Many people are unaware that yarrow, Achillea millifolium, a common plant growing abundantly in British country side, actually produces a very powerful, useful and rather beautiful essential oil.
It’s an oil that stands out when you see its striking, ink blue colour, which is very unusual for an essential oil. The plant itself is made up of an umbrella of little white flowers, sometimes pink, but during the production process, a naturally occurring chemical component in the plant called chamazulene, turns bright blue.
Most essential oils come in tinted glass bottles as they are sensitive to light, so it’s rare to see such amazing colours as in the below photo.
Chamazulene is also the particular part that makes yarrow so useful as it is anti-inflammatory in effect and therefore useful for any condition where inflammation is present, for example:
Even conditions such as period pain and back ache can be helped by using yarrow because of the presence of inflammation.
Yarrow & Lavender Balm Recipe – for pain and inflammation.
A balm is a very practical method of application for areas of inflammation. I would recommend applying this simple balm, made with yarrow and lavender essential oil, twice daily. Massage in very gentle anti-clockwise circles to the affected area, if the area is too tender to touch, or is an open wound then apply the balm as close to the site as is comfortable.
Ingredients ~ to make 100 ml pot:
10g shea butter
80g or ml of base oil, e.g. Olive oil or Almond oil
yarrow essential oil – 40 drops (2ml)
lavender essential oil – 60 drops (3ml)
vitamin E (optional)
Caution ~ yarrow can contain a varying amount of camphor in it, which means it is advisable to avoid with epilepsy, in pregnancy, and could cause sensitisation in ragweed allergy sufferers.
Blue chamomile essential oil, Matricaria recutita (also known as German chamomile) also appears blue in colour, it contains the same anti-inflammatory agent chamazulene and would be suitable for all of the above inflammatory conditions.
A List of Carrier Oils (also known as vegetable or base oils) and their Uses (in alphabetical order):
I began putting this post together many months ago & although it is still a work in progress, I’ve decided to press publish today with a view to consistently updating it. If there any base oils you are particularly interested in do let me know in the comments and I’ll make them my next additions…
Carrier oils, also known as base oils or vegetable oils, are a great medium to use to blend essential oils with since they have their own nourishing properties. They can be used on their own for massage and in the bath, and are essential ingredients in skin care products. Essential oils should always be diluted before use on skin*.
To help you choose which base oils to use, here is a list with some of their most useful properties.
Almond ~ a great general use oil, not too rich or light, and full of nutrients. Caution – avoid with nut allergies.
Apricot ~ A very gentle light oil that I like to use with children, and people with sensitive skin.
Avocado ~ Very rich and nourishing but still absorbs well into skin, great for dry & mature skin.
Borage / Star flower ~ a lovely light oil that is particularly good for eczema and those with delicate skin.
Calendula / Marigold oil (marigold flowers macerated in olive oil) ~ if I could only use one base oil then this would be it, the olive oil is rich and full of nutrients and further enhanced with the healing properties of calendula flowers, great for all skin types, especially useful for problem or damaged skin. Watch out for my new blog on how to make your own ~ coming soon!
Coconut ~ I love this oil as it is so versatile, it is great for skin, hair, and even in food. It is solid at room temperature, but very easily melts in warm hands, if it’s a hot day, or you live in a tropical country, it is likely to melt and be in a liquid state. It has a very greasy feel to it, which makes it perfect for use as a cleanser as it easily removes dirt, grime, and makeup. It’s particularly good for removing eye makeup as it’s so greasy, so there is no pull on the delicate skin around the eyes. If you don’t like the strong smell of coconut, you can choose a deodorised version.
Macadamia ~ Very rich and nourishing but still absorbs well into skin, great for dry skin. If you buy the un-refined version the smell is incredibly delicious. Caution – avoid with nut allergies.
Rosehip ~ this is the best oil I know for helping to heal scars and improving their appearance, a great oil to enrich any blend for skin care.
Sea buckthorn ~ I’ve been experimenting with this oil recently on my face, on its own as a night oil and as an ingredient in my creams. It really makes the skin glow and feels lovely.
For more help choosing base oils, see my blog on ‘What quality of base oils to choose‘. This list will continue to expand, if there are any oils that do not yet appear or that you would like more details on, please contact me or make a ‘comment’ and I will add them. *It is generally accepted that lavender and tea tree essential oils are safe to use neat on skin.
My main purpose with this blog is to help you to develop your own relationship with using essential oils and experimenting with blending is one of the most fun aspects of this, there is constant opportunity to learn, be creative and experiment.
