THROUGHOUT history extracts from herb plants, roots, tree bark, leaves and flowers have been used in traditional and modern medicine.
Herb plants hold within them a life-force and we humans have found the means to extract this goodness and embody the properties for our own purposes.
We have infused them in oil, simmered and decocted them in water, cold-percolated them and macerated them in alcohol to extract the various active substances that have specific and non-specific actions on our body systems.
These extracts are quickly assimilated by the body, and are best used to support and maintain the body’s own efforts to defend itself, playing an important role in preventative, holistic care.
There are three main types of extracts - infused oils, tinctures and decoctions - and today we will focus on Infused Oils.
Some plants have very little or no essential oil in them and infusing the herb into a vegetable carrier oil or fixed oil can be a suitable way to extract the medicinal properties and use the herb in aromatherapy.
Infused oils are not as concentrated as essential oils and are a great way to enrich and fortify a blend, cream or ointment. Essential oils can also be added directly to an infused oil, which then acts as a carrier oil.
The Extraction Process
To extract a herb means to steep or soak plant material (leaves, bark, flowers, roots, resins fruits and the like) in a menstruum such as water (decoction), alcohol (tincture) or oil (infusion) in order to extract the soluable medicinal properties.
A herbal infused oil is a base or fatty vegetable oil such as olive, almond, sunflower or rosehip oil that has absorbed the fat-soluble properties of the chosen herb.
The herb is soaked or macerated in the gently warmed oil for a suitable period of time to extract the healing actives.
Sometimes a second infusion of plant material can be added to the already infused oil to increase its potency.
The oil is stove-top heated to a maximum 20 degrees Celsius to protect its therapeutic integrity. Otherwise solar or sun infusion is another valid option to warm and extract active constituents. Once the infusion is complete it is strained and bottled for future use.
The ready infused oil can be used by itself as a simple medicinal oil or it can be added to other oil blends, salves or balms for extra remedial clout.
The infused oil is an excellent carrier for essential oils.
Great addition to the first aid kit
THE AMAZING arnica is a herb that has earned its reputation for dramatic healing properties, especially in more modern times for treating injuries and bruises.
It is usually the first remedy to be given after a fall or accident when there is muscle strain or injury.
In fact, any injury involving contusion or fracture will respond positively to instant attention with this well-known traditional medicine; that, when applied directly, will significantly minimise the effects of tissue trauma.
Antibiotic, anti-inflammatory pain reliever
Arnica is very helpful for treating arthritis, painful joints, and muscle exhaustion from over-exertion, making it the herb of choice for herbal sports medications.
Research studies on competitors in the 1990 Norwegian marathon found that applying arnica to the skin before an athletic event reduced pain and stiffness after the event.
It also works effectively on the skin for burns, ulcers, eczema, irritated insect bites and acne because its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties reduce pain and swelling while enhancing the healing of wounds.
It may be applied for septic conditions such as painful recurrent boils.
It has been used for unbroken chilblains, carpal tunnel syndrome and some limited use in hair tonics and dandruff preparations to treat alopecia.
How it works
Arnica’s anti-inflammatory properties are principally due to its sesquiterpene lactones.
These anti-inflammatory actives speed up the healing process in bruised and injured tissue by dispersing waste-bound fluids and moving cleansing fluids and platelets into the affected area (blood platelets are the cells involved in the clotting process.) By blocking the actions of pro-inflammatory cytokines, arnica can then mop up the inflammatory debris and lactic acid.
The reversal of the effects of pain-causing prostaglandins means that arnica successfully reduces swelling and relieves pain after injury and muscle strain
Arnica for childbirth
Arnica contains compounds that act in the same manner as oxytocin (Pitocin), a drug used to induce labour and for this reason; pregnant women should not use arnica.
However, this need not apply at the beginning of labour, when arnica will admirably prepare the body for the strains of giving birth by helping the muscles function effectively.
Directly after childbirth, the popular homeopathic remedy can be mightily helpful to relieve bruising and speed up healing.
Many midwives recommend that arnica oil be added to a sitz-bath for the postnatal treatment of episiotomy stitches or tears once the skin is sealed to speed up healing.
Ingredients: certified organic cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, certified organic arnica flowers.
THE ACTIVES in calendula are mostly bigger and non-volatile compared to many essential oils.
Accordingly, they are not steam-distilled but more effectively extracted by infusion or maceration in a vegetable oil to produce infused calendula oil.
The fresh flowers are soaked in the vegetable oil and left until the natural anti-inflammatory actives, including saponins (which are very useful emollients for irritations) and pigments (carotenoids) are absorbed into the oil, making it go a rich, yellowy colour.
Significantly, polyphenols (flavonoids), the antioxidants that strengthen the capillaries and fight free radicals, would be otherwise destroyed by extreme heat.
