(NaturalNews) Medicinal herbs can be used in many ways: dried and decocted as tea, infused in alcohol as a tincture, steeped in vinegar or honey. Herbs can also be steeped in oil and rubbed into the body for healing.
When medicinal herbs are steeped in oil their healing qualities are infused into the oil. They are absorbed into the body through the skin. Oils created with St. John's Wort, Calendula and Plantain can be used to soothe muscles, heal the skin and take away itchiness.
When choosing an oil it is important to use an edible nutritious oil such as olive oil, almond oil or coconut oil. Mineral oil should not be used. Mineral oil is made of petroleum, is not edible and should not be rubbed into the skin. It is also important to use a stable oil such as the ones mentioned above rather than something like flax oil which can go rancid quickly.
St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a plant which grows wild throughout most of the United States. It can also be purchased dried at many health food stores. St. John's wort is a powerful anti-viral which can penetrate the skin and soothe sore muscles. When yellow St. John's wort buds and flowers are crushed, a maroon stain appears: this is one of the active chemicals in the St. John's wort. When making an oil simply cut the top of the flowering plant (buds, flowers, and surrounding leaves) and steep in oil. If using coconut oil, gently heat in a double boiler until the oil melts and becomes liquid. Add the herbs to the oil on the heat. The oil will turn dark red. St. John's wort oil is beneficial to sore muscles and also helps heal burned skin.
Another herbal oil which benefits the skin is calendula (Calendula officinalis or pot marigold.) Calendula can be grown in a garden. The yellow and orange flowers bloom from early summer through fall. The blossoms can be picked and steeped in oil which will turn amber. This oil benefits the skin and can be applied to rashes and other irritated areas, and it is safely used on babies for diaper rashes.
Another prevalent wild herb which can be made into a useful oil is plantain (Plantago major and thin leaved plantain, Plantago lanceolata). The leaves can be picked from early spring until late fall. This oil stops itchiness, from poison ivy to bug bites.
It is not difficult to make herbal oils at home. Plants must be properly identified and gathered in the afternoon of a sunny day so they have the least moisture. Drying herbs first is helpful so the oils do not mold. If using a liquid oil such as olive, simply fill a jar with the herb and cover with oil. Cover the jar and steep for two to four weeks. Filter the plant matter from the oil, saving the oil which now carries the medicinal properties.
To make a stronger oil more quickly heat in a double boiler, an oven, or a slow cooker. Steep for a few hours to a day or two. Blending also lessens time needed to steep: the properties of the plants are released into the oils quickly as the plant is manually broken down.
Melissa Sokulski is an acupuncturist, herbalist, and founder of the website Food Under Foot, a website devoted entirely to wild edible plants. The website offers plant descriptions, photographs, videos, recipes and more. Her new workbook, Wild Plant Ally, offers an exciting, hands-on way to learn about wild edible plants. Melissa also runs The Birch Center for Health in Pittsburgh, PA, providing the best in complementary health care: acupuncture, therapeutic massage and herbal medicine.