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Aromatherapy Projects - Make your own Essential Oils

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Aromatherapy - Essential Oils from Walkabout CraftsSource of the oil

There are many fragrant plants growing all over the world and essential oils can be extracted from most of them. The part of the plant used is that which has the highest concentration of oil.
The oil from petals is called an attar. It is extracted from the scented flowers of a typical English garden, such as rose, wallflower, carnation and jasmine. In certain plants, in particular the clove, the buds contain more oil than the open flower, so the buds are harvested for aromatic and culinary use.

Herbaceous plants, such as rosemary, lemon balm and the scented pelargonium's provide oil from their leaves. Some plants with faintly aromatic foliage and flowers have highly scented roots or rhizomes. These range from the exotic ginger of the east to the iris, roseroot and geranium of our own gardens. Oils are also extracted from citrus fruits, such as lemon, orange and lime.

Many plants are grown for their seeds which are used as spices. Oils can be extracted from many of these, such as cumin, cardamom, fennel and nutmeg. Trees and shrubs also provide oils which are extracted from their barks, woods and resins. For example, cedarwood and sandalwood oils are taken from the bark and wood; storax, myrrh and frankincense oils come from the resins.

Whichever part of the plant the oil is taken from, the actual amount of oil produced is exceedingly small but highly concentrated. However, a little essential oil will go along way.

Producing oils

There are three main methods by which essential oils are extracted from plants commercially - by expression, distillation and extraction.

Expression
This method is said to produce the finest quality oils, which are often the most expensive to buy. The plants are subjected to a high degree of pressure and the oil is literally squeezed out. No heat is applied during this process, so the final product is very near to its natural state. Expressed oils are sometimes referred to as cold pressed oils.

Distillation
This method had been used in Turkey for thousands of years. The plants are put in boiling water so that the essential oil evaporates into the steam. As the steam condenses the liquid is collected and left to stand. The oil floats to the surface and is skimmed off.

Extraction
This process is much simpler and there are two basic methods, enfleurage and maceration. Both work on the principle that one oil will attract another to itself. It is these two methods that can be most easily adapted for use in the home.

Enfleurage
This involves steeping the plants in cool olive oil. After a time, the oil is strained off and the plants are replaced with fresh ones. This process is repeated until the scent of the oil reaches the required strength.

Maceration
Works in a similar way, except that the container of oil is placed in hot water for a few hours each day to speed up the process.

Making Essential Oils

The key to making your own essential oils is in the choice of plant materials. Little in the way of equipment is needed, other than jars and saucepans which you will probably already have in the kitchen.

Plant Materials

Oils to use
Use a refined oil to attract the essential oil from the plant. Choose one that has a pale colour and mild scent - olive, safflower, and sesame oils all work well.

Flowers to use
Choose from any of the following: roses, pinks and carnations, violets, wallflowers, lilac, jasmine, hawthorn flowers, lavender, honeysuckle, hyacinth, orange blossom, lily of the valley, sweet pea and heliotrope. Cut the flowers just before they are fully open and, where possible, use the petals only. Use a single type of flower, or mixtures of two or more together. The flowers can also be mixed with small amounts of herbs, such as lavender or marjoram.

Leaves to use
Almost any garden herb can be used to make essential oils. Cut the herbs just before the flowers open; use the leaves and flowers, but not the woody stems. Chop the leaves before adding them to the oil. Treat the leaves of scented pelargonium's in the same way.
Recommended herbs are the many varieties of fragrant thyme, marjoram, peppermint, lemon verbena, lemon balm and rosemary. If making essential oil for culinary purposes add sage and fennel.

Spices to use
Cinnamon, nutmeg (grated), cloves, cumin and coriander are best for home produced oils. Use a pestle and mortar to crush them before adding them to the oil.

Citrus peels
The zest of citrus fruits, pared very thinly, can also be used to make essential oils. Use them very sparingly in mixtures - about two strips of zest per bottle.

Mixing plant materials

The plant materials can all be used singly or they can be mixed to make oils that are useful in pot pourri and other scented craft items. When mixing different plant materials, use at least twice as many flowers as herbs and only small amounts of spices and peels. The mixtures can be varied to suit final use, personal taste and availability. The following mixtures work particularly well when mixed together:

Rose, pinks, honeysuckle, nutmeg
Rose, lavender, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange peel
Rose, jasmine, coriander, lime peel
Rose, marjoram, lemon verbena, lemon peel, cinnamon
Lavender, peppermint, lemon balm and peel, marjoram
Violet, hawthorn, lily of the valley, cinnamon

The Basic Essential Oil

The easiest methods by which to make your own essential oil are by enfleurage and meceration. In a long, sunny summer, there will be no need to heat the oil. But in dull weather, or if you are making a spice oil in winter, maceration in warm water will have to be employed

You will need:
1 pt wide necked jar with tight fitting lid
300ml oil
8 tbsp flower petals (either a single variety or a special mixture); or 6 tbsp chopped herbs; or 4 tbsp crushed spices; or 6 tbsp thinly pared citrus zest. In each case, the amount of plant material needs to be renewed nine times
Glass or pottery mixing bowl
Muslin (to cover top of the bowl)
Brown or green glass bottle with tight fitting lid or stopper.

