Your guide to aromatherapy

Infused Oils

Most of us are familiar with the term “essential oil”, understanding that it refers to the aromatic extract obtained from a plant and used therapeutically for health and healing. For the most part, essential oils are obtained by a process known as steam distillation. However, there are some plants which contain special beneficial properties that would be lost through steam distillation (for instance the molecules may be too large to be distilled) and so for these plants a process known as maceration or infusion is used.

As the name implies, this process involves the infusion of various herbs into a pure vegetable oil such as almond, macadamia or sunflower. The plants are chopped up and left in the oil for a number of days before being strained out. The resulting liquid contains the essential oils that were present in the plant as well as larger beneficial molecules.

Aromatherapists frequently utilise these infused oils in their treatment blends. Because the essential oils are already diluted in a vegetable oil base, infused oils can be applied directly on to the skin. Alternatively they can be used as a substitute for part or all of the base oil in a blend, and can have other essential oils added to them. For example, if you were using a blend of lavender essential oil in a base of almond oil to treat an inflamed skin condition, extra benefits would be obtained by replacing part or all of the almond oil with some infused calendula or carrot oil. Almost any plant can be used to obtain an infused oil, but those most commonly used for their therapeutic benefits include Arnica, Calendula, Carrot, Centella and Hypericum.

Arnica Oil Arnica montana

Arnica oil is very rich in chemicals known as sesquiterpene lactones, which provide excellent anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, as well as the property for which arnica is probably best known – its anti-coagulant effect. This anti-coagulant property means that arnica is very effective at minimising or reducing bruising. In fact if the oil is applied immediately after an injury has occurred there is a good chance the forming bruise will simply be re-absorbed by the body and never show the typical discolouration.

Arnica is one of the best remedies for strains, sprains and over exerted muscles; it also helps relieve rheumatic pain and inflammatory skin conditions. However, arnica oil should never be applied to broken skin, that is cuts, grazes or open wounds, as it can cause a nasty rash. It is also important not to confuse it with the homeopathic arnica remedy – arnica oil is for external use only.

Calendula Oil Calendula officinalis

High levels of beta carotene give this infused oil a beautiful yellow – orange colour. Calendula oil is much prized by aromatherapists and herbalists for its powerful skin-healing properties and is a frequent addition to creams and lotions used to treat problems such as cracked nipples, nappy rash, cuts and wounds and sunburn. For more serious burns and scalds, calendula oil can play a role in promoting healing once the blisters have broken.

Calendula oil is soothing and healing for irritated or itchy skin conditions such as eczema and rashes and is also beneficial for dry and mature skin types. Mixed with green clay, it is a useful treatment for acne. Inflammations associated with the venous blood supply such as varicose veins, haemorrhoids and chilblains will often be helped by the application of calendula oil. Pregnant women find calendula oil beneficial for massaging the nipples antenatally, thus strengthening the tissue in preparation for breast feeding.

Carrot Oil Daucus carota

Carrot oil is quite similar to calendula oil in appearance and in its uses. It is particularly noted for its anti-inflammatory and rejuvenating effects. This makes it useful for dry or sensitive skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis, as well as aging skin. It is also of benefit in healing wounds to minimise scarring.

Centella Oil Centella asiatica

Centella is also known as Gotu Kola, Brahmi, Hydrocotle or Indian Pennywort. It is a herb much revered throughout Asia and figures prominently in both traditional Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic Medicine. The herbal extract is used internally to treat a wide range of circulatory disorders, and is particularly valued in India as a revitalizer for the brain and nervous system – improving memory, intelligence and longevity. It is said to be a good immune stimulant, and has recently been promoted in Australia as the “anti – arthritis herb”.


Topical uses for the infused oil are equally impressive. A number of different studies have demonstrated the ability of Centella to increase cell growth in the skin’s epidermis, increase collagen production, increase the growth of new blood vessels in the skin and strengthen the walls of existing vessels. Centella oil contains a substance known as asiaticoside which stimulates the reticuloendothelial system in the body. This system is an extensive network of cells and tissues involved in various functions ranging from blood cell formation and iron metabolism to immune and inflammatory responses. The anti-bacterial properties of Centella have also been well documented, making it useful for treating infections of the skin.

All these properties make Centella oil an ideal external treatment for many conditions, ranging from chapped lips, eczema and dermatitis to surgical or traumatic wounds, hard to heal ulcers and bedsores. As well as speeding wound healing, Centella reduces the risk of scarring and, because of its effect on collagen synthesis, Centella has the ability to reduce the rate of skin aging and wrinkle formation. It is also indicated for use during pregnancy to reduce the incidence of stretch marks.

Hypericum Oil Hypericum perforatum

The plant Hypericum is probably best known by its common name, St John’s wort. Its use as an internal remedy for the treatment of depression has been the focus of much attention in recent years, but it also has a very long history of use externally as a tissue healer and antiinflammatory.

Hypericum possesses local analgesic properties, and this, combined with its healing and strongly anti-inflammatory properties means that it is especially useful for nerve inflammations such as sciatica and neuralgia. Painful muscular conditions, inflamed joints, cramps, sprains and bruises may all benefit. Minor burns, grazes and bed sores – the sort of injuries where much of the pain comes from damaged and exposed nerves – can be soothed and healed with hypericum.

