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Herb Infused Oils

There are a few ways to infuse oil with medicinal and nutritional herbs and we will go through them here. If you have never made an herbal infused oil you are in for a wonderful treat! You may use infused oils in cooking or in bath and skin products. There are so many herbs to choose from depending on the intended use.

How to make Herb Infused Oils - Herbal Academy

As an example of the many uses of herb infused oil let’s take a look at rosemary. Rosemary can be used as vibrantly flavored oil for roasting potatoes or stirring into your favorite pasta sauce.  For medicinal use, rosemary can be used in a number of bath products. Rosemary helps relieve an itchy scalp and dandruff. It is also thought to promote hair growth. This is stimulating and invigorating herb.

rosemary herb infused oil

Calendula, plantain, chickweed, chamomile, lavender and comfrey infused oils can be used in preparing lotions, salves, insect repellant or used as bath oil. Calendula is healing and used commonly for sunburns, itchiness, rashes, inflammation, and slow healing wounds. Plantain is wound healing. Chickweed can be used for minor burns and skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. Chamomile and lavender are calming, healing, and anti fungal. Comfrey can be considered for minor burns, rashes, and insect bites.

CULINARY INFUSED OILS

Use tasty infused oils for a delicious addition to salad dressings or any number of healthy, delicious meal preparations using garlic, ginger, peppers and herbs. We recommend using dried herbs to prevent bacterial growth and mold. Fresh herbal infused oils can be used, but to be safe, should only be used the day-of.

For culinary infused oils using dried herbs, I suggest starting with a sterilized, completely dry jar. Place herbs in the jar and cover with olive oil. Place this jar in a sauce pan that has been filled about ¼ full with water. Simmer this mixture for about 4-6 hours. After the jar has been removed from the bath cool and label with date and ingredients and keep refrigerated. Discard after a month.

Learn about herbs as food and as medicine in the Online Intermediate Herbal Course

HERB INFUSED OILS FOR HEALING AND BEAUTY

  • For best results use good quality dried herbs as they will not contribute to spoilage and you will have a longer lasting product.
  • Always use clean and sterilized jars with tight fitting lids.
  • Colored glass bottles will add to the shelf life. Also adding a few drops of vitamin E oil may help preserve the oil.
  • Olive oil is commonly used as it offers some resistance to oxidation and rancidity.
  • Some other oils used are coconut, grape seed, almond, and apricot along with many others.
  • Label jars and bottles during the infusion time and after bottling for storage with dates and ingredients.

COLD INFUSION/SOLAR INFUSION

Materials needed:

  • Good quality dried herb
  • Oil
  • Natural wax paper
  • Clean, dry glass jar with tight fitting lid
  • Labels and permanent marker
  • Vitamin E oil (optional)
  • Intention
  • The sun or a consistently warm area

This is a folk method which means we are going to eye ball it and not measure or weigh. If you are more comfortable using measurements, the ratio is approximately 1 ounce of dried herb to 10 ounces of oil.

rosemary infused oil

Do not wash the herb or introduce any water to the process by using a wet jar or wet spoon for mixing. Fill the jar about half full with the dried herb and cover completely with oil of your choice. Take a spoon or chopstick and gently stir the mixture making sure that all the plant material is well covered with oil. Before putting on the lid, cover the top of the jar with a small square of natural wax paper then screw on the lid. The wax paper will prevent any harmful chemicals that may be coating the inside of your lid from contaminating the oil.

Heat is what helps infuse the oil so place the jar in a warm spot but not directly in the sunlight unless you are using a dark colored bottle or jar. Take the jar in your hands and roll back and forth to make sure that the herb is well saturated with oil.

Just as we do in making herbal tinctures or wonderful meals for our loved ones you may want to add a good intention here. Leave the oil steeping for 4-6 weeks. Be sure to check on it every few days and give it a gentle roll back and forth. This helps to release the herbal properties and keeps everything well covered.

infused oil

After six weeks the oil will be ready to decant. Place a cheesecloth lined strainer inside a large bowl with spout. Pour the content from your jar into the strainer. Gather the ends of the cheesecloth together and squeeze the remaining oil from the herb into the bowl. You’ll want to squeeze hard to get every last drop! Pour the oil into prepared bottles or jars and add a couple drops of vitamin E oil. Keep this oil in a cool, dark place. Most infused oils generally last for a year or longer. Do be mindful of oils going rancid and discard if it begins to smell off.