Introduction – choosing ingredients.
Creating a blend can be a lot like cooking, I like using this analogy as most people are familiar with making things in their kitchen and blending essential oils is very similar in lots of ways. Instead of using the dried herb or seeds to season your meal, you’re using the oil, that has been pressed or distilled from the plant, to enhance your bath oil or face cream etc. One of the main reasons I choose and use essential oils on a day to day basis is to nourish and support my body, often the same reason I choose to eat certain foods (although I have to admit -sometimes I eat for comfort or distraction but that’s another story). Ultimately, my intention when cooking or blending essential oils, is to make something that supports my body, wether it’s specific symptoms I’m addressing or I just want to enjoy the oils in a nurturing, confirming way through out my day.
Food often inspires me when I’m creating blends too and this recipe for Honey & Rose Panna Cotta is a great example, as after my mouth stopped watering, I made a blend of almond oil with rose and cardamom essential oils. It gives a middle eastern feel, very soothing, refreshing, deeply nurturing and nourishing in the bath, or as a massage oil.
I love putting together blends of oils and I also love cooking, but I don’t always have as much time as I would like, and I can allow it to feel like just another task I have to fit into my day. So, for moments like this, I like to have some pre-made blends that I can use so that I’m not making things in a rush, or with out the quality and integrity I know I can bring when I make the space to do so with out any pressure. Just like when I don’t feel like cooking, I have lots of soups or curries in the freezer I can eat, so I still get a lovingly prepared meal, when I most need it.
The rules are there are no rules! -Well, that’s not quite true, because essential oils are incredibly potent, so you do need to observe any cautions they may have, (see List of Essential Oils for cautions).
Your essential essence…
Whether I’m making something for a specific medical condition or just a lovely bath blend, I like to go with what ever I feel. I have noticed that different people have their own style when blending and when watching them I have been surprised at the combinations they come up with, things I would never have tried myself, yet they work perfectly. Each person can bring their own unique essence to a blend, a little bit like with cooking; if a group of 100 people made a lasagne, not one of the meals would turn out exactly the same, they would each have their own way of doing it, from ingredients to presentation and all the details in-between. In the same way, if I asked someone (even a qualified aromatherapist) to make a blend for a cold or for eczema, they would each end up making a unique product. Even if they did happen to choose the exact same oils, they could still have a different ratio, a different base and different method of application, each person brings their own essence and style to the blend.
The oils are so versatile, with many varied properties and effects, so there is certainly no right or wrong oil in any circumstance (apart from using an oil when there is a caution). Some oils have a more intense scent than others so you might choose a lower ratio to allow more delicate oils to come through, but then the scent could still work with even ratios, it would just have a different character and balance -for details on balancing the blend see my blog post on Top, Middle and Base notes.
As you play around and get to know essential oils, your style, what you like and what works for you, I recommend that you record your recipes. I have a little ‘blending’ note book to write everything in, and I make sure I record the number of drops and the rest of the ingredients. This is because you might end up with something you really love, or a blend that someone asks you to re-create, then you have all the details handy to make it up again. I’m speaking from experience of course which is why I have developed a slightly more organised way of working. It means if I decide I want something to be a little more lavender, I can refer back to how many drops I used, and increase them.
I am also a big fan of the ‘Jamie Oliver’ style of making recipes, a shake of this, and a splodge of that as I have sometimes found myself stuck using the same oils and techniques in the past. Just watch out for essential oils that have maximum blend strength cautions and most of all, have fun!
Many people like to put a blend together by using a top, middle & base note. This is typical in perfumery, but also popular in aromatherapy, as people like to get a ‘well rounded’ scent. It basically means that the blend is put together with a range of oils or scents that will come into play at different times -at the beginning, middle and end. It’s not something I consciously try to do, as I like to focus on the purpose of the blend, but it can be a useful guide especially when you are building confidence and experimenting.
Top notes you will smell immediately, I like to think of them with their molecules widely spaced and jumping around a lot, so when you take the lid off a bottle of perfume, they are straight out of the bottle and are the first to enter the nasal passage and be recognised by the sensory nerves. Examples would be oils like lemon, lime and other citrus oils.
Middle notes will come through after a little time, I like to think of their molecules as more evenly spaced and a little more stable. A middle note would often be floral oils such as lavender and rose and herby oils like basil and thyme. Put simply, something in-between a top and base note.