The resulting calendula infused oil is used neat, as a carrier oil or added to a blend in aromatherapy practice to add extra healing clout with its remarkable ability to assuage numerous skin problems such as eczema, cracked skin, bruises, varicose veins and cuts.
This is the efficacious base used to make balms, lotions and can be added to cosmetics to improve the overall appearance of the skin, promoting hydration and firmness.
In massage blends it can help prevent and relax muscle spasms. It also helps treat contact dermatitis, which includes reactions to poison ivy.
Use calendula oil to treat cradle cap on babies’ scalps: soak the area and later gently comb off flaky skin.
Ingredients: certified organic cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, certified organic calendula flowers.
MAGICAL MULLEIN infused oil is made from infusing the flowering tops of the plant in olive oil that is steeped over a period of time and heated gently at a warm temperature, but not too hot.
The traditional method that dates back to the renaissance was to put mullein stalks and flowers in a bottle in the sunshine and let the oil drip down to the bottom.
There is not much colour in mullein oil, as it resembles olive oil in colour, however its aroma does change and has a pleasant nutmeg-like smell.
Known for being the ear’s herbal best friend, mullein is an excellent remedy for earache, ear infections or ear eczema and is a must-have in the natural first aid kit.
A safe, gentle and soothing agent for the very young suffering from earache; even a warm compress used externally against the side of the ear is helpful.
The powerful anti-inflammatory, yet gentle chamomile essential oil is an excellent addition, rendering the simple infused oil as a superlative, soothing remedy. Mullein oil is not only suitable for human delicate canals, but is just as helpful to treat ear issues in our pets and may be used to safely treat minor ear infections in dogs.
It is a good idea to gently warm the oil first in a cup of hot water to bring it to blood temperature, to ensure it does not cause a shock as it enters the delicate ear tissues.
This is suggested because our ears are sensitive to changes in temperature and if the oil is too cold or too hot, it can induce dizziness or vertigo in some people.
Mullein for swimmer’s ear and more
Mullein oil stands out as an efficacious treatment for easing the discomfort of swimmer’s ear.
Mullein oil is placed in the ear to soothe where there is pain and a sense of obstruction.
Interestingly, this oil was once an early German remedy used in deafness as a result of congested dried earwax, or too soft and insufficient earwax.
Mullein infused oil is safe for use by children to treat ear infections in the short term.
For adults, it’s completely safe to use topically and internally, as long as the correct dosages are used and no other serious condition exists that contra-indicates its use.
Contains: organic cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, mullein flowers, chamomile essential oil.
The best nerve herb
ST JOHN’S Wort infused oil is made by steeping the fresh flowering tops in a quality vegetable oil.
Olive oil is a good base choice, as it rarely turns rancid. This is the slow process of cold infusion, whereby the jar is packed with the herb and oil and left to stand for six weeks in sunlight, which encourages the plant to release its active constituents into the oil.
The oil turns a gorgeous rich red colour due to the red fluorescent pigment, hypericin.
St John’s Wort acts as a tonic for the nervous system and can be used for nervous exhaustion, tension and sleep difficulties. Its use as a calming nervine is well documented for nervousness, excitability and disturbed sleep patterns.
One could massage the oil over the entire body to bring comfort, reduce nervousness and trauma, and promote a good night’s sleep.
Skin loves this oil
St John’s Wort possesses an array of antioxidant properties that not only treats dry skin but also maintains a natural moisture balance.
It stimulates the skin cells, increasing circulation and as a result, the skin becomes more hydrated and moisturised.
Using it on your face will not only balance out your skin’s texture, but it will refresh your skin naturally while also treating an array of skin diseases such as eczema and dermatitis.
Use St John’s Wort as a safe douche to treat thrush, a few drops of myrrh essential oil would be a helpful addition.
A first-aid must-have
St John’s Wort oil’s antiseptic action provides a quick remedy for bites, cold sores, skin wounds, eruptions and rashes.
Applying the oil has proven to be incredibly effective in not just pain management, but also for targeting the actual origin of the pain. Just by applying a little oil, you will soothe these wounded areas immediately. Blending St John’s Wort oil with calendula oil heightens the effectiveness in treating bruises.
It eases the discomforts of haemorrhoids, especially when combined with witchazel.
One could add cypress or juniper oil to St John’s Wort oil for varicose veins.
In fact, studies have indicated that this infused oil, when used as a carrier, enhances both the analgesic and the anti-inflammatory effects of the other essential oils used with it.
St John’s Wort Oil is effective for practitioners to use on trigger points for deep tissue massage or myofascial release therapy.
Contains: cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, Australian-grown fresh St John’s Wort flowers.