How to Use Botanical Oils


In the depths of winter there is nothing that feels more nourishing to the skin than abhyanga, the Ayurvedic self-care technique of lathering and massaging your body with oil--from head to toe. Often this oil is applied warm and infused with botanical herbs, which can be tailored to promote everything from cognitive function to joint health. While this remedy is one of our favorites of the season, there are plenty of other ways to use infused herbal oils, or as we call them--botanical oils.

O I L  R I T U A L S

Abhyanga // Ayurvedic massage ritual that is performed with warm oil, often with botanical oils for your specific body type or constitution. When this ritual is performed regularly, 2-4x a week, you may find that your skin is softer, sleep comes on more naturally, and joints feel more lubricated.

Breast Massage // We learned this ritual from shaman and ethnobotanist Rocio Alarcon, who acquired it from her own lineage of Ecuadorian healers.  You can often find her teaching here, but in the meantime just use your two hands and massage daily with an oil infused with lymph-loving calendula or a simple sesame seed oil. This ritual helps with lymph congestion, and in turn helps to keep our immune system healthy--plus it's a relaxing daily breast check.

Cooking // This way of using oil is probably the most obvious, but the options are endless. Use thyme, rosemary, basil, or whatever herbs you have handy! Then you have an easy way to kick your salad dressings up a notch!

Ear Oil // Traditionally made with garlic and mullein, we learned how to use this oil to reduce ear aches from Rosemary Gladstar.

Gua Sha // Use a botanical oil, or a simple sesame seed oil when applying the technique of gua sha. This healing therapy is popular in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and is incredible for removing blockages in the body and promoting whole body wellness.

Hair + Scalp Treatment // When we're feeling dry and flakey (it's the worst, we know), try lathering your scalp in an oil infused with calendula blooms, rosemary, or a simple coconut oil. Leave it in your hair for 15-30 minutes, and then wash it out with shampoo or soap and water. An added bonus--your hair will shine all week long.

Herbal Castor Pack // We've both suffered from ovarian cysts, and one of our favorite alternative therapies for these suckers are castor oil packs externally on the abdomen. You can even try mixing in a botanical oil in for added benefit, plus folks use this alternative therapy for all kinds of detoxing.

Back + Body Massage // Try massaging arnica oil and/or St. John's wort oil directly on sore spots, post chiropractic care, or try relaxing partner massage with kava kava oil.

Medicine Making // We love infusing botanical oils like calendula, rosemary, and plantain into our lymph stimulating salt scrubs, nourishing body lotions, or an inflammation reducing plantain + chickweed bite salve.

Moon-time Massage // We've often relied on a simple home-made cannabis oil to relieve cramps, by massaging over the abdomen topically, but we've heard cramp bark (a popular anti-spasmodic herb) can do wonders too. We've had our eyes on Holy Sponge's Our Lady of Mercy Salve, which base is made with anti-spasmodic herbal oil.

Oil Pulling // Technically, we wouldn't used infused botanical oils for this, but it's an Ayurvedic oil ritual we adore. Simply swish around coconut or sesame oil in your mouth for 10-20 minutes each morning to lower plaque and gingivitis risk.

If it's feeling a little expensive to buy these botanical oils, cut the costs by creating your own. When we can't grow and dry herbs from our own gardens, we turn to our favorite local shop West County Herb Company or national seller Mountain Rose Herbs.