Creams and ointments are used mainly for skin conditions, and for muscle and joint aches. Herbalists make their own creams that combine base creams with tinctures, essential oils, infused oils, aromatic waters and infusions. Nowadays you can easily get hold of good-quality herbal creams, but if you want to make your own, refer to post 26.
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Warning: Never use essential oils internally unless under the guidance of a health professional, as many essential oils can be harmful even in quite small quantities if ingested. Some essential oils are not suitable for pregnant women or babies.
Essential oils are highly concentrated products usually made by the steam distillation of plants rich in volatile substances, and they should not be equated with the plants they come from in terms of actions or safety. Essential oils come from plants with a strong scent, such as rosemary, peppermint, lavender, pine, etc. They should always be diluted in a carrier oil or in a cream/ointment for external application.
With one or two exceptions specifically mentioned in this blog, I do not recommend using essential oils for children under the age of 3 or for pregnant women, unless under the guidance of a professional aromatherapist or medical herbalist. Many components of essential oils are absorbed through the skin, and if the dilution is too strong they can be potentially harmful, especially to babies or a developing foetus.
For a compress you can use cotton wool, a clean cloth or a flannel soaked in very warm (almost hot) herbal tea. I have found cotton wool the best, as it can hold more liquid without dripping than a cloth or flannel can. Place it against the painful area and keep re-soaking it every few minutes, as the compress works best when it is warm If you want the compress to remain in place for longer, cover the cotton wool/cloth with a bit of plastic (any plastic bag will do) or Clingfilm, and then secure in the required position with an elastic bandage. The idea is to trap the heat as well as the moisture, so you should use a very warm infusion for that purpose, in fact as warm as you can bear, but be careful not to burn yourself. Herbal tea bags (or ordinary black tea bags) can be used directly as eye compresses, but make sure that they are warm and not hot, as eyelids are very sensitive.
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