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Excerpt from "The Aromatherapy Garden"

Aromatherapy Body Oils from the Garden

by Kathi Keville


Long before there were essential oils to purchase, people made aromatic body, hair, and anointing oils from their gardens, using favorite fragrant plants such as sweet basil, gardenia, jasmine, and spikenard. To create soothing and fragrant body oils today, simply soak aromatic plant materials in a warm carrier oil. A carrier oil is a vegetable oil such as coconut or grapeseed oil that serves to “carry” the essential oil. Carrier oils are readily infused with the tiny essential oils, and thus the scent. I suggest that you try small batches when you start out to master the technique. In addition, some delicate flowers that are difficult to steam-distill into essential oils, such as jasmine, are sensitive to any heat used in processing. The result is an infused oil that smells good, but never smells as beautiful as the pure essential oil.

To make your own aromatherapy oil, finely chop dried or fresh garden plant material. Fresh plants are trickier to process since they mold more easily. Either way, the plants generally represent about half the amount by weight of the carrier oil. So if you have eight ounces of plant material, use about sixteen ounces of oil.
However, it is difficult to give exact measurements for each herb, because they have varying weights, volumes, and rates of oil absorption. The plant material should be completely submerged in the carrier oil, with the oil barely covering it. Place it on very low heat—no boiling or even pre-boiling—for at least five hours. The ideal temperature is between 80 and 90 degrees F. To maintain this state, you may want to use a double boiler or a rice cooker, or a crock pot if it has a very low setting. If the room fills with a lovely aroma, the temperature is too hot and you are losing the plant’s scent into the room.

An alternate method uses solar heat. Place chopped, dried plant material in a clean, wide-mouthed glass jar. Pour the carrier oil over the top, then stir it to release any air bubbles, and affix a lid. If the air is humid, cover the top of the jar with several layers of cheesecloth instead of a lid, and secure the cloth with string or a rubber band to allow moisture to escape and to prevent molding. Check the mixture in a few hours; you may need to add more oil if the plant materials are very absorbent. Let the jar sit in the sun for three or four days. This technique works best on hot days since the temperature inside the jar will be about five degrees cooler than the outside air. Fluctuations in temperature from day to night will not harm the process, but if daytime temperatures temporarily cool down, leave the jar in the sun for a few extra days. You can also keep the jar in another warm place, such as next to a heater, wood stove, or fireplace.

With either the stovetop or the solar method, when the plants are ready, strain the oil through a fine kitchen strainer, cheesecloth, or muslin. Before you strain out the plant material, however, make sure that the oil has taken on the color and aroma of the plant. Stick a clean knife into the oil. Pull it out and smell the oil residue on the knife to make sure it smells like the plant(s) you used. If it doesn’t, try processing the oil a little longer. If you used fresh plants instead of dried, you may end up with a few drops of water at the bottom after the oil is strained. Discard it with the last little bit of oil, or save it for your next bath. Once the oil is strained, you have your own body or massage oil or hair treatment from your garden.

Following are some simple formulas. You do not have to follow them exactly. Feel free to stick to the plants you have in your garden. Simply use equal parts of whatever plants you choose, put them in a jar and cover them with a carrier oil.

Gardener’s heating liniment 
When a long day in the garden has your muscles aching, you can turn your garden plants into a pain relief liniment with basil, bay laurel, eucalyptus, and juniper leaves. To create a liniment-like sensation of heat, also add camphor or peppermint leaves.

Lavender-rose anti-inflammation oil 
This formula can ease muscle cramps or pain from arthritis, and the same plants also reduce inflammation from bruises and sprains—injuries that gardeners know all too well. Use the flowers of lavender, German chamomile, and curry plant; and leaves of marjoram, rose, and rose geranium.

Sleep and de-stressing massage oil 
Try gentle aromatherapy by making a massage oil with the flowers of German or Roman chamomile, clove pink, lavender, orange blossom, and rose; and the leaves of bee balm, lemon balm, and marjoram. This oil may also be rubbed on the temples.

Antidepressant massage oil 
One of the main features of aromatherapy is how fra­grances act on the mind. Take advantage of this by creating oils with aromatic plants that are used to increase a sense of happiness, such as bee balm, clary sage, lavender, lemon balm, lemon verbena, jasmine, orange blossom, and rose geranium. This oil may also be rubbed on the temples.

Sensual massage oil 
A number of plants have age-old reputations as aphrodisiacs, such as clove pinks, jasmine, orange blossom, rose flowers, and patchouli leaves. Coriander can be added to this list, but it, as well as the others, are obviously not good additions if the object of your affection does not find the scent pleasing.

--Taken from The Aromatherapy Garden© Copyright 2015 by Kathi Keville. Published by Timber Press, Portland, OR. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

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