How to Cook with Essential Oils – an Introduction

You may not be aware of it but you’re likely to be cooking with essential oils on a daily basis.

Essential oils are made from an array of plant material that contain highly scented volatile parts. This could be eucalyptus leaves, cardamom pods, lavender flowers or rose petals. To make them into an essential oil the plant material goes through a process called distillation. This involves steam passing through and releasing those molecules then capturing the oil as the steam turns back into water.

There are many plant materials containing essential oils that are commonly used during cooking and when you apply heat to them this releases those oils that make for delicious smells in your kitchen:

Spices: When you heat up seeds like coriander, cumin and fennel,  in preparation for something like a curry or a tagine, it makes for a mouth-watering atmosphere. The essential oils also have an effect on your digestive system by stimulating digestive juices, (hence the ‘mouth-watering’).  Try this Garam Masala Recipe to experience the affect of releasing essential oils when preparing a spice mix.

Moroccan Tagine with 12 Spices!
Moroccan Tagine with 12 Spices!
Herbs:  With some herbs, such as basil, rosemary and thyme, the heat on a sunny day will be enough to initiate a waft of essential oil as you pass by, and on cooler days you may need to rub the leaves with warm fingers to release the scent.

Flowers: You can use many flowers in food for their perfume and delicate taste such as roses, orange blossom, geraniums and of course lavender.

Rose Petal Salad
Rose Petal Salad
More to come on Cooking with Essential Oils…

I have been experimenting with cooking with essential oils and scented plant materials recently and will be sharing some of my recipes and tips in future blogs. It can be as simple as sprinkling some rose petals on your meal or adding a drop of lemon essential oil to your bottle of olive oil for dressing salads. It doesn’t take much for a magic touch*.

Here are a few teasers to tantalise your taste buds.

IMG_5448
Fruit & Nut Balls

Rainbow trout and lavender
Rainbow Trout with Lavender & Lemon

cooking with essential oils
Lavender Seed Crackers
Make sure you’re ‘following’ the blog so you don’t miss out on some unusual ways to cook with scented leaf pelargoniums; a delicious alternative to chocolate brownies using peppermint or orange essential oil; and lots of ways to use lavender, including lavender lamb, lavender loaves and lavender & beetroot!*When using essential oils in cooking you need to be very sure that you are buying from a trust worthy source, where the oil is not diluted, adulterated or synthetic. Get in touch to buy Essential Oils by Laura Hoy.

How to Make Your Own Natural Oil Perfume and Aromatherapy Blend

Here are the notes from my Natural Perfume & Aromatherapy Workshop, for those of you who would like to make your own unique, natural fragrance, but are unable to make the workshop in person.

Introduction

It’s actually very simple to make your own natural perfume as there is no need to use any alcohol, fixers or preservatives, you can just use natural essential oils for the scent, and a nut or seed oil as the base. It really is that simple, and the rest is just play time.

So this workshop/ blog post is really about introducing you to the endless array of possibilities involved in making your own natural perfume and to let you experiment and get confident with the ingredients. There are so many amazing essential oils to choose from and the real beauty is that they actually have a huge array of benefits, way beyond the scent that you create -which in itself can have dramatic effects on the way you feel.

How to make your own natural perfume blend

Container ~you can make your perfume blend in any container you like, there are lots of lovely bottles to play with, I’m often searching for old vintage perfume bottles in antique shops, or waiting for friends to finish there branded fragrance so i can use the bottle but I find using a ‘rolette’ bottle (as pictured) is very practical. It comprises of a small glass bottle (10 or 15ml), a roller ball top (that releases a little oil across the skin when you pass it over), and a cap.

Lasting effect ~Natural perfume does not have the same staying power as an alcohol based fragrance, so you can carry these little bottles around in your handbag or pocket and retouch the scent throughout the day.

Recipe 

~5% blend strength for 10ml bottle

 10ml base oil e.g. apricot or jojoba ~you can choose just one or blend as many as you like.

0.5ml essential oils (10 drops) ~you can choose just one or combine as many as you like (see below for how to choose essential oils).

Essential oils are very concentrated and a 5% blend strength should be plenty strong enough. However, if you have sensitive skin or are making a blend for children or someone with fragile skin, then I would drop the percentage to 1% or 2.5% (2 or 5 drops in 10ml).