Other conditions which may benefit from the external use of Hypericum include haemorrhoids and insect bites. People with sensitive or allergic type skin, or who are prone to skin problems when they are feeling “nervy” will often find Hypericum to be beneficial.

Calophyllum Oil Calophyllum inophyllum

This blue green oil looks and feels like an infused oil, but is in fact an oil pressed from the dried nuts of a tree found in the tropical areas of the South Pacific and Indian Oceans. The expressed oil is a fatty oil (like other vegetable and nut oils) but also contains its own essential oils. Calophyllum’s analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties have given it a long history of traditional use for conditions such as rheumatism and sciatica as well as wound healing. Researchers have found Calophyllum oil to be anti-viral, with documented use as an effective treatment for shingles and leprosy. Cold sores also respond well.

Anti-coagulant properties make Calophyllum useful for bruises and sprains; it also helps with circulation and is beneficial for varicose veins and haemorrhoids. All sorts of skin lesions benefit from the application of Calophyllum oil, ranging from dry skin to cuts, grazes, burns, surgical wounds and varicose ulcers. It is excellent for chapped lips and cracked heels.

Essential Fatty Acids

The importance of ensuring an adequate dietary intake of the essential fatty acids (for example the Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids) has been well documented. Using them externally also has many advantages and benefits to skin health. The two best known oils for this purpose are Evening Primrose Oil and Rose Hip Oil.

Evening Primrose Oil Oenthera biennis

Many people will be familiar with the use of Evening Primrose Oil, taken internally, for a range of conditions including PMS, rheumatoid arthritis, heart and blood pressure problems, eczema and psoriasis. Its effectiveness is attributed to the presence of a relatively rare fatty acid called Gamma Linolenic acid, or GLA. In the human body, GLA can play an important role in ensuring adequate production of important cell regulators called prostaglandins. Normally the body is able to form prostaglandins from various fats ingested in the diet, but sometimes, for a variety of reasons, a faulty mechanism results in an interference with this metabolic process. GLA allows the body to sidestep this fault.

There are only a few known sources of GLA, notably Evening Primrose Oil, Borage Oil and Black Currant Seed Oil. These oils are all effective for treating a number of skin conditions when applied topically, including eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis and dandruff. Evening Primrose Oil makes a good base to add essential oils to for a rheumatoid arthritis treatment blend.

Rose Hip Oil Rosa rubiginosa

Originating from a wild rose grown in Chile, this essential fatty acid rich oil has shown outstanding results when used as a topical application by Chilean dermatologists. Its impressive tissue regenerating capabilities lend it to being used for many skin disorders including acne, eczema, dermatitis, dry, cracked skin, scars, burns and slow healing wounds. It is also excellent for aging skin. Rosehip and Centella oil make a good combination for preventing stretch marks during pregnancy.

Some cosmetic companies advertise that their products contain essential fatty acids such as Rose Hip or Evening Primrose, however because these highly unsaturated oils oxidise and go rancid quite quickly, they are usually only present in very small amounts. Therefore, to obtain their benefits it is far better to purchase a bottle of the pure oil and make up your own blends, or use neat. Because they are prone to rapid oxidation, all essential fatty acid oils should be purchased in small amounts and kept refrigerated. If using in blends, only make up small quantities at a time, say enough for a week or two and keep refrigerated.

Following are some suggested blends incorporating Infused Oils and / or Essential Fatty Acids.

Eczema and Dermatitis Blend

  • 20mls Centella infused oil
  • 20mls Calendula or Carrot infused oil
  • 10mls Evening Primrose oil
  • 1 drop Lavender essential oil
  • 1 drop German Chamomile essential oil

Scar Healing Blend

  • 10mls Centella infused oil
  • 10mls Rose Hip oil
  • 5mls Calendula or Carrot infused oil
  • 9 drops Lavender essential oil
  • 8 drops German Chamomile essential oil
  • 8 drops either Patchouli or Frankincense essential oil

Bruise Blend

  • 5mls Arnica infused oil
  • 3mls Calophyllum oil
  • 2mls Calendula infused oil
  • 4 drops Cypress essential oil
  • 4 drops Lemon essential oil
  • 2 drops Lavender essential oil

Aches and Pains Blend

  • 10mls Arnica infused oil
  • 10mls Hypericum infused oil
  • 10mls Calophyllum oil
  • 10 drops Eucalyptus radiata essential oil
  • 5 drops Roman Chamomile or Rosemary essential oil

Wart Blend

  • 3mls Calophyllum oil
  • 1ml Lemon essential oil
  • 1ml Tea Tree essential oil
  • Apply directly to wart with cotton bud 3 x day until gone

Pimple Blend

  • 5mls Rosehip or Evening Primrose oil
  • 5mls Tea Tree essential oil
  • 10 drops Lavender essential oil
  • 5 drops Red Thyme essential oil
  • Apply a small smear to each individual pimple

Haemorrhoid Blend

  • 10mls Hypericum infused oil
  • 3 drops Geranium essential oil
  • 2 drops Cypress essential oil

Stretch Mark Blend

  • 25mls Centella infused oil
  • 25mls Rose Hip oil
  • 10 drops Mandarin essential oil
  • 5 drops Frankincense essential oil
  • 5 drops Lavender essential oil

Use in the second and third trimester of pregnancy. For a blend to use in the first three months of pregnancy, omit the essential oils and use the Centella and Rose Hip only.

The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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