During the winter months it can get ‘bone-chilling’ cold in some places. Sometimes it’s nice to reach for something that has true ‘warming’ qualities besides the extra blanket.
Depending on your level of expertise, you can use the herbal properties of certain botanicals to make everything from an ointment that can be massaged into the muscles, to an herbal tea to drink or bathe in. Aromatherapy is another way that the properties may enter the body. So by reaching for the right essential oils, you may reap the ‘warming’ benefits as well.
Here are a few ways:
Herbal Teas –
For flowers, leaves and stems. Boil the water first. Turn off the heat. Add your herb, cover with the lid. Let it steep for about 10 minutes (infusion method). Never use metal, instead, opt for a glass or enamel pan. Use about a pint of water to every ounce of herb. Strain the mixture, then use the liquid.
For roots, bark and seeds, use the same non-metallic pan as above. But this time you will actually keep the plant parts at a very slow rolling boil for at least 10-15 minutes with the lid ajar. A good idea is to use a mortar and pestle to gently grind the roots or other hard parts of the plant before you boil them to help them release their properties further. After boiling, cover and steep for another 5-10 minutes. Strain, then use the liquid. This is the decoction method.
Just the fact that you are drinking a nice hot beverage will do wonders for warming you from the inside out. But herbs that will add even more to that warm feeling will be the more relaxing herbs of Catnip or Lemon Balm. Or you can use the more stimulating herbs such as Elder flowers or Peppermint. Experiment by adding a small amount of Cayenne or Ginger. You may want to add Lemon or Honey for flavor.
Taking a nice warm bath in herbal properties can be very effective. Make sure that the temperature of the water is neither too hot nor too cool, 90-95 degrees is perfect for most. Minerals such as sea salts can be added, and/or herbs. Making an infusion or decoction first and then adding it to the bath is probably the most effective way to make an herbal bath. Another way would be to hang a tea bag filled with herbs under the spigot. The running warm water releases the properties of the herbs. Footbaths with stimulating herbs are ideal for tired feet that need a pick-up.
You’ll want to use the same herbs and flowers listed above under herbal teas. These are herbs that have warming properties. This same tea will be what you will add to your bath water.
After extracting the properties by making an herbal tea (see directions above). Put the liquid into a double boiler with double that amount of a vegetable oil such as Olive or Almond oil. Simmer until the water evaporates. Add a little beeswax to make a thicker consistency. Stir and heat slowly until completely melted. Pour into a small jar with lid. A drop of tincture of
Benzoin per ounce of fat may be added as a preservative.
Infused Oil –
To make an oil that will work well as a warming body massage, use a double boiler to heat as much massage oil as you’ll need. Usually two to four cups of Almond oil is a good start. Slowly heat the oil without getting it too hot. Add a spicy pepper (cut into a few large pieces), a couple of cinnamon sticks and a small slice of slightly mashed Ginger (or any combination of the three). Continue heating on low heat for 3-5 hours. Cover the pan but leave the lid slightly ajar. Strain the mixture, bring to room temperature. You may then add a few drops of essential oils such as lemon, or rosemary for even more stimulating properties as well as a nice fresh scent. This oil is lovely when massaged into tired achy muscles. It’s also nice to massage into legs to increase stimulation.
Make sure to heat the oil slightly when applying it to the body, especially on a cold day (for obvious reasons). To add a bit more of a liniment effect, you may add a very minute amount of camphor crystals to the oil when it is initially made. It will add a slight tingling sensation and give that “deep-heating rub” feel. Add only a very small amount, it is quite potent and a little goes a long way. Warning: It may be toxic when used internally.
By bruising or mashing the plant material and heating it, it can then be applied directly to an area of the body that needs to be soothed and warmed. A good way to do this is put the paste inside a hot moist towel that is continuously kept hot by placing new hot towels over the first as it starts to cool. Clean the skin thoroughly after the treatment. Ginger or cayenne peppers are good for this, but make sure to wrap them in a towel because they can be quite stimulating to the skin.
This is the same idea as a poultice, but calls for a series of towels being saturated by the warm herbal solution of your choice and being placed consecutively on the affected area. This method is not quite as effective, but it is less messy.
Vapor Bath –
This method is used for both the respiratory system as well as skin detoxification and is of course…warming. Place the plant material into boiling water, turn off the heat. Let the herbs steep for at least 10 minutes with the pot covered. Pour the mixture into a Pyrex bowl as shown below, or leave it in the pot. Then, using a towel over your head to keep the steam directly on your face, lean over the bowl or uncovered pot. Be careful that the steam is not too hot before you put the towel over your head, and lean over the mixture. If it’s too hot, either wait until it cools to a comfortable temperature, or add a small amount of cool water.
This treatment will be both physically warming and good for the respiratory system if the right herbs are used such as Eucalyptus, Elecampane, Lungwort, Comfrey, or Wild Cherry bark.
Essential Oils good for increasing stimulation include:
These oils can be used one at a time or mixed into a blend of two or three. Use them to scent the air by adding a few drops to a crock pot filled with warm water or into a diffuser that is made for essential oils.
A few drops into any of the above herbal formulations add extra heating properties along with a beautiful aroma. Use essential oils as you would any herb, sparingly and with respect.
Only work with essential oils and herbs that you know for a fact are safe for your purposes. Invest in at least one good herb and aromatherapy book that will tell you which herbs and essential oils do what. Buy your herbs from a reputable source. Make sure that the herbs are either organic or wildcrafted (or wildgathered). This just means that they have not had pesticides used on them or they have been collected out in a natural place where they have been growing on their own and more than likely have not had pesticides used on them.
Some essential oils and herbs are safe when used topically and are dangerous when taken internally. You must know this kind of information before you attempt to use any herb or essential oil. This is not to scare you, this is just to be a warning against possibly endangering your own health or that of your family members. Whether it be a natural ingredient or an un-natural one, people have allergies and reactions. So err on the side of caution. Less is more when using herbs and essential oils. Work with them carefully, getting to know them one by one.
The information given is not a diagnosis, treatment, or cure for any medical condition and is certainly not meant to replace your healthcare practitioner’s advice or services. Use any of the advice given here at your own risk. Neither the author or SharAmbrosia accept responsibility for any effects that may arise from using any herb. Although many species are known to be safe for many people, it is not possible to predict an individual person’s reactions to particular species. Therefore, neither the author or SharAmbrosia can accept responsibility for any personal experimentation. If you have any serious medical conditions that need attention, please seek the aid of your physician or healthcare provider. The information given here has not been evaluated by the FDA.
Written by Sharon Houghton