Instructions

Measure the quantities of base oil (eg. olive or almond) and pour directly into the bottle, then drop approximately 10 drops of essential oils directly into the bottle, fix the roller ball cap and lid and give it a shake to disperse the oils evenly. If you’re using resinous essential oils like myrrh or benzoin, you will need give the bottle a shake each time you use it as they can sink to the bottom.

Make a label for the bottle so you don’t forget what it contains.

perfume bottles

Ingredients

Essential oils and base oils have a multitude of health and wellbeing benefits, so you can either design your perfume with the focus completely on the fragrance you want and then check out the added health benefits, or vice versa: choose oils for their properties and let the scent come together that way.

Choosing Base oils

Apricot oil

I like to use cold pressed vegetable oils as they are more natural with more nutrients but they can have varying degrees of smell to them so I go for something with a light scent so as not to interfere too much with the fragrance. I would recommend almond, apricot or jojoba. You can use ‘refined’ oils which have usually been heat treated to high temperatures to remove the scent, in this case olive oil would be just great.

For help choosing a base oil click here for my webshop.

Choosing your blend

To make your unique fragrance, you need to choose the essential oils you want and the number of drops of each to use. Use some ‘smell strips’ (I get mine from a company on ebay called Scent Blotter Strips) or unscented tissues to put a drop of the oils you like on, and then see how they smell together. To avoid wasting too many drops of precious oils, use separate strips or tissues for each oil you try and write the name of the oil on them, then put the strips together under your nose to see if you like the combination. If you add an oil that you don’t like with the others, you take out the strip, and try something else, rather than have to start again.

Now the playing around really takes off, you might find that you put 3 oils together eg. rose, lavender & myrrh, you like the smell of the lavender and rose  but you can’t really smell the myrrh, in this case you could try 2 or 3 drops of myrrh as it is more subtle in scent compared to the others.
It pays to be organised here, so that when you have your perfume ready on the strips, you know which oils you want and how many drops of each to add to the bottle. Depending on your ratio you can go a couple over or a couple under the 10 drops, the drops sizes can vary anyway so it is just a guide.

If you only have one or a few essential oils to play around with, then this is not a disadvantage, start with a couple of your favourites and build from there.

Keep it simple. There are so many possibilities and different essential oils to choose from that it can feel a bit overwhelming, don’t make it complicated. Try using 3 oils to begin with and pick a top, middle & base note, this is a good formula used in perfumery to give a well rounded scent (see my previous blog for details on top middle & base notes). If you start to get confused get some fresh air, and come back to it.

Don’t aim for perfection, the magic of using these natural ingredients means the blend will change with time, different people will pick up different scent notes, and when you wear it on your skin it will unfold throughout the day, so just trust when you’ve put something together that it will be great.

The following blogs will help you to choose which essential oils to put into your fragrance:

The Art of Blending Essential Oils

A List of the most popular Essential Oils, their Uses and Cautions

Blending Essential Oils using Top, Middle and Base Notes.

 

Workshop

If you would like to attend a Natural Perfume Making Workshop in person, or arrange one for a group then click here for further details and up and coming dates.

natural perfume making workshop      IMG_4026

Recipe inspirations and practical uses for the ‘rolette’ bottle:

You can use this exact same principle to make oils for health related purposes that  still smell amazing. I have used the 5% blend strength in the recipes, but if you are using on children, people with a delicate disposition or sensitive skin I would use 2.5% (5 drops in total).

See if you can spot the top, middle & base notes in these examples:

Nail oil ~apply on the skin just before the nails begin to grow, this area supports healthy nail growth, as it is where the new nail is being formed.

nail oil

Nail oil recipe, this for a 5% blend strength (10 drops of essential oil in 10ml base oil).

Ingredients

5ml organic macadamia oil*

5ml organic almond oil*

4 drops of myrrh essential oil (helps to heal dry, hard and cracked skin)

3 drops of rose essential oil (deeply nurturing, nourishing and hydrating)

3 drops of mandarin essential oil (great for the skin and gives the scent a lift)

*If you can’t use nut oils due to allergies then I would suggest using organic apricot, olive or argan oil instead.

 

Anxiety, stress, panic attacks ~with a soothing, calming blend you can roll across your wrists or even under your nose as a preventative or when you feel symptoms coming on.

