Fragrant Oils

Jul 1, 2008
Copyright Ceci Henningsson 1994. This article may be freely copied and
distributed, provided this copyright notice is included.
Witches often ask about how to make essential oils.
I don't know exactly how you produce essential oils from herbs. What I
do know is that it's a laborous process, and that most of the time you
will want to dilute the essential oils anyway, so that fragrant,
blended oils consisting of a carrier oil and a herb are often more
versatile. In addition to that they are quite easy to
manufacture. This is how I do it.

The Kitchen Magic School's Fragrant Oils

This is what you need
A carrier oil. The intended use decides which one. Edible oils are
sold in super-markets everywhere, and can often be used for other
purposes than just eating. In herbal cosmetic shops like the Body Shop
you can buy pure or blended oils for special purposes like bathing and
massage. You can experiment with different oils for different
purposes, but never ingest any oil that wasn't specifically made for
the purpose. It's important that you use new oil with the best before
date well ahead, as fragrant oils don't keep as well as essential
oils. Wheatgerm oil can be used as a preservative if you find that
your oils don't keep well.

The herb. For this purpose it doesn't matter if it's fresh, dried or
even frozen. Herbs are sold in many places. Occult shops often have
quite an assortment, but the super-market in your area may sell some
of these much cheaper. Super-markets often have herbs in either the
spice department (notably fennel and cardamon), the health food
department (notably rosehips and buckwheat) or even the hot drinks
department (notably chamomille and cocoa). Specialized health food
stores and natural cosmetics boutiques often have herbs too.

Growing your own herbs can be a very satisfying experience, and it
doesn't take a lot of skill to do with the most common ones. You can
buy plants at a nursery or raise your own from seeds. Seeds are
available in super-markets, garden centres and nurseries. There are
often quite adequate instructions on the seed envelope. If you are new
to growing things, start out with easy growers like mint, heartsease
and dill and grow them in pots.

Which herb to choose is a science in itself. If you want to use the
oil for magickal purposes, you will probably want to choose it
according to its correspondences. At the end of Starhawk's
_Spiral_Dance_ there is a substantial list of common correspondences,
and the classic Culpeper's Complete Herbal lists herbs and their uses
and correspondences. Of course if you follow a specific tradition you
will want to consult it, so you don't use inappropriate herbs. Many
eclectic witches like to make up their own correspondences following
their intuition. If you will use the oil on your skin, make sure that
it won't irritate or cause allergic reactions. You may want to consult
a book on aromatherapy if you are using fragrant oils for
healing. Some oils are considered aphrodisiacs, and can be quite fun
to use for massage.

A practical consideration is the availability of a given herb. Herbs
may be unavailable for many different reasons. Maybe it isn't
traditionally used in your part of the world, it may be illegal for a
number of reasons, it could be surrounded with superstition or it can
simply be out of season.

A bottle. Fragrant oils are sensitive to light so try avoiding crystal
clear bottles. You will often want to use just a spoonful of the oil,
so a squirt cap is useful. Shampoo bottles can often be used, as they
are generally about the right size and have caps which are made so you
can easily take a small amount without having oil run down the outside
of the bottle. Plastic bottles will often be found to take on some of
the aroma of the contents, so you may want to throw them away after
one use, or always keep the same oil in the same bottle. Some occult
shops sell amber glass bottles, too. Of course it's neat to have all
your oils in identical bottles instead of having an array of brightly
coloured shampoo bottles, but they're a lot more expensive than saved
up shampoo bottles. Label all your bottles carefully with the name of
the herb, carrier oil and date of manufacture!

This is how to do it
The basic principle is easy: put the herb in the oil, and wait.

If you are bothered by herb particles in the finished product, you can
use a tea egg or a small bag of muslin or nylon suspended by string in
the bottle, and remove them when you find the fragrance strong
enough. This requires a bottle with a wide opening. If you don't have
such a bottle, you can strain the oil in a wire-mesh tea sieve
instead. If you aren't bothered by herb particles, you can often leave
the herb in the oil until you've used it all up. This works
particularly well with antiseptic herbs like peppermint, but can in
other cases make the oil go stale.

