I’m no Drew Barrymore – I don’t use the word ‘magical’ very often. But sometimes it applies, and I’m not talking about supernatural phenomena here. I mean magic of an earthly sort, those moments of amazing interaction between us and the natural world where everything seems to fit together – well – magically.
To me, a prime example is the way certain plants can ease our ills and make us feel beautiful without any kind of laboratory manipulation. Two of my absolute favorites – pine and calendula – might be growing in your area right now, just waiting to be plucked and infused and allowed to work their particular magic on your body. Making infused herbal oils is so easy, they smell fantastic and it’s comforting to know that what you’re putting on your skin is as pure as can be.
Pine – Invigorating Massage & Relaxation
When you think of earthy green smells, pine is right up there with freshly cut grass – but its worth goes far beyond mere scent. Pine needles from evergreens of all sorts including white pine, cedar and arbor vitae contain naturally occurring oils that are antiseptic, antifungal, antiviral, and anti-carcinogenic according to renowned herbalist Susun Weed. Infused pine oil is very easy to make and blows Vicks Vapor Rub out of the water when used as a massage oil when you’re under the weather.
On a dry day, harvest enough pine needles to fill a glass jar in the size of your choosing (I use a 20-oz mason jar, because I go through infused pine oil fast!). When you get home, cut the needles into small pieces with scissors and place them into the jar, leaving a few inches of space at the top. Pour olive oil over the pine needles, all the way to the top of the jar, screw on the lid and let it steep for 4 weeks. Open the lid twice a day for the first two days and stir it gently with a chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon to allow air bubbles to escape. Then, strain the oil through cheesecloth into smaller dark-colored bottles using a funnel.
Pine is often used as an invigorating massage oil and is especially valued as a chest rub for colds and bronchitis, and a breast massage oil for painful lumps and tumors. It’s also highly relaxing, wonderful for unwinding after a long day.
Calendula – Skin Healing & Renewal
One of the most prized herbs in any natural healer’s arsenal, calendula is a must-have in any skin-healing formula. Also known as the pot marigold, this bright and sunny flower doesn’t just kill germs and viruses, ease irritation and reduce inflammation. It actually promotes skin cell renewal, making it a valuable ally in both medicine and beauty. It’s my go-to oil for any skin ailment, and I also use it as my daily moisturizer.
To make calendula oil, place ¼ cup of dried petals into a pint-size canning jar, add ½ cup olive oil, stir and cover with a lid. Let it sit in a sunny window for two weeks or until the liquid is a deep shade of yellow. Then, strain it through cheesecloth into a small dark-colored bottle using a funnel. If you don’t have calendula growing near you, you can order the preserved petals in bulk at Mountain Rose Herbs.