offer perfumed beeswax candles in glass jars like Tree of Life, Purple Haze, Flower Power, and Moment of Clarity which is a white beeswax candle infused with ginger grass. Ginger grass improves blood flow, sharpens the senses and focuses the mind. These are a refreshing treat when you tire of the honey scent of beeswax candles.

The shortest day of the year is past, but we are a long way from 9:30pm sunsets. The next time you are sitting in the bleary light of dusk, feeling the temptation to wallow in winter blues, hop in the car instead and go get yourself some locally made beeswax candles.