Your Own Herbal Expert - Part 6
an article by Susun S. Weed
medicine is the medicine of the people. It is simple,
safe, effective, and free. Our ancestors used -
and our neighbors around the world still use - plant
medicines for healing and health maintenance. It's
easy. You can do it too, and you don't need a degree
or any special training. Ancient memories arise
in you when you begin to use herbal medicine - memories
which keep you safe and fill you with delight. These
lessons are designed to nourish and activate your
inner herbalist so you can be your own herbal expert.
In our first session we learned how to "listen"
to the messages of plant's tastes. In session two
we learned about simples and how to make effective
water-based herbal remedies. The third session helped
us distinguish safe nourishing and tonifying herbs
from the more dangerous stimulating and sedating
herbs. Our fourth session focused on poisons in
herbs and entered the herbal pharmacy to herbal
tinctures, which we collected into an Herbal Medicine
Chest. Our fifth session found us still in the pharmacy,
learning how to make and use herbal vinegars for
strong bones and healthy hearts.
In this, our sixth session, we remain in the herbal
pharmacy and turn our attention to herbs in fat
bases. We'll explore fresh infused oils, ointments,
salves, and lip balms, essential oils, and even
Herbal Oils: Infused vs. Essential
I make and use many infused herbal oils. I use little
or no essential oils. Why?
Infused herbal oils use a small amount of plant
material; essential oils require tons of plant material.
Infused herbal oils are safe to use internally or
externally; essential oils are poisonous internally
and problematic externally. Infused herbal oils
are good for the skin; essential oils can cause
rashes, burns, and other skin reactions. Infused
oils are used full strength; essential oils are
diluted before use. Infused herbal oils have subtle
scents; essential oils have powerful scents.
The scent of an essential oil can kill gut flora
just like antibiotics do, according to Paul Bergner,
director of the clinical studies program at the
Rocky Mountain Center for Botanical Studies. He
told me that breathing the oils puts them into the
blood stream very quickly and can be a major disturber
of intestinal health and contributor to poor immune
Massage therapists are embracing Natural Scent Therapies
such as growing live aromatic plants in their treatment
rooms and using pillows of dried aromatic herbs
instead of essential oils. Their skin and their
immune systems are thanking them for the switch.
Making Infused Herbal Oils
To make an infused herbal oil you will need the
· Fresh plant material
· Scissors or a knife
· A clean dry jar with a tight lid
· Some olive oil
· A label and pen; a small bowl
Harvest your plant material in the heat of the day,
after the sun has dried the dew. It is best to wait
at least 36 hours after the last rain before harvesting
plants for infused oils. Wet plant materials will
make moldy oils. To prevent this, some people dry
their herbs and then put them in oil. I find this
gives an inferior quality product in most cases.
Coarsely chop the roots, leaves, or flowers of your
chosen plant. Fill your jar completely full of the
chopped plant material. Add olive oil until the
jar is completely full. (Patience and a chopstick
are useful tools at this point.)
Tightly lid the jar. Label it. Put it in a small
bowl (to collect seepage and over-runs). Your infused
oil is ready to use in six weeks.
Fresh Plants That I Use to Make Infused Oils
Arnica flowers (Arnica montana)
Burdock seeds (Arctium lappa)
Calendula flowers (Calendula off.)
Comfrey leaves or roots (Symphytum uplandica)
Dandelion flowers (Taraxacum off.)
Plantain leaves (Plantago majus)
Poke roots (Phytolacca americana)
St. Joan's wort flowers (Hypericum perforatum)
Yarrow blossoms (Achillea millefolium)
Yellow dock roots (Rumex crispus)
Using Your Infused Herbal Oils
I use my infused herbal oils to heal and ease the
pain of wounds, bruises, scrapes, sprains, burns,
rashes, sore muscles, insect bites, and aching joints.
I make my infused oils into ointments, salves, and
lip balms. I use my infused oils in rituals, to
anoint. I use my infused oils after bathing, to
moisturize. I use my infused oils as stunning salad
dressings. I use my infused oils as sexual lubricants.
I use my infused oils to nourish my scalp and hair.
I apply my infused herbal oils directly to the body.
I rarely take infused herbal oils as internal medicines
although it would be safe to do so. I use my infused
oils to make salves, ointments, and lip balms.
Making Salves, Ointments and Lip Balms
When herbs are infused into animal fat, they form
a natural salve, without need of thickening. But
herbs infused into oils are drippy and leaky and
messy. They need a little beeswax melted into them
to make them solid. The more beeswax added, the
firmer the oil will be. A little beeswax will make
a soft salve. A medium amount will make a firm ointment.
