BE YOUR OWN HERBAL EXPERT -
Herbal medicine is the medicine of the people. It
is simple, safe, effective, and free. Our ancestors
used - and our neighbors around the world still use
- plant medicines for healing and health maintenance.
It's easy. You can do it too, and you don't need a
degree or any special training. Ancient memories arise
in you when you begin to use herbal medicine - memories
which keep you safe and fill you with delight. These
lessons are designed to nourish and activate your
inner herbalist so you can be your own herbal expert.
In our first session we learned how to "listen"
to the messages of plant's tastes. In session two
we learned about simples and how to make effective
water-based herbal remedies. The third session helped
us distinguish safe nourishing and tonifying herbs
from the more dangerous stimulating and sedating herbs.
Our fourth session focused on poisons in herbs and
entered the herbal pharmacy to herbal tinctures, which
we collected into an Herbal Medicine Chest. Our fifth
session found us still in the pharmacy, learning how
to make and use herbal vinegars for strong bones and
In this, our sixth session, we remain in the herbal
pharmacy and turn our attention to herbs in fat bases.
We'll explore fresh infused oils, ointments, salves,
and lip balms, essential oils, and even herbal pestos.
HERBAL OILS: INFUSED VS. ESSENTIAL
I make and use many infused herbal oils. I use little
or no essential oils. Why?
Infused herbal oils use a small amount of plant material;
essential oils require tons of plant material. Infused
herbal oils are safe to use internally or externally;
essential oils are poisonous internally and problematic
externally. Infused herbal oils are good for the skin;
essential oils can cause rashes, burns, and other
skin reactions. Infused oils are used full strength;
essential oils are diluted before use. Infused herbal
oils have subtle scents; essential oils have powerful
The scent of an essential oil can kill gut flora
just like antibiotics do.
Massage therapists are embracing Natural Scent Therapies
such as growing live aromatic plants in their treatment
rooms and using pillows of dried aromatic herbs instead
of essential oils. Their skin and their immune systems
are thanking them for the switch.
MAKING INFUSED HERBAL OILS
To make an infused herbal oil you will need the following
• Fresh plant material
• Scissors or a knife
• A clean dry jar with a tight lid
• Some olive oil
• A label and pen; a small bowl
Harvest your plant material in the heat of the day,
after the sun has dried the dew. It is best to wait
at least 36 hours after the last rain before harvesting
plants for infused oils. Wet plant materials will
make moldy oils. To prevent this, some people dry
their herbs and then put them in oil. I find this
gives an inferior quality product in most cases.
Coarsely chop the roots, leaves, or flowers of your
chosen plant. Fill your jar completely full of the
chopped plant material. Add olive oil until the jar
is completely full. (Patience and a chopstick are
useful tools at this point.)
Tightly lid the jar. Label it. Put it in a small
bowl (to collect seepage and over-runs). Your infused
oil is ready to use in six weeks.
Fresh Plants That I Use to Make Infused Oils
Arnica flowers (Arnica montana)
Burdock seeds (Arctium lappa)
Calendula flowers (Calendula off.)
Comfrey leaves or roots (Symphytum uplandica)
Dandelion flowers (Taraxacum off.)
Plantain leaves (Plantago majus)
Poke roots (Phytolacca americana)
St. Joan's wort flowers (Hypericum perforatum)
Yarrow blossoms (Achillea millefolium)
Yellow dock roots (Rumex crispus)
USING YOUR INFUSED HERBAL OILS
I use my infused herbal oils to heal and ease the
pain of wounds, bruises, scrapes, sprains, burns,
rashes, sore muscles, insect bites, and aching joints.
I make my infused oils into ointments, salves, and
lip balms. I use my infused oils in rituals, to anoint.
I use my infused oils after bathing, to moisturize.
I use my infused oils as stunning salad dressings.
I use my infused oils as sexual lubricants. I use
my infused oils to nourish my scalp and hair.
I apply my infused herbal oils directly to the body.
