I promise I’ll stop complaining about the cold soon enough.  It is mid-Feb, which means Spring is right around the corner, right? (Please say yes!)

But here’s one, last, deeply warming recipe for this winter, made out of desperation and very cold feet.

(Hot water bottles work amazingly well to warm my feet in bed … but during the day they’re not too practical if you want to, oh, walk around at all.)

This is a recipe for super hot chili oil.  But you don’t eat it – you rub it onto your cold skin!  Using warming spices like chili, pepper, ginger and mustard is a very vintage and time-tested remedy for warming the body.  We all know that eating these spices would warm you up.  But while you could eat this chili oil, I really don’t recommend it (I tried the smallest drop and OUCH!).  It’s way too strong for eating.  But rubbed onto your cold feet or stiff joints, it will feel just right.

Plus, it’s super easy to make.  You probably have most of the ingredients in your kitchen already.  Hooray for pantry-clearing-yet-super-useful recipes!  (If you want a recipe using fresh chili and ginger, check out my previous post for Hot Chili Mustard Foot Oil)


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Does chili oil really warm you up?

Chili has been used for thousands of years to warm up the body.  And it’s been used in traditional European remedies since it was introduced to Europe in the 16th century.

We’ve probably all experienced the intense warming effect that chili can have when you take it internally … but what about when you apply it to your skin?

Chili is technically an irritant, which causes irritation and swelling, which also increases circulation to the area (this is how it warms you up!)  After the initial irritation, chili actual desensitizes that area of your skin, so you feel less pain.  That makes this hot chili oil also effective on stiff, sore joints as well as cold feet!

But because of this irritating quality, you don’t want to use too much.  As with any home remedy, start by testing a small amount and see how it works for you.  If you notice a lot of irritation, redness or a rash, use your common sense – this remedy isn’t for you!

How do I use this hot chili oil?

This recipe is intended as a topical rub for your skin.  It’s really too strong to eat, so please don’t.

The easiest way to use this oil is simply to rub it onto your cold feet (topped by some dark socks, so they don’t get stained!), or into the affected joint.

Oil can get a bit messy though, so you might consider melting some beeswax into the finished oil to turn it into an ointment.  (Start with 1 part beeswax to 7 parts oil, and add more beeswax to get it as thick as you want.)  A little tin of this would be a great travelling companion in cold weather!

Can I use a different kind of oil?  What if I don’t have all the spices?

Sure!  These home remedy recipes are flexible.  If you have a different vegetable oil (like olive oil) feel free to use that!

And adjust the spices to whatever you have on hand.  The most essential one in this mix is the cayenne pepper.  Don’t have mustard? Leave it out!

Hot Chili Oil


  • 4 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp mustard powder
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger powder
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 300 ml sunflower oil ((or other light vegetable oil))
  1. We’re going to make an infused oil.  Setup a double boiler (I just put a bowl above a pan of simmering water.)  Add all the ingredients and stir to combine.  Leave on the double boiler with the water simmering for 30-60 minutes.  The slower and longer you let the oil infuse over the double boiler – the more effective (and stronger!) your finished oil will be!

    My makeshift double boiler – just a bowl over a pan of water.

  2. Now it’s time to strain out the oil. The oil should smell really warm and toasty. The easiest way is to strain the oil through cheesecloth or muslin. You can just put the muslin over a bowl, or you can put it in a funnel (like in my picture) or strainer to support the muslin. Whatever you have on hand!

    The muslin should be over the entire funnel or bowl … I’ve just pulled it back for the photo!

  3. The most important thing is not to get any water in the oil mix (water can cause it to go moldy). SO – wipe off the bottom of the double boiler bowl first, before you start pouring. Then pour the oil into the strainer and just let it sit to drip through. It might take awhile…
  4. At the end you can twist the muslin and use your hands to squeeze every last drop of chili oil out of the spices!!
  5. Pour into bottles and store to use as-is … or continue and melt some beeswax into it to make a salve or ointment.

    The oil should keep until it goes rancid … at least 6 months and probably longer. If it starts smelling rancid, or grows any mold, just throw it out and start again.

adapted from Herbal Remedies by Christopher Hedley and Non Shaw



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