Monday, August 2, 2010

Essentially, oils are difficult to get at

I like to dabble in aromatherapy, herbal medicine -- even crystal healing. I really believe there are hidden energies in plants and rocks and trees and everything else, all around us. But alas, my senses are just too 21st century to lock into anything but radio waves. I took a fairly down-to-earth herbal medicine course once -- lengthy and thorough and I started using some of the teas and tinctures for healing. I tackled only the simplest of ailments. Stomach aches, menstrual cramps, head colds. My daughter had cradle cap and I concocted a salve to "heal" her. She had a green scalp for months. (I like to think she is more clever now because of it :)

The one thing I have tried with some success is distilling essential oils from plants material. That's what Adrian Culpepper is up to in my latest release, Green Grass. She's a self-taught chemist. She brews huge batches of flowers and mixes up massage oils. OK, so here's my experience. I've done the easy stuff -- orange peels. I boiled down a pile of peels and collected the condensate. I got a tiny thimbleful of limonene. Smelled great. Then I tried a large flask full of lavender flowers and -- well I burned them and it stunk for days. I tried a flask full of simple green grass and got nothing more than a smear of oil. But that one did smell fresh.

Bottom line of this blog post? Distilling essential oils from plant material is tough. You need huge amounts of plant material to get a little bit of anything even remotely resembling an oil, and even then it's probably full of impurities.

I created Adrian to learn the art at her mother's knee, and a lot of trial and error. Read the book and see what her future holds! Essentially, it's a happy ending!

later - Gem


  1. LOL! I like how you 'healed' your daughters cradle cap... it could have been worse:) I would love to be smart enough to know how to perform even basic herbal medicine. It seems so fascinating to me and I'm a big believer in trying a more holistic approach first versus just running to a drugstore.

  2. Thanks for the comment, yadkny! Yes, holistic has its merits. But it's so easy and quick to grab an Advil for a headache. :)

  3. Hi Gem:
    Just read Green Grass. Loved it! Great story. I want more. The cover lured me in.

  4. Thanks Vange. More on the way! Home to Hawk Ridge in September.