1. Put the oil into the jar; then add the plant material and stir. Cover tightly and leave on a sunny windowsill for 48 hours, shaking every 12 hours.
2. Lay the piece of muslin over the bowl and strain the oil through it. Gather up the muslin and squeeze the plant material to extract as much as oil as possible
3. Return the oil to the jar and add fresh plant material. Continue in the same way until 10 amounts of plant material have been soaked in the oil.
4. If the weather is cold and dull, stand the jar in a saucepan of cold water. Slowly heat the pan until the water is just hand hot. Keep at this temperature for 10 minutes. Remove the jar. Do this once a day.
5. After the final straining and squeezing, strain the oil for a final time through clean muslin to remove any tiny particles that might have been squeezed through.
6. Store the oil in a dark coloured glass bottle. Keep it airtight by covering with a tight fitting lid or stopper

Uses of essential oils

Essential oils have a variety of uses;
potpourri, room fresheners, massage, bath oils, face washes, shampoos, inhalation, internal remedies, food and drink flavourings, compresses...

List of Essential Oils

The following list shows just a few of the various essential oils that can be used either singly or blended together to treat a variety of symptoms and problems:

Basil
This is a very uplifting, refreshing and digestive essential oil. Use it to treat anxiety, depression and infections of respiratory tract. It also works well as an insect repellent.

Benzoin
This oil helps relaxation, so use it to treat tension and nervous exhaustion. It also helps to relieve lung disorders, such as bronchitis and asthma, as well as known skin problems.

Bergamot
Use this refreshing and relaxing oil to treat anxiety and depression, stomach infections, sore throats, bronchitis, colic, cystitis and flatulence.

Calendula (Marigold)
This oil will help to calm nervous anxiety. You can also use it to treat bruises, wounds and burns, some skin diseases, menstrual and menopausal problems, digestive problems, rheumatism and arthritis.

Chamomile
This refreshing and relaxing oil is good for treating depression and nervous disorders. It can also help to allay tantrums in children, relieve stomach disorders and loss of appetite, menstrual and menopausal problems, muscular aches and skin disorders.

Cedarwood
Use this essential oil to treat nervous anxiety, skin irritations, bladder infections and respiratory infections.

Cypress
This is excellent for improving sluggish circulation, menstrual problems, nervous irritability, asthmatic problems, cramps, diarrhoea, haemorrhoids and even varicose veins.

Eucalyptus
Use this essential oil to treat all infections of the nasal and respiratory tract, various skin problems, muscular aches and pains, neuralgia and cystitis.

Frankincense
This woks especially well as a nerve tonic for treating anxiety and tension, as well as chesty colds and catarrh, cystitis and haemorrhoids. It also helps to rejuvenate the skin.

Geranium
This oil is good for treating anxiety and depression, as well as skin, throat and mouth infections and stomach upsets.

Hyssop
Use this calming oil to treat respiratory infections, bruises and wounds, stomach upsets and loss of appetite.

Lavender
Use this refreshing and relaxing oil to treat many nervous states, such as headaches and migraine. It is also good for soothing burns, insect bites, skin disorders and infections, nose throat and respiratory infections and muscular aches and pains. It can also help to lower high blood pressure.

Lemon Balm
This helps to refresh and uplift the spirits. Use it to treat depression, nervous anxiety, palpitations, headache, indigestion, migraine, insomnia, flatulence and to sooth bee stings.

Marjoram
Use this to treat irritability, anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, muscular pain, bruises, neuralgia, head colds and bronchial catarrh, and painful menstruation.

Myrrh
This has antiseptic qualities. Use it to treat skin diseases, such as acne and dermatitis, ulcers and haemorrhoids. It is also good for mouth disorders such as bad breath and mouth ulcers.

Neroli (orange blossom)
Use the relaxing qualities of this oil to treat anxiety, nervous depression, panic, shock, palpitations and insomnia. It also helps to cleanse the blood and improve bad circulation

Patchouli
Use this to treat anxiety, depression, inflammation, burns, sores, acne, dermatitis and allergic reactions, influenza, colds and bronchial infections.

Peppermint
Use this refreshing oil to treat general debility, stomach upsets, indigestion, travel sickness, head colds, catarrh, sinusitis and bronchitis. It is also good for soothing inflamed or irritated skin and insect bites.

Pine Needle
This oil is very revitalizing. Use it to treat rheumatism, nervous debility and infections of the respiratory and urinary tracts.

Rose
This acts as a general tonic for helping depression, stress, tension, headaches and insomnia, poor circulation, weak digestion, vomiting, nausea, peptic ulcers and some skin problems.

Rosemary
This invigorating and refreshing oil is particularly good for treating mental stress, fatigue, debility, epilepsy, paralysis, headache, migraine, muscular aches, arthritis and rheumatism. Also use it to treat colds, influenza and bronchitis, stomach upsets, constipation and sin problems.

Sage
This is a good nerve tonic and skin cleanser. Use it to treat muscular aches and rheumatism.

Sandalwood
Use this oil to treat tension and depression, infections of the respiratory tract, inflamed and irritated skin, nauseas, vomiting, hiccups, colic, gastritis and to soothe diarrhoea.

Thyme
This oil has very antiseptic properties. Use it to treat infections of the respiratory tract, such as asthma and emphysema. It is also good for soothing boils and sores. Thyme oil will also treat ailments such as rheumatism, arthritis, poor digestion, anxiety, nervous debility and depression.

Ylang Ylang
This works as a relaxing tonic for the nervous system, helping to treat depression, tension, insomnia and high blood pressure. It also has mildly antiseptic qualities.

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