Now that summer has finally arrived here in the UK and we are actually getting some sun, this is the perfect time to make your own healing oils.
My favourite method is using the ’sun method’ which involves infusing fresh or dried herbs in vegetable oil and leaving the jars outside in the sunshine for at least two weeks.
Here are the instructions for two of the oils I make the most; St John’s Wort oil and Calendula oil.
They are made in exactly the same way and it is up to you what vegetable oil you want to use, but please make sure it is of good quality.
While a lot of herbalists like to use Olive oil in these preparations, I find that the smell of the Olive oil overpowers the smell of the herb and also it is more difficult to see if the oil is ready due to the colour of the Olive oil (extra virgin Olive oil tends to be green, so it is easier if you begin with a golden coloured oil instead) therefore I prefer to use Sunflower Seed Oil or Sweet Almond Oil instead - these will make the oils rich in essential fatty acids which are great for the skin. If you want a lighter oil then Grapeseed is great.
Ingredients required for each herbal oil:
1. Fresh or dried herbs -for the Calendula oil, just use the flower heads (Calendula officialis) and if you are using fresh flowers please make sure they are completely dry first, as any water/moisture in the oil will cause bacteria to grow resulting in mould. For the St John’s Wort oil, make sure you have the correct species of plant, you need to use Hypericum perforatum (if you hold the fresh leaves up to the light you will see that they look like they have pinholes all over them) use the leaves and the yellow flowers, careful as you pick off the flowerheads as your hands will become temporarily stained with a natural red dye, but this will come off after a few washes, again make sure the herb is completely dry before adding the oil.
2. Vegetable oil (your choice) - enough to fill the jar completely.
3. A clean - preferably sterilised glass jar with lid (must be completely dry inside too). Any size you want to use is fine and will determine how much oil you make in total. I tend to use a jam jar which is around 200ml.
4. Clean amber coloured glass bottles and self-adhesive labels (for bottling finished oil).
1. Add the fresh/dried herb to the clean jar (fresh herb works best with the St John’s Wort but you can use either dried or fresh herb for the Calendula). You need to pack it in almost to the top of the jar.
2. Slowly pour the oil into the jar, making sure you give the jar a gentle tap to remove air bubbles as you fill it. Use a spoon or knife to push the herb down into the jar to make sure it is fully submerged in the oil. Top up with more herb as necessary and more oil, until the oil/herb level reaches the top of the jar.
3. Put on the lid and label the jar with the contents and date made.
4. Put the jar outside in a sunny position and leave it for at least two weeks, feel free to give it a gentle shake during this time to ensure that all the herb is getting some sunshine.
5. At the end of two weeks, check the oil to see if it is ready. You will know this because the St John’s Wort oil will be deep red in colour (because of the natural red dye). Calendula oil will tend to be a darker gold than it was to begin with, or may even appear slightly orange - depending on the colour of the flowers used. If you feel that the oils could be darker in colour then feel free to leave them a bit longer (especially if you haven’t had much sun in the last fortnight). You can leave them for up to six weeks effectively, so use your own intuition as to when you feel it is ready or not.
6. Once the oil is ready, strain the herb from the oil (best way is lining a sieve with some muslin cloth then you can squeeze out the last drops of the oil) and place the used herb on your compost heap. Retain the oil and pour it into a dark glass bottle (you can buy amber medicine bottles for this purpose from your local pharmacy). Label the bottle with the date you bottled it, the contents i.e. ‘St John’s Wort Oil - bottled 3rd June 2009 Expiry date: 3rd June 2010 - For External Use Only’ and add an expiry date and warning (you don’t want to drink this! Won’t hurt you but definately won’t taste nice!). Oils will last up to a year if kept in a cool place (not necessarily the fridge but it won’t hurt them if you do - and actually could be extra soothing for the skin). And there you have it, you have made your first oil
The healing properties of St John’s Wort oil are especially beneficial for nerve related disorders like sciatica, shingles, neuralgia etc and also very good for sunburn, which I can verify from personal experience It is the first remedy I choose when I have sciatic pain, just rub it into the affected area (it will smell a bit herbally, but not unpleasant) and apply to the affected sunburn as often as you would like - it healed my sunburn within a day, even I was amazed! But word of warning, do not apply to exposed areas prior to going out in the sun as it can make you burn quicker! I know that sounds like a contradiction, but for some reason it just works that way!
Calendula oil is fantastic for any dry skin, including eczema and psoriasis. It is a very healing oil and will help to regenerate new skin if there are scars present, so great for stretchmarks and scratchmarks It is also wonderful to use on babies bottoms to prevent nappy rash (use a small amount - around the size of a 10p coin, or you’ll have a greasy nappy!). You can also add essential oils to it for further healing benefits at a dilution of up to three drops per 5ml of Calendula oil (one drop per 5ml oil for babies ages three months - five years old then two drops per 5ml from 5-10 years old, over 10 years old can be treated as per adults).
Experiment with your own different herbs to make healing oils from, as different herbs have different properties, comfrey is good for bruising, arnica is good for aches and pains, mullein is good for earaches (a few drops on a cotton ball and placed into the ear can sometimes help with ear infections and especially excess wax). Only use the St John’s Wort and Calendula oil on children unless you have consulted a qualified herbalist first. The oils listed above may be easier to make via the ‘Heat method’ which is where you prepare the herb in the same way, but instead of putting it in a jar to go out in the sun, you add the herb/oil mix to a glass bowl on top of a saucepan of boiling water and leave for a few hours on a low heat - as though you are melting chocolate (making sure that the water doesn’t evaporate away - top up as necessary). I don’t use this method myself as I am not sure how much of the herbs properties are damaged by the heat - but it is a method that has been used successfully by many herbalists over the years. There are many books to give you more information about this - ‘Amazon.co.uk’ being one of the best places to look.
So, enjoy yourself, experiment and embrace the sunshine to enhance your medicine cabinet with some natural healing products