In late summer and especially autumn, our skin needs a lot of care and love. Excess heat and an often hectic summer lifestyle increase the dryness in our body, reaching its peak with cold autumnal winds. Dry, lustreless skin, will be the first shoutout signal to take proper care of our internal health.
Embracing a daily self-massage ritual, known as Abhyanga, is one of the most loving gifts you can give yourself. Applying oils onto your skin, followed by a gentle massage, reduces the dryness and softens both the superficial and deep tissues. Cold-pressed plain oils or herb infused massage oils can be used for Abhyanga.
As nature usually does, it provides all the necessary support in a timely manner to relieve the discomfort each season brings.
Summer fields and meadows are filled with wild flowers awaiting to be picked and used for teas, baths, tinctures, infusions, or simply kept as a sweet memory of the summer. I pick the flowers just before their peak blossom, when the sun is high and aromatic oils concentrated. As I dry them, they decorate my walls, tables and shelves reminding me of the circle of life. Everything that lives, sprouts, grows, blossoms, and then withers.
Some of the fresh herbs will, however, be used for making infused massage oils. With this simple and inexpensive method of infusing oils with aromatic herbs you can make yourself a wonderful nurturing infusion. Using it for whole body massages you will keep your skin soft, nourished and glowing when cold, windy autumnal months prevail over the summer heats.
My family tradition is to make herbal tinctures and infused oils using local herbs and our own olive oil. Our favourite has always been olive oil infused with St. John’s-wort we would heavily apply on our skin after sun exposure and as a daily facial oil. Without much questioning, home-made herb infused oils have always been part of our skin care, and I’m sure it is one of the key secrets of my family’s youthful glow.
You can use herbs of your choice. Local and fresh herbs carry the best qualities that your skin needs. Make sure these are picked far from traffic roads and they are not contaminated with chemicals of any kind. You want to nurture your skin that absorbs nearly everything you apply on it.
Infuse herbs in any cold-pressed oil, such as olive, sesame, sunflower, safflower, or almond oil. In my tradition we use olive oil that has a specific smell that might overwhelm the aroma of the herbs being infused. Nowadays, my personal choice are lighter oils, such as almond that produces a more delicate and fragrant infused oil.
HOW TO MAKE HERB INFUSED OILS
There are many ways of making herb infused oils but the solar infusion method is the easiest. It requires very little effort and a bit of patience. Here are the most important things to keep in mind:
- Pick the flowers just before their peak blossom, on a dry, sunny day. Ideally, picking them during midday when the sun is high will give you the highest concentration of aromatic oils.
- Clean them with your hands or using a dry brush. Discard any diseased or soiled parts. Do not wash any part of the plant!
- Let the herbs air dry in a shade for a few hours, or overnight for possible bugs and flies to leave.
- Keep all the utensils and the glass jar to be used for infusion, completely dry.
- Place your desired chopped herbs on the bottom of the jar.
- Slowly pour the carrier oil into the jar, leaving about 2 cm of space for the herbs to expand.
- Poke the herbs with a chopstick to release the air trapped inside and make sure all the herbal parts are well submerged in oil. No herbal material should be peeking out, otherwise it will mould and spoil the oil.
- Close the lid and label the jar with the name of the plant, the type of oil used, and the date.
- Place the jar in direct sunlight or on a window if the sun is too strong.
- Make sure to open the jar every few days for water evaporation.
- Let the oil infuse in the sun for a minimum of two weeks, or up to six weeks (40 days).
- If you have red sensitive skin, and you’re prone to Pitta aggravation, expose the oil to the moonlight.
- Using a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer strain the rough materials from the oil.
- Pour the infused oil into a clean glass bottle and allow the oil to sit for several days. There might be water sediment on the bottom of the jar. Carefully pour off the oil in another clean glass jar, leaving the water behind.
- Store in a dark, cool and dry place.
HERB INFUSED MASSAGE OIL
- 300 ml carrier oil – sweet almond oil or sesame oil
- 1 cup herbal material (rose, calendula, lavender, St. John’s-wort, immortelle – best is fresh, but dry flowers can be used as well)
- clean, sterilised and dry glass jars
- Pick the flowers just before they’re about to open. Thoroughly clean the flowers and let them dry overnight.
- Place the flowers or other herbal material in a sterile, dry jar.
- Pour the carrier oil into the jar, leaving about 2 cm of space for the herbs to expand.
- Make sure no flowers or stems are sticking out of the oil as this may lead to mould. Use a chopstick or a dry knife to poke the herbal material into the oil.
- Close the lid and place in direct sunlight or on a sunny window for up to 40 days.
- Open the jar regularly to allow the excess water to evaporate.
- Decant through a clean kitchen towel, cheesecloth or a fine sieve, squeezing and wringing out the oil. Pour the infused oil into a glass bottle and allow to sit for several days.
- The water from the used herbal material might separate from the oil and settle at the bottom of the jar. Carefully pour off the oil in another clean jar, leaving the water behind.
- Store in a dark, cool and dry place.