The time it takes for an oil to become pleasantly fragrant depends on
the herb and the oil, what you consider pleasant and the conditions
you keep them under. You will have to experiment with concentration,
stirring, and time to find out which works best under your
circumstances. With some herbs crushing can speed up the process.
Seeds like fennel are among those. Many herbs vary quite a lot in
strength depending on a range of factors, so sometimes you will have
to adapt your recipes. The best thing is probably to develop your
intuition with regards to herbs. As a rule of thumb, two weeks to
three months should be adequate.

Suggested uses for fragrant oils
Bathing: Many oils can change your mood when used in a bath. Try out
different ones, like thyme and heartsease. Caveat 1: Some
herbs are skin irritants, and you may be allergic to some
without knowing this. If your skin gets irritated during or
after a bath, immideately take a shower and wash yourself all
over with hypoallergenic soap. Then dry yourself and use a
hypoallergenic body lotion. This should take care of most skin
irritations. If it doesn't, seek a doctor. Carefully note
which herbs cause skin irritatations in you, and avoid
them. If you know that your skin is sensitive, avoid herbs
which are known to cause skin irritations or allergic
reactions in many people. Some of the more common ones are
mint, vanilla and of course all hot spices like pepper. Caveat
2: Never use psychoactive herbs in a bath, this includes sleep
inducing herbs. You can drown yourself quite easily that way.

Annointing: Fragrant oils are much milder than essential oils, and can
often be used directly for annointing on your skin. If you are
using fragrant oils for magickal purposes, you may want to
take into account the correspondences of the carrier oil,

Vaporising: Vaporising means that you heat the oil so that it
gives off its fragrance. This is useful in its own right, but
can also serve as a substitute for incense when you or members
of your household object to incense for medical or other
reasons. Vaporisers can be bought in occult stores, shops for
herbal cosmetics, interior decoration boutiques or even in the
department store. The most common ones are a terracotta ring
that you suspend on a lightbulb, and more elaborate structures
with a ÓhouseÓ for a tea-candle and a shallow pan
suspended above it. The fragrant oil has to be quite strong
for this purpose.

Massage: Massage is a fine art and healing in many ways. You may want
to experiment with using edible oils for this purpose. Caveat
1: The oil used for massage enters the skin even more
forcefully than the one used in a bath. Make sure you
aren't allergic beforehand. Vigorously rub in a tad of oil
on a sensitive place like the inside of the arm just above
your wrist. If the skin is irritated after an hour, don't
use that oil on your skin again. Caveat 2: Massage is often a
part of lovemaking. If you use a condom for birth control,
don't use massage oils. The reason for this is that the oil
makes microscopic holes in the rubber, and renders it useless.

Cooking: Fragrant oils of spices like oregano or basil can be used in
cooking. You can use it as a marinade, or to brush on meat
before you grill it. How about making your own curry oil?
Caveat: Use only oils specificly made for ingestion for this

Libations: We often use wine or water for libations, but we know that
for instance the Minoans on Crete offered their deities oils
aswell as wine and honey.

Further suggestions
You can use this method with other mediums than oil; shampoo and
liquid soap for instance. Find fragrance free products, and make your
own herbal cosmetics. I like to use chamomille shampoo, so I blend 100
ml of fragrance free shampoo with 1 gramme of chamomille flowers from
a teabag. After one week the liquid starts to turn yellow and smell of
chamomille, and is ready for use. I use a hair conditioner (again
fragrance free) to make sure I rinse out all chamomille particles from
my hair. The same can be done with rosemary if you have dark hair, and
other herbs if you have problems with your hair or scalp. Lavender
produces a soothing soap, and pine needles an invigorating one. Again,
make sure you aren't allergic to herbs used on the skin or in the hair
in this way.


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