I rarely take infused herbal oils as internal medicines
although it would be safe to do so. I use my infused
oils to make salves, ointments, and lip balms.
MAKING SALVES, OINTMENTS AND LIP BALMS
When herbs are infused into animal fat, they form
a natural salve, without need of thickening. But herbs
infused into oils are drippy and leaky and messy.
They need a little beeswax melted into them to make
them solid. The more beeswax added, the firmer the
oil will be. A little beeswax will make a soft salve.
A medium amount will make a firm ointment. And a lot
will make a stiff lip balm.
• Pour one or more ounces of infused herbal
oil into a saucepan or double boiler.
• Grate several ounces of beeswax.
• Put a small fire under your oil.
• When it is slightly warm, add one tablespoon
(more or less) of grated beeswax.
• Stir, preferably with your finger, until the
• Test the firmness by dropping a drop on a
china plate. It will solidify instantly.
- Too soft? Add more beeswax, a little at a time.
- Too hard? Add more infused oil (if possible) or
• Pour your finished salve or ointment into
• Pour lip balms into little pots or twist tubes.
The simplest pesto is green leaves pounded with salt
and garlic. I don't put cheese or nuts into my pestos
when I make them, as these ingredients spoil rapidly.
I use a mini-size food prep machine for the "pounding".
A blender will work too, but watch that you don't
burn out the motor.
The oil in a pesto both preserves the antioxidant
vitamins in the fresh green herbs and also softens
the cell walls so minerals become more available.
With the added health-benefits of garlic, herbal pestos
are great medicine as well as superb eating.
Basic Herbal Pesto
Stays good for up to two years in a cool refrigerator;
up to five years in the freezer.
• Start with half a cup of extra virgin olive
• Add 2-4 coarsely chopped cloves of garlic.
• Add a good sprinkle of sea salt.
• Add a large handful of prepared herb leaves
• Continue adding leaves and oil as needed.
Perhaps more garlic and salt? Blend.
• When all is blended to a fare thee well, pack
your pesto into a skinny jar.
• Leave some space between the pesto and the
top of the jar and fill this with olive oil.
• Cap, label, and refrigerate.
Green Herbs for Pesto
Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Garlic mustard (Alliaria officinalis)
Sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella)
Violet (Viola species)
Yellow dock (Rumex crispus)
In our next sessions we will learn how to make herbal
honeys and syrups, how to apply the three traditions
of healing, and how to take charge of our own health
care with the six steps of healing.
EXPERIMENT NUMBER ONE
Make three or more infused herbal oils from different
plant parts, such as leaves, roots, and flowering
tops. (See list for suggestions of plants to use.)
EXPERIMENT NUMBER TWO
Make several infused oils from the same plant at
the same time using at least three different kinds
of oils and animal fats, including ghee. Label carefully.
After six weeks, decant and compare.
EXPERIMENT NUMBER THREE
Make a salve, ointment, or lip balm. Beeswax is sold
at farmer's markets, health food stores, and craft
EXPERIMENT NUMBER FOUR
Treat at least three injuries with an herbal oil or
ointment that you have made. Record your observations.
Plantain, yarrow, calendula, or comfrey are good choices
for this experiment.
Experiment Number Five
Make an herbal pesto. (See list for suggestions.)
1. Buy a small bottle of essential oil. Also buy
the plant the oil is made from. Lavender and mint
are good choices for this experiment. Smell the plant,
then smell the essential oil. How do you feel afterwards?
Taste the plant, then taste a drop of the essential
oil? What do you perceive? Put a drop of the essential
oil on your skin; rub the plant vigorously on your
skin. Are there differences?
Extra credit: Make an infused oil of the same plant
and repeat this experiment using your infused oil
in addition to the essential oil and the plant.
2. Use organic animal fat to make an herbal preparation.
Keep the fat barely warm - in the sun or by a pilot
light - until it is infused. No need to add beeswax.
The fat will solidify at room temperature.
• Read about the production of essential oils.
• How is a hydrosol different from an essential
• Can you make a hydrosol? (Jeanne Rose is a
good resource on this.)