Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Base Oil - The Third

Macerated Oils. 

Driving home yesterday after a training session at Dermalogica, I was almost overwhelmed by the sunset. The colours were vivid, with the light causing the trees to be silhouetted in-front of the setting  light; the photo above is the same vibrant eye-full as the sunset last night. It is a photo of Calendula Officinalis, or the marigold flower. 

So what does the beautiful sunset, the common marigold and my blog have in common? Massage oil! (Well, the sun was simply wonderful, but it did make me think of writing today!)

Macerated oils are often misunderstood and underused in my opinion as they are not talked about much. It's easy to think of them in terms of music: Almond oil is King of the Oil World - the oil which is blended with most things, easy to use, non-perfumed and so all essences can be blended with him. Almond is the one that all the others gossip about and see as the pop-star. Macerated Oils are the Independent Musicians struggling to make their voice heard with loads to offer, have healing words and are true gems as soon as you find them. Macerated oils are the oils that are played on BBC6 Music late at night, that have a tiny army of fanatical fans and are plugging away in the background doing really interesting things. Personally I would rather listen to BBC6 Music than watch Pop Idol, so I guess you can see why I am passionate about these oils. They are truly remarkable! 

Maceration is the process of oil extraction that is used when you want to get to the healing properties of an oil but they are carried in the flower head. Calendula, Carrot, Melissa, Arnica and Lime Blossom are some examples of oils that are produced through maceration. To start the process of maceration, the chopped flower heads are put into a vat of oil, (normally olive, almond or sunflower oil), and then the vats are agitated over a period of a few days. The oil in the vat acts as a very gentle solvent to the flower heads and it gently lifts the properties that are required from them, resulting in a richly infused oil. Why is it produced this way? Well, it is often seen as a good way of extracting oils when other methods would be too expensive or cumbersome and as it works so well; why not?
Calendula Oil can be used to form up to 25% of the total mix of a base oil, so I would still add other oils to it if I were to use it in Aromatherapy. Or it can be used on its own in it's pure form. It is a wonderful anti-inflammatory oil and has been used to help damaged skin such as eczema, scars, ulcers, chapped and cracked skin, bruises and the like. It is really versatile and a wonderful oil to have around the house if you want a soothing oil to rub into the skin.

Arnica Oil is the one I reach for in times of emergency! No one should be without it. It is fantastic for bodies that are feeling over run, bruised, bumped, achy, sprained or strained. It's also a beautiful oil to use on back and shoulder ache and to be honest I tend to use this on its own without a blend to harness the purity of it. Just don't use it on cracked skin. 

Carrot Oil is quite funky and is a macerated oil from finely chopped carrot root, rather than the flower heads. Filled with beta-carotene it is used to help rejuvenate the skin and help with the anti-inflammatory process. I have to confess to never having used it as I can't find an organic supplier for it and as carrots are sprayed so heavily, I would rather have it if it is unadulterated. However, I think it is rather a cool oil in theory and would love to try using it some day!

Macerated base oils are a must to help the healing process and are a great tool to aromatherapy. I love the fact that they can be used neat and have a wonderful effect on the body, or they can still be blended and mixed with other base oils and essences to taylor make an oil just for you. 

Do ask your therapist about the oils that they use. Aromatherapy is an art and each blend will be different and unique, but worth the effort and time when blended well. However if your massage therapist uses pre-blended oils, (and I rely on them heavily), they are still fantastic and will offer your body specific properties to help aid you. Pre-blends simply mean that the oil manufacturer has developed a standardized essential oil blend that is blended into a vegetable oil and it will be the same in each bottle. I love them and for any type of massage apart from true Aromatherapy oil they are a must. 


These blogs are not aimed at telling you how to blend oils, use them on yourself, family or friends, or give you the techniques to practice. It is just aimed at giving you background knowledge so that you can identify with your therapist in a deeper manner. If you are interested in the subject, please look to your local education providers so that you can learn how to use these tools safely, as they can be dangerous if used incorrectly.

Of course, I have used some great books to help with this series of blogs and they are:
The Book by Dermalogica

Aromatherapy Diploma Course Notes (Stonebridge College)
Essential Oils by Susan Curtis (Neal's Yard Remedies Publishing)
Aromatherapy An A-Z by Patricia Davis (Daniel Publishing)
The Art Of Aromatherapy by Robert Tisserand (Daniel Publishing).

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