Base notes may not be immediately apparent. As their molecules don’t move around very much it takes time before you are able to recognise the aroma. They have the benefit of lingering long after the top note has disappeared and often at the end of the day, if you still smell perfume on your skin then you are just left with the base notes. Examples would be woody oils like sandalwood and myrrh. If you smell these from the bottle the scent is very subtle, if it comes out of a cold place you often can’t smell a thing but when it’s warmed on the skin it begins to take shape.
Don’t feel like you have to make the blend tick all the boxes to get it right, you don’t want it to reign in your creativity, so if you feel like putting 3 middle notes together or just base and top notes, then go for it, the blend will have it’s own unique quality.
Useful blogs for blending tips:
How many drops should I use? -this blog will help you to choose the appropriate blend strength and number of drops to use depending on the purpose of your product.
A simple and creative way to bring essential oils into your everyday life is to add them to daily house hold products. Something like a shower gel, or face cream would be ideal or even fabric conditioner. Choose something fragrance free or with a natural or mild perfume, otherwise the essential oils you choose may not be noticeable above the fragrance already present or if essential oils are already in the ingredients, adding more could increase the ratio to more than is safe.
Once you have your chosen base, add some of your favourite essential oils to the product and mix them in (see below for inspiration or click here to choose from the range of essential oils). It’s important to know how much essential oil to use because they can irritate the skin if not diluted appropriately.
I have put together 2 charts to help you with this (and a more comprehensive one at the end of the article for when you feel more confident), the first is for general use (which gives a 2% blend strength), and the second for any products being used on sensitive skin, or more delicate skin such as very young or aged skin (which gives a 1% blend strength).
2% General blend strength
Amount of base product
No. of drops of essential oil to add
1% Delicate blend strength
Amount of base product
No. of drops of essential oil to add
How to mix essential oils into your chosen products:
Sometimes it’s easy enough to remove the cap, add the appropriate number of drops to the bottle and give it a shake to disperse the oils evenly. I often use a chopstick to stir in essential oils to a pot of cream. If you have something very thick in a container that you can’t stir through, you may need to pour the product into a mixing jug first to blend the essential oils thoroughly, and then pour back into the original container -a funnel is particularly useful here. You may also notice that the product becomes a little thinner when the essential oils have been added -this is normal.
Every day body care products and household products you can add essential oils to:
These are some every day products you can easily enhance with a few drops of essential oil, and some suggestions that would work well with their intended use -make sure the original product is fragrance free (organic, natural and children’s products are often more gently scented):
Shampoo ~ Rosemary and orange (for dark or thin hair), or chamomile and lemon (for fair hair)
Conditioner ~ Rosemary and orange (for dark or thin hair), or chamomile and lemon (for fair hair), benzoin and orange (for all hair types)
Shower Gel ~ Lemon and lavender (detoxifying & cleansing), eucalyptus and peppermint (clearing and invigorating).
Bubble Bath ~ Lavender and mandarin (cleansing & calming), roman chamomile and neroli (soothing and very calming).
Hand soap ~Lavender (cleansing) or rose (nurturing).
Face cream ~ Rose and frankincense (for dry, mature skin) or chamomile and neroli (soothing and gentle for sensitive skin).
Body cream ~ Benzoin and mandarin (protective and nourishing), geranium and rose (balancing and nurturing).
Washing Up Liquid ~ Lavender (cleansing) or basil and lime (fresh and zingy).
General Surface Cleaner ~ Lemon or citronella (detoxifying).
Laundry Liquid ~Lavender (cleansing) and lemon (detoxifying).
Fabric Conditioner ~ Lavender (cleansing) or geranium and orange (balancing).
Caution: Because many of these products are usually already fragranced, I would recommend you choose a fragrance free version, or something with a very gentle scent that you can enhance with additional essential oils. A brand called Urtekram do a perfume free range that would be suitable. Children and baby products are often fragrance free, and can be gentler with less aggressive ingredients, although this is not always the case. Organic and sensitive skin ranges may also be fragrance free.
Tip: If I have any essential oils that are past their best then instead of throwing them away I use them in cleaning products around the house.
Essential Oil Blend Strength Chart – how many drops of essential oil to use when blending.
Use this chart to help you decide how many drops of essential oil to add to a base.
Up to a 1% blend strength – for use on the face, delicate and sensitive skin.
Up to 2.5% blend strength – or general use on the body
Up to 5% blend strength – for perfume making or when you are treating a specific area eg. a balm for chest infection or arthritic knee.