And a lot will make a stiff lip balm.
· Pour one or more ounces of infused herbal
oil into a saucepan or double boiler.
· Grate several ounces of beeswax.
· Put a small fire under your oil.
· When it is slightly warm, add one tablespoon
(more or less) of grated beeswax.
· Stir, preferably with your finger, until
the beeswax melts.
· Test the firmness by dropping a drop on
a china plate. It will solidify instantly.
- Too soft? Add more beeswax, a little at a time.
- Too hard? Add more infused oil (if possible) or
· Pour your finished salve or ointment into
· Pour lip balms into little pots or twist
The simplest pesto is green leaves pounded with
salt and garlic. I don't put cheese or nuts into
my pestos when I make them, as these ingredients
I use a mini-size food prep machine for the "pounding".
A blender will work too, but watch that you don't
burn out the motor.
The oil in a pesto both preserves the antioxidant
vitamins in the fresh green herbs and also softens
the cell walls so minerals become more available.
With the added health-benefits of garlic, herbal
pestos are great medicine as well as superb eating.
Basic Herbal Pesto
Stays good for up to two years in a cool refrigerator;
up to five years in the freezer.
· Start with half a cup of extra virgin olive
· Add 2-4 coarsely chopped cloves of garlic.
· Add a good sprinkle of sea salt.
· Add a large handful of prepared herb leaves
· Continue adding leaves and oil as needed.
Perhaps more garlic and salt? Blend.
· When all is blended to a fare thee well,
pack your pesto into a skinny jar.
· Leave some space between the pesto and
the top of the jar and fill this with olive oil.
· Cap, label, and refrigerate.
Green Herbs for Pesto
Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Garlic mustard (Alliaria officinalis)
Sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella)
Violet (Viola species)
Yellow dock (Rumex crispus)
In our next sessions we will learn how to make herbal
honeys and syrups, how to apply the three traditions
of healing, and how to take charge of our own health
care with the six steps of healing.
three or more infused herbal oils from different
plant parts, such as leaves, roots, and flowering
tops. (See list for suggestions of plants to use.)
several infused oils from the same plant at the
same time using at least three different kinds of
oils and animal fats, including ghee. Label carefully.
After six weeks, decant and compare.
a salve, ointment, or lip balm. Beeswax is sold
at farmer's markets, health food stores, and craft
at least three injuries with an herbal oil or ointment
that you have made. Record your observations. Plantain,
yarrow, calendula, or comfrey are good choices for
an herbal pesto. (See list for suggestions.)
1. Buy a small bottle of essential oil. Also buy
the plant the oil is made from. Lavender and mint
are good choices for this experiment. Smell the
plant, then smell the essential oil. How do you
feel afterwards? Taste the plant, then taste a drop
of the essential oil? What do you perceive? Put
a drop of the essential oil on your skin; rub the
plant vigorously on your skin. Are there differences?
Extra credit: Make an infused oil of the same plant
and repeat this experiment using your infused oil
in addition to the essential oil and the plant.
2. Use organic animal fat to make an herbal preparation.
Keep the fat barely warm - in the sun or by a pilot
light - until it is infused. No need to add beeswax.
The fat will solidify at room temperature.
· Read about the production of essential
· How is a hydrosol different from an essential
· Can you make a hydrosol? (Jeanne Rose is
a good resource on this.)
This is part 6 in an 8 part series by Susun
S. Weed. Part
1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part
4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part
7 | Part 8 |
Disclaimer: This content is not intended
to replace conventional medical treatment. Any suggestions
made and all herbs listed are not intended to diagnose,
treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or
symptom. Personal directions and use should be provided
by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare
practitioner with a specific formula for you. All
material on this website/email is provided for general
information purposes only and should not be considered
medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable
healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical
care. Exercise self-empowerment by seeking a second
PO Box 64
Susun Weed at: www.susunweed.com and www.ashtreepublishing.com
For permission to reprint this article, contact
and involved, Susun Weed has garnered an international
reputation for her groundbreaking lectures, teachings,
and writings on health and nutrition. She challenges
conventional medical approaches with humor, insight,
and her vast encyclopedic knowledge of herbal medicine.
Unabashedly pro-woman, her animated and enthusiastic
lectures are engaging and often profoundly provocative.
Susun is one
of America's best-known authorities on herbal medicine
and natural approaches to women's health. Her four
best-selling books are recommended by expert herbalists
and well-known physicians and are used and cherished
by millions of women around the world. Learn more
article is © copyright Susun
S. Weed 2006 - Republished here with kind permission.