HEAT INFUSED OIL

Place the herb and oil filled jar on a heat element such as a hot plate or perhaps a radiator for 10 days. If using this method you will keep the jar open as this will promote water evaporation. This heat source should not be warmer than 125 degrees F. at any given time. After 10 days this infused oil can be decanted and stored following the directions above.

Stove top method for herb infused oils.

Place the herb filled jar in a sauce pan that has been filled about ¼ full of water, simmer for 4-8 hours. Remove jar from saucepan and allow to cool. Decant, bottle, label, and store in a cool dark place.

Oven method for herb infused oils.

Place the herbs and oil in a large oven proof dish and place in a preheated 250 degrees oven. Turn the oven off and place the herb filled bowl in the oven for 24 hours uncovered. Cool the mixture than pour through a cheesecloth lined strainer into a bowl with a spout. Bottle, label and store following the instructions above.

making infused oils

Double boiler method for herb infused oils.

Place the herbs and oil in a double boiler and bring to a slow simmer. Slowly heat for 30-60 minutes. Keep the heat nice and low for a longer simmer time and to help release medicinal properties. Decant, bottle, and store following the instructions above.

Don’t forget to label!

 

Learning how to make a herb infused oils is just one of the first things beginners learn in herbalism. If you are interested in studying herbalism, start your journey in the Online Intermediate Herbal Course. Learn more about herbs and how to use them as medicine and as food!

 

how to make herb infused oils

 

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24 comments


  • Hello! I just want to give you a huge thumbs up for
    your great info you have here on this post. I’ll be returning to your web site for more soon.

    May 23, 2013
    • Amber Meyers

      Thanks so much! Glad you enjoy :)

      May 24, 2013
  • nat

    I’ve been reading about concerns over botulism and other nasties online. Per oil infusions. Any comments? Is it safer to prepare in oven? And what about using fresh herbs or hot peppers for instance in ove n in oil?

    thanks

    September 6, 2013
  • Amber Meyers

    Thanks for this important question. Microbial growth and Clostridium botulinum contamination are possible when working with fresh plants and oil (fresh plants can introduce spores, and C. bot thrives in an anaerobic environment like oil). The safest method when infusing herbs into oil is to use plants that are completely dried, so that moisture isn’t introduced into the oil, which can cause bacterial growth and contribute to C. bot growth. We also recommend storing oils in the refrigerator after infusing to slow bacterial growth – although it should be noted that some C. bot strains can grow in lower temperatures. Fresh-herb oils should only be used the day-of, and dried-herb infused oils should be discarded after 1 month.

    September 13, 2013
  • Rachael

    how long can you leave herbs in oil, or do you have to strain off…this is a great site thank you

    Rach

    October 20, 2013
    • Herbal Academy

      Hi Rachael,
      You will want to keep your plant material in the oil for anywhere from two to four weeks. Sometimes the herbs will take on a slightly translucent appearance after being in the oil and that can be a good indication that the oil is ready for straining. To make a stronger infusion you can add more dried herbs to your oil after straining of the first batch of herbs, and then leaving again for at least two weeks.

      October 21, 2013
  • denise b

    hi there – i just tried a hot oil infusion the other day with the leaves from a fat spike lavender plant. the leaves had a great camphor fragrance i just love and i wanted to try and capture it for my baths. however -

    what i ended up with did not smell like the original leaves! it had a pretty strong fragrance but was wrong / off. wondering why. here’s my method:

    i used a crockpot set on the “low” setting. i’m not sure how many fresh lavender leaves i added to it, but at least a full handful (only leaves, no stems & i cut them the same day i used them). to that i added about a cup of olive oil. i let it all simmer for just under 3 hours.

    the result was a greenish tinted oil with an “off” camphor fragrance – i mean i can smell the camphor but it’s off. almost like it’s overdone.

    is it possible to overcook a hot oil infusion? how do you know when to stop cooking it?

    what would you have done different, if anything?

    thanks!

    denise b
    portland, maine

    October 28, 2013
    • Herbal Academy

      Dear Denise,

      Congrats on trying an herbal oil infusion! As long as you used enough oil to completely cover the leaves by about two inches, then your proportions should be fine. Two to six hours in a crock pot is the standard range, so you were on target there as well.

      Regarding the scent: While oil can draw out many beneficial plant constituents, many people assume that their finished oils will smell exactly like the scent of their plant. While some plant scent may transfer over, the signature scent of a plant comes from the volatile essential oils, which require special extraction methods and often chemical solvents to separate out from the rest of the plant. So lavender oil will not smell exactly like lavender. