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