Ingredients

10ml organic olive oil

4 drops of neroli essential oil (soothes & calms nervous system)

3 drops of lavender essential oil (relaxing, clearing & calming)

3 drop of frankincense essential oil (supports breathing gently)

 

Hay fever ~ with a soothing, calming blend you can roll across your chest or even under your nose as a preventative or when you feel symptoms.

Chamomile

Ingredients

10ml organic apricot oil

5 drops of benzoin essential oil (soothing, comforting)

2 drops of chamomile essential oil (anti-allergy, anti-inflammatory, soothing, calming, helps with itching)

3 drop of orange essential oil (to give the scent a lift)

 

Nausea, morning sickness ~ with a soothing, calming blend you can roll across your wrists, tummy or even under your nose as a preventative or when you feel symptoms. The recipe here is for a 2% blend strength which is suitable in pregnancy, but you can increase it to 5% if it is for perfume use.

Ingredients

10ml organic apricot or olive oil

2 drops of neroli essential oil (soothing, relaxing, calms nervous tension)

1 drops of cardamom essential oil (refreshing, soothing, calming)

1 drop of spearmint essential oil (refreshing, soothes feelings of nausea)

 

Colds & sinus problems ~with a blend of powerfully clearing respiratory oils you can inhale the blend or roll across your chest & neck, e.g. eucalyptus, peppermint, thyme.

IMG_4499

Ingredients

10ml organic olive oil

4 drops of eucalyptus essential oil (clears respiratory system, very anti-microbial)

2 drops of peppermint essential oil (clearing & calming)

4 drops of thyme essential oil (powerful anti-microbial, clears mucus and great for chesty coughs)

Rose Scented Oil – How To Make Your Own

IMG_4189-2

This is a very simple recipe for making your own rose scented oil. It is quite different from an essential oil which is made by steam distillation or solvent extraction and requires about 1200 rose flowers to make just 20 drops of oil, so much more practical as you don’t require vast fields of roses, nor specialised equipment.

This is a process of macerating rose petals in a carrier oil for a period until the oil takes on the scent of the roses. The process is just as beautiful as the end product, hence all the photos to give you a sense of the joy.

All you need is some rose flowers, a glass jar or container with an air tight lid and a carrier oil, this can be anything you like eg. olive oil, almond oil, jojoba oil -I would recommend something that has no scent, or a light scent, so as not to over power the smell of the roses, I have used apricot oil in this case.

Make sure the rose flowers you collect have a strong scent and have not been sprayed with chemicals, as these will taint the final product – growing your own is best. I have several potted roses on my balcony and for my test run I only used two flowers in a tiny jam jar, after 2 weeks of using a little on my finger tips as a face oil, I still have half a pot left.

rose oil

If you want to choose one to plant the David Austin website lets you know if the rose you are buying has a strong scent, now is a good time to order bare root roses, they deliver at end of the year as literally bare roots with a little bit of twig but will still give you a harvest next Summer.

Take the flowers when they have opened to their fullest, so you and the bees can enjoy them for as long as possible, then just nip them off before they start to wither.

These wild deep pink roses were collected on the Yorkshire moors -a friend of mine had shared how heavenly and heavily scented they were when out walking his dog and actually sent a few in the post to me, with the smell still lingering.

rose collection

I have tried this process a few times now, and have also used flowers from two of my favourite roses that I have on my balcony, Gentle Hermione  and The Alnwick Rose, they have a fairly strong scent but I chose them just because they happened to be in bloom when I decided to make it, you can try using any rose that is scented and not sprayed.  I am planning on making one with a few different types of rose flowers, so as to create a combination of their scents.

pink rose petals

Once you’ve harvested your rose flowers you need to remove the petals and lay them out to dry a little as any moisture could result in the oil becoming rancid. I left mine on a table near a sunny window for the day, this should be enough to lose the water in the petals but not the essential oil.

part dried rose petals

Collect the petals carefully and put them in the jar, you will naturally leave behind little bits of dust or grit as you pick them up, and there might be some you want to discard, I actually found a few with creatures wrapped inside so they didn’t make it into a jar.

jar of rose petals

Fill the jar to the top, and the pour in the carrier oil. If you don’t have enough petals to fill the jar, use a smaller one, you want to just cover them with oil, and not leave any space for air.

