Sunday, July 26, 2009

Remembering what I've learnt

A number of years ago, having just graduated university, I decided to take a course in something 'I actually found interesting'. Of course with the distance of time, I recognize that I actually enjoyed a lot of the courses I took for my degree. But at the time, university had worn me out. And I wanted to learn something fun.

So I took a course in Aromatology at Algonquin College (which sadly is no longer offered).

During each class we got to refine our sense of smell by blind smelling and attempting to identify the new essential oils we were learning in that class. We learned the therapeutic properties and applications of each oil and learned how to create blends of oils containing top note, middle note and base note oils. I loved that first class and went on to take the next three semesters to finish the program. It certainly was not the easy learning experience I was planning on - the hardest part was anatomy and physiology. To this day I am still using photocopied diagrams of the body with space to label in all the muscles as scrap paper.

When I finished the course I knew I wasn't going to make a career of aromatology at that point in my life. So I made blends and treatments for myself for a while but gradually did less and less until I had pretty much forgotten I'd even taken aromatology.

But then about a year ago as I was fully immersed in carbon footprint reduction and rethinking everything, I stopped using lotion, switched to olive oil, busted out my essential oils and started blending again.

Unfortunately most essential oils come from far away (although last summer I found some amazing lavender essential oil in Prince Edward County). I'm not ready to buy my own still yet (and don't have the land to grow enough product to turn into oil). So instead (inspired by Unstuffed - as always), I've decided to create my own infused oils.

The first one I tried is olive oil infused with lavender. I tried to pick the lavender at it's peak (approx. week 5 with some of the flowers open), but then got totally over excited and forgot to wilt the flowers to get rid of the moisture before filling the jar with oil. Unstuffed - help - am I going to end up with moldy oil?

Luckily there is still more lavender in the garden so I can make another batch if this one doesn't work out.

Oh and my favourite blend at the moment that I'm using in my olive oil? I've gone back to basics using three oils I learned in that first semester of aromatology. And I'm being a purist and only using one top, one middle and one base note oil.

Here's the blend (in 60ml of olive oil):
Basil (top note) - 8 drops
Lavender (middle note) - 4 drops
Vetiver (base note) - 7 drops

If you want to switch to using olive oil (or any oil) as a moisturizer, apply it when you skin is slightly damp (e.g. right after a shower). The oil will sink right in and won't leave your skin feeling greasy. Do use good quality oil (I use organic extra virgin olive oil).


Amber said...

Yay for herb infused oils!

O.k. here is what I know about herb oils.

First of all, don't be disappointed if you don't get the fragrance you are used to from essential oils. Infusing herbs into oils is a different kind of extraction process. You'll get all the medicinal benefits for sure, but this isn't aromatherapy. However many people do add a few drops of essential oils to there herb infused oils to add the scent.

Ideally you want to pick your herbs on a dry, sunny day. Some herbalists recommend wilting the plants for a period before putting them into the oil, but not all of them do.

As for the mold concerns, just keep a close eye on it. Check it every day. Make sure all the plant material is below the oil. If not, push it back down or top off the jar with a little more oil.
I have read that you can also float a little alcohol on top or add a vitamin E capsule to prevent mold growth, although I have tried neither.

Keep the jar in a cool, dark place. Lots of people say keep it in a warm, sunny window, but I have read plenty of people who say that this will increase the likelihood of mold.

Be prepared to decant your oil at the first sign of mold.

I decanted my first batch of oils after four weeks of infusing and they're ok. I did notice some strange, white filmy material on top of the plants, but I'm pretty sure it's not mold, rather something precipitating out of the plants into the oil.

Hope this is helpful and I hope your oil turns out! Herb oils are a lot of fun and good for you too.

Green Grrl said...

Thanks so much Amber! That's a huge help. I just checked on the oil (is in a dark cupboard) and it looks ok but I pushed all the herbs near the top right under the oil for good measure. I put some on my hands and its already smelling really nice. Like you say, not at all like lavender essential oil but still nice. Subtle. I can't decide what to make next! Wish I had marigolds in my garden so I could make calendula oil.

Amber said...

Mmm...yes, I wan to grow calendula next year to make an oil. Apparently dandelion oil is quite nice as well. Turns a lovely golden colour. And St. John's wort, which grows all over, turns a deep red. Fun!

wendyytb said...

Oh my gosh! I have enjoyed reading your posts so much but it seems that you are MIA! I do hope that you have not given up posting!

Green Grrl said...

Hi wendyytb! Sorry I've been MIA. I'm back now! :)