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Essential Oils for Winter Health

I recently traveled up to Oregon, to teach a class on Aromatherapy. I was co-teaching with my good friend and sister herbalist, Samantha Roberts of Wolf Star Wellness. We offered this class as part of the Free Monday Night Lecture series at the Ashland Food Co-op, following up on our popular Taste of Herbs class last fall.

Lavender Essential Oil

This is such a popular topic, and we had so much stimulating conversation, that I am inspired to share some of it with a wider audience here.

What Are Essential Oils & How Are They Made?

Diagram of Steam Distillation process

Essential Oils are highly concentrated constituents that are extracted from plants via steam distillation. This is probably the most common method of extraction, although cold-pressing and enfleurage are two alternate methods.

Hydrosols are a water by-product of the distillation process. In our class, we demonstrated making a hydrosol of Rosemary. We'll discuss the specific benefits and applications of Rosemary essential oil and hydrosol, further in this post.

Basics of Blending a Formula

Because essential oils are so highly concentrated, a little goes a really long way. We recommend always diluting essential oils in some sort of a base or carrier.

Some examples of base oils are grapeseed oil, almond oil, apricot kernel oil, jojoba oil, sesame oil. Those are listed generally in order from lighter to heavier consistency. Olive oil also works just fine. Coconut oil can be used, but of course, it is solid at room temperature, so it may be easier to melt it, let it slightly cool, then stir in a few drops of your preferred essential oils before it solidifies again.

Essential oils can easily be added to water. Keep in mind that oil and water do not mix. The oils will float on the surface of the water. So if you're making a spray bottle, Shake Well! If you're adding EOs to a bath, we recommend mixing them in a small amount of something fatty - one of the base oils listed above; or blend with some salt, such as Epsom salt for the bath; or mix into a little milk, which is a really nice addition to the bath, and makes a nourishing treat for the skin.

Grouping Options:

  • base - middle - top

  • roots - fruits - flowers - seeds - stems

  • multiples from the same group: citruses, evergreens, etc.

How to Use:

  • Inhalation: so simple, so effective!

  • Steam: Eucalyptus, Thyme, Peppermint

  • Chest Rub: Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Lavender

  • Diffusion: for specific periods of time (not 24/7!)

  • Salt Scrubs: great for stimulating the lymph system

  • Massage oils: customized to your constitution

  • Baths: be aware of EO contact w/ sensitive areas

Safety & Quality:

Friends Don't Let Friends Drink Essential Oils!

Concentrations: how many pounds of raw herb does it take to make a cup of tea? a tincture? an essential oil?

Did you know that one drop of Peppermint essential oil is equivalent to 28 cups of tea?

Why use a pound when a teaspoon will do?

It is greedy and dangerous!

  • toxicity

  • dilution ratios

  • quality vendors

  • importance of organic

  • environmental stewardship

  • topical vs. internal use: Don't drink essential oils!

Here's a great article with more details about dilution, from a vendor we respect.

Winter Health Topics

Citrus fruits

Citrus oils, including Lemon, Orange, Grapefruit and Lime, are known to have disinfectant properties, and are prized for their ability to lift the mood. They make a great addition to the home EO kit. Use them diluted in room deodorizing sprays, to wipe down doorknobs, telephones and key pads, to polish wood furniture. The simplest way to access citrus essential oils is to just smell the fresh peel!

Sam preps Rosemary hydrosol


  • upper sinuses & lower lungs: Evergreens

  • cold & flu prevention & treatment

Winter Blues & Seasonal Affective Disorder

  • inhalations, salt scrubs to move Qi, baths to soothe tension

  • Bergamot, Lavender, Lemongrass, Rose geranium, Spikenard

Aches & Pains

  • arthritic joints aggravated by cold: Rosemary, Ginger

  • winter sports injuries: Wintergreen

Making a Hydrosol of Rosemary
Hydrosol Illustration

Rosemary Essential Oil & Hydrosol:

According to Jeanne Rose, rosemary is a universal aid in massage and wake-up blends. Used in massage oils for arthritis; inhaled for loss of memory or mental fatigue. It is expectorant (helps remove phlegm from the respiratory system) antibacterial & antiviral; indicated for sinus &/or bronchial infections, and all aspects of the ear, nose and throat.

This is another great addition to the home EO kit for Winter Wellness!

Top 10: Building Your Home EO Kit

Some of our favorites (we were challenged to list only ten herbs!):

  1. Lavender

  2. Peppermint

  3. Eucalyptus

  4. Tea Tree family: including Ravensara, Niaouli

  5. Citruses: Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Orange

  6. Thyme or Oregano

  7. Evergreens: Rosemary, Pine, Fir

  8. Rose Geranium vs. Rose

  9. Vetiver, Spikenard or Patchouli

  10. Lemongrass or Basil

  11. Blue Chamomile or Blue Yarrow

It is a pleasure to work with the folks at the Community Classroom in Ashland!

If you'd like more information about this topic,

feel free to visit my website and sign up for my newsletter.

Interested in bringing this class to your organization?

We'd love to work with you!

Thank you to everyone who attended our class. We appreciate your time, your interest in these topics, and your support of our work. We couldn't do it without you!

When we teach our students, we honor our teachers.

Thank you.

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