While most essential oils are clear or slightly colored, some of them offer a rainbow of hues from dark brown (Vetiver, Patchouli), bright orange (Red Mandarin) and yellow (Turmeric), to beautiful turquoise (Inula), and inky dark blues (Yarrow, German Chamomile, Blue Tansy).
These colors are a consequence of the chemical compounds present in the essential oil, although not necessarily in the plant itself; that is the case of chamazulene, the compound that gives Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Blue Tansy (Tanacetum anuum) their deep blue color.
Chamazulene and Chemistry in Blue Oils
Chamazulene is a compound from the sesquiterpene family, and can be found in the aforementioned essential oils. However, neither the plants themselves, nor the CO2 extracts from these plants contain chamazulene.
Chamazulene is the result of a chemical reaction that happens during the steam distillation process, breaking down the compound matricin – also a sesquiterpene – into the blue chamazulene. In a CO2 extract, no steam or heat is used, and this chemical reaction simply does not happen.
Chamazulene is known to be a safe and non-toxic1 constituent. Studies showed it possesses strong anti-inflammatory properties2, as well as being an antioxidant – protecting the cells from the damage of free radicals – and vulnerary3 (wound healing), making blue oils fantastic for skin inflammation (eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis…) and wounds (cuts, burns, surgical scars…), as well as musculoskeletal aches, pain and injuries.
I find Yarrow to be a great wound healer, and have used it with amazing results on surgical scars.
The blue compound is an extraordinary ally against seasonal allergies and bug bites*, as it naturally influences histamine release4. I’ve used Blue Tansy successfully on several insect bites, especially as I tend to get extra swollen, red and itchy. If you are interested in knowing my recipe for a salve using Blue Tansy for seasonal allergies, check out this article.
The amount of chamazulene in blue essential oils varies, Blue Tansy showing the highest concentration – 8 to 10% and more – and a little less for Yarrow and German Chamomile. Usually, the more chamazulene, the better.
On the color wheel, blue is the opposite of orange. It is a “cold” color, which is interesting given the anti-inflammatory and cooling effects of chamazulene. I tend to reach for blue oils when there is an inflammation of the body, but also the mind – stress, anxiety, nervousness, anger…
Blue is usually a calming, healing color, and benefits the body and the mind5. In everyday life, it reminds us of calm, cleanliness, water and sky. Interestingly enough, it is not a color that can be easily found in foods – hence kitchen chefs wearing blue band-aids, distinctly noticeable if they were to fall into food – and therefore tends to suppress appetite.
On an energetic level, the color blue is associated with the 5th chakra, located at the level of the throat, and relates to communication in general. Whether it is about speaking one’s truth, communicating ideas, or one’s ability to express creatively, blue oils can help bring balance.
On an aromatic level, although there are obvious differences between Yarrow, German Chamomile and Blue Tansy, their scents in general are soothing and comforting, deep and strong, healing and wise.
My Most Popular Product: Blue Lip Balm!
Making products with blue oils is a fun, creative process, and always results in interesting colors. One of the first products I made as an aromatherapist became my star product, the one that people loved and asked for, and the one I slipped into Christmas presents for my friends and family.
I used to have very dry skin, especially in the winter. The skin on my hands would crack open and bleed, and my lips were constantly chapped. Along with good hydration and careful selection of gentle hand soaps, using natural products definitely has solved the problem.
Because blue oils are wound healing and very safe for the skin, they make great ingredients to use in a lip balm, or a heal-all salve.
Blue Lip Balm
Ingredients for approx. 8 tubes
- 10g Cocoa Butter
- 10g Beeswax
- 1 tsp Coconut Oil
- 1 tsp Sunflower Oil
- 1 tsp Avocado Oil
- 1 tsp Castor Oil
- 4 drops of German Chamomile essential oil (Matricaria recutita)
- 4 drops of Blue Tansy essential oil (Tanacetum annuum)
- 8 drops of lavender essential oil (Lavandula angustifolia)
- Contents of 1 capsule of vitamin E
The dilution of essential oils is very low, about 2 drops per tube. You don’t need more to obtain the blue color, and the therapeutic benefits. This is also a kid-friendly recipe!
- Melt the beeswax and cocoa butter together first.
- Add the coconut oil and the liquid carrier oils.
- Remove from heat once fully melted.
- Add the essential oils.
- Pour into lip balm tubes.
- Let set until solid, and put the cap on.
- Always label your products!
Note: you can purchase a special tool that will help you pour the balm in the tubes (it’s a flat piece of plastic with holes in it). I don’t use it, because I have a steady hand and only do small batches, but it’s definitely helpful if you are making the recipe for more than 8 tubes.
*Blue oils are in no way a replacement for allergy medication. Allergies can be life threatening, do not substitute medication.
1 Tisserand, Robert; Young, Rodney, (2014). Essential Oil Safety (Second Edition)
2 Buckle, Jane (2015). Clinical Aromatherapy (Third Edition)
3,4 Parsaeimehr, Ali; Sargsyan, Elmira, (2014). Microbiology for Surgical Infections