A DIY body oil to deeply nourish dry skin during winter. Gotu kola, calendula and rose are solar infused into an extra virgin, cold pressed sesame oil – favoured in Ayurveda for daily self-massage (Abhyanga).
Shall we make a herbal body oil today?! Why not. We’ve had some mad weather here in NZ – uprooted trees and all, as if the weather Gods are dusting their hands together with vigour: we’re done with you Summer! The colder weather has arrived thick and fast and with that – wind chapped lips, red checks, cold fingers and dry skin.
Herbal oils make for a beautiful remedy to the above. Take a few botanicals, such as gotu kola, calendula and rose, solar infuse them into an oil (extracting the active constituents in the process) and apply daily to help soothe, nourish, moisturise and even promote collagen production.
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The benefits don’t stop there however – you can turn this oil application into a daily self-care ritual. In fact, the Ayurvedic practice Abhyanga is just this – self-massage with warmed sesame oil, often infused with herbs, over the whole body, to balance and revitalise the nervous system, relieve fatigue and promote restful sleep.
What a wonderful way to diffuse stress at the end of a busy day. Can you imagine how dreamy this is after a bath and right before bed?
Sesame may seem an unusual choice here, but it is a fundamentally warm oil and super beneficial for Vata types and cold, windy days. You can dig deeper into this practice if you like and match the type of oil to your constitution for maximum benefit.
As for the herbs, you have the option of growing and harvesting your own (ridiculously satisfying, and personally, I think this adds to the medicine of it all), or purchasing them dried and ready to infuse. They are easy enough to source – particularly calendula – just try the tea section of a local health or natural foods store.
I’ll speak to the benefits of the herbs used in a moment, but first, I’ll take you through the process of growing, harvesting and drying your herbs just in case it inspires you to get planting!
Growing and Harvesting Calendula
You’ll be able to find calendula (Calendula officinalis) at a garden centre – it is a member of the daisy family and has bright orange, sunny looking flowers. Plant it in full sun and water well.
When the flowers are in full bloom, it’s time to harvest. As a rule of thumb, do this on a hot day to avoid there being any moisture on the plant, which makes for a harder time drying. Don’t be scared to pick all the flowers – more will spring back. In fact, it is better to pick them often before they start to go to seed. You’ll have quite the bounty by the end of its cycle.
To dry the flower heads, spread them over a mesh tray and leave in a warm, dry environment. I stack my trays in the dehydrator, and leave them there to air dry without adding any extra heat.
If you have a known sensitivity to the daisy (Asteraceae) family then choose another herb to work with.
Growing and Harvesting Gotu Kola
Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) is another fun one to grow. It likes warm and moist conditions – our climate seems suited to it here in NZ. Gotu kola is a creeper – if you don’t want your garden overtaken then plant it in a pot, but I quite like the way it makes a carpet of bouncy lush green leaves.
To harvest, collect the leaves and dry on mesh trays. You can add gotu kola to garden salads. It is actually a common culinary green in Asia – in Sri Lanka they shred and combine it with coconut, chilli, shallots and lime. Yum!
Store in air tight glass jars and they will last a long while.
Once you have dried your herbs, you can start making your DIY body oil.
Source a beautiful 500ml jar with a tight fitting lid, and fill with a mixture of gotu kola and calendula. Because I intend on using this as a self-care ritual, I’ve also added a little dried rose.
Next, pour over quality sesame oil – organic, extra virgin and cold pressed (this will be lighter and less intense than toasted sesame oil). Make sure the plant material is well covered, and tap to release air bubbles.
If you have some essential oils – add them in – then fasten the lid and give it a little shake.
Now all we need is a little patience. The herbs ideally need 2-3 weeks to infuse, allowing all the therapeutic constituents to be pulled into the oil. I like to leave mine somewhere where they’ll see a little sun – solar magic!
Once done – you’re good to go forth, bathe and massage!
DIY Body Oil Benefits:
- Used topically, calendula is anti-inflammatory and soothing to dry skin - great for eczema, acne, chaffed skin and cracked nipples
- Gotu kola (topically) promotes wound healing and collagen production, it, like calendula, is helpful for varicose veins, stretch marks and scarring
- Rose adds a little beauty
- Sesame is warming and deeply moisturising
- The actual act of massage itself helps to stimulate circulation and eliminate toxins. It calms the nervous system, helps relieve fatigue and promotes a sense of wellbeing
DIY Body Oil Recipe
A DIY body oil to deeply nourish the skin during winter.
- 500ml sesame oil, organic, extra virgin and cold pressed
- Large handful calendula flowers, dried
- Large handful gotu kola, dried
- 2 tablespoons rose buds, dried
- Rose essential oil, add enough to fragrance to your liking
- Place dried calendula, gotu kola and rose in a clean 500ml (approx. 16 ounces) bottle.
- Pour the sesame oil over slowly, and tap gently on the kitchen bench to remove air bubbles. Ensure the plant material is covered by at least an inch of oil near the top. Add essential oils if using.
- Fasten the lid, give a little shake, and place somewhere warm with a little sunlight to infuse for 2-3 weeks to extract constituents from the herbs.
- After infusion, either pour direct from the bottle to use, or strain through a fine cheesecloth, discarding and composting the plant material.
- Stand bottle in hot water for a minute or two to warm before use. Enjoy a bath, then apply liberally as a self-massage.
- Avoid calendula if you have a known allergy.
- Avoid using this recipe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Although these herbs help promote wound healing, never apply to a fresh burn or it will insulate the heat and cause more damage.
- Herbs can be found in the tea section of health or natural foods stores.
- Read the blog post for details on harvesting and drying the herbs if you are wanting to grow and use your own.
- The type of sesame oil used is extra virgin and cold pressed, not toasted. It is a lighter colour and milder in scent.
- Coconut oil is a nice addition and has cooling properties.
- Apricot or almond oils are also nice additions.