rose oil

Seal the lid tightly and leave for two week in a cupboard, then strain the spent rose petals through some muslin, or a sieve, into a bowl.

rose petal straining

Squeeze as much oil as you can from the petal pulp and you are left with a beautiful, delicately scented rose oil.

squeeze oil

Pure gold oil! You can repeat this process and add more petals to create a more intense rose scent if you like.

rose gold oil

This oil feels so precious and nurturing, it’s very gorgeous to use on your face and body. You only need a tiny amount so it’s been well worth it -this last batch was made with a litre of oil so I have plenty to see me through until the next rose flowering season.  It has been especially yummy having petals all over my home so I’m sure you are going to have a lot of fun with this.

Tip: You can use your rose oil as an ingredient in making your own natural face cream, see here for recipe and instructions: Natural Face and Body Cream Making Workshop.

Feel free to ask any questions and to share your experiences.

roses

How to use Cooling Peppermint Essential Oil for Sun Burn and After Sun Care.

sun burn treatment after sun gel

I once had a peppermint bath, once being the appropriate word here, it was at a friends house and there was a bottle of bubble bath in her bathroom that had peppermint essential oil listed as an ingredient, happy to have found an essential oil bubble bath, I poured some in and lay down into the bubbles. A very strange sensation then came over me. It was a cold tingling sensation, the water was nice and hot but I had this cool feeling all over and it felt really weird, I have to admit I really didn’t like it and haven’t used peppermint in a bath blend since.

However, this cooling effect of peppermint essential oil is extremely useful in many other circumstances, it’s refreshing in tooth pastes, and tingling in lip balms but it really stands out as an effective ingredient in aftersun lotion and for treating sun burn.

This is a simple recipe for a very effective, cooling gel for sun burn. It is blended with lavender, which is very effective for treating serious burns and pain relieving (it is actually used in hospital burns units), as well as German chamomile which has a powerful anti-inflammatory action. These three essential oils blended in a base of aloe vera gel which is hydrating, soothing & helps heal wounds, make for a powerful treatment for sunburn.

After Sun & Sun Burn Gel (2.5% blend strength)

peppermint essential oil for sun burn and after sun

Ingredients:

50ml aloe vera gel

5 drops peppermint essential oil*

15 drops lavender essential oil

5 drops German/blue chamomile essential oil – you can leave this out if it’s just for after-sun, and replace it with Roman chamomile essential oil which is more gentle, the scent is more pleasing and less intense.

Instructions: mix them all together and apply to the affected area.

Cooling Foot Gel

That cooling sensation is also really welcome for tired & weary feet,  you can use the same recipe above as a cooling foot gel.

Refreshing Shower Gel

For a cool, refreshing shower, just add a few drops of peppermint essential oil to your shower gel – see my blog: Blending everyday products with Essential Oils for how many drops to use.

It’s also a great digestive essential oil but I will talk about that in another post… in the mean time enjoy the cooling effects of peppermint oil.

*Caution ~ Do not use peppermint essential oil if cardiac fibrillation. Maximum blend strength 3%. Avoid use with babies.

You may also like to read A Pot of Fresh Mint Tea with the benefits of Essential Oils and Soothing Chamomile for Skin Conditions.

How to make a Massage or Body Balm

how to make a balm

A balm is a great way to use essential oils on the skin, it’s simple to make, easy to apply and feels lovely. It can also be used in a variety of ways, I have included recipes for ‘chest’, ‘pain’, ‘cleansing’ and ‘beauty’  balms below but you can tailor the essential oils in the recipe to suit you personally, (see my shop for tips on essential oil properties and uses for help choosing).

The following recipe makes a good consistency for general use.  It is fairly soft, so ideal for massaging into the skin on your face and body as a nourishing treatment and as a massage balm to lubricate the skin and nourish during massage.

To make 2 x 50ml pots

Recipe for a basic Balm

  • 10g Beeswax
  • 10g Shea butter
  • 80g or ml of base oil, e.g. Olive oil or Almond oil
  • Essential oil(s) of your choice (up to 5ml, see below for inspirations and how many drops to use)
  • Vitamin E, 5 drops (optional)

About the ingredients:

As well giving the balm it’s consistency, beeswax gives a protective and nourishing feel.  Shea butter gives it a creamy smoothness. And then there are the base oils, I usually use almond, apricot or olive oil, which all give it a lovely nourishing feel, but feel free to substitute with what ever you have handy or to experiment with various types, (see my shop for carrier oil properties & uses for help choosing). Vitamin E is a natural preservative so will help your balm last longer (approx.18 months), I use a soy (GMO free) derived version.

You can buy most of the ingredients from myself, except for the beeswax, which I buy from local bee keepers or honey sellers. I would recommend buying the beeswax in pellet form or sheets, as it’s easier to manage, solid blocks are difficult to break up and get the correct amount.

You can adjust the ingredients to suit you as you wish, if you want it softer (for a cleansing balm*), use less beeswax (5g), and if you want it harder (for a lip balm) then use more beeswax (15-20g).

Equipment

  • Scales
  • Measuring jug
  • Bain marie (a sauce pan for heating water with another pan on top so ingredients are heated gently by the steam to avoid heating ingredients directly).
  • Pots (2 x 50ml glass jars)
  • Chopstick for stirring and blending

Instructions

  • Sterilise the pots by putting boiling water in them for a few minutes, then empty and ensure they are completely dry. This is important as the balm can go rancid if mixed with water.
  • Weigh out the beeswax and shea butter using the scale and weigh or measure out the base oil.
  • Use a bain marie to melt the bees wax and shea butter, then add the base oil.  As soon as it’s completely melted remove from the heat.
  • Let it cool a little before adding essential oils and vitamin e, so they are not affected by the heat.  If it begins to solidify give the mixture a stir.
  • Pour the mixture into the containers and leave to cool and set.
  • TIP: I often pour the mix into the jars before adding essential oils, so I can make each pot a different flavour. Decide on which oils  and how many drops to add in advance, as the mix will solidify quickly once in the pots.

Useful Balm Recipes:

Here are some recipes for common uses,  just use the balm recipe above and add the following essential oils.

Chest Balm (to add to the 100ml balm recipe above)

5% blend strength for application to chest to support colds, coughs and chest infections.

Thyme – 20 drops (1ml)

Eucaplyptus – 20 drops (1ml)

Lavender or Spike Lavender – 20 drops (1ml)

Myrrh – 40 drops (2ml)

Pain & Inflammation Balm (to add to the 100ml balm recipe above)

5% blend strength for use on specific effected areas.

Chamomile (german) – 40 drops (2ml)

Clove – 20 drops (1ml)

Lavender or Lavandin – 40 drops (2ml)

Cleansing Balm (to add to the 100ml balm recipe above)

1% blend strength for use on the face

Lavender – 10 drops (0.5ml)

Lemon – 10 drops (0.5ml)

You can use this balm to cleanse your face, remove makeup and grime, just rinse with warm water or a warm cloth afterwards and your skin will be left feeling silky soft.

Beauty Balm (to add to the 100ml balm recipe above)

Use at 2.5% blend strength for stretch marks and scars, and 0.5% to use as a night time nourishing facial treatment.

Rose – 10 drops (2.5%) or 2 drops (0.5%)

Myrrh- 20 drops (2.5%) or 4 drops (0.5%)

Lavender- 20 drops (2.5%) or 4 drops (0.5%)

To help you choose which essential oils to use in your balm, click here to see my List of Essential Oils and their uses. The list is constantly expanding so if there are any oils missing from the list, just let me know and they will be next to appear.

You can pick as many or as few oils as you like, but just ensure the total blend strength is appropriate (see blend strength charts below).

How much essential oil to use

1% Delicate blend strength (for face, damaged, sensitive skin & children)
Amount of base product No. of drops of essential oil to add
10ml 2
30ml 6
50ml 10
100ml 20
2.5% General blend strength
Amount of base product No. of drops of essential oil to add
10ml 5
30ml 15
50ml 25
100ml 50
5% Strong blend strength (for specific areas of the body only eg. an arthritic knee or back ache)
Amount of base product No. of drops of essential oil to add
10ml 10 drops (0.5ml)
30ml 30 drops (1.5ml)
50ml 50 drops (2.5ml)
100ml 100 drops (5ml)

*Coconut oil is also useful for a cleansing balm as it’s very greasy and lifts dirt and grime gently from your skin, it’s great to use on its own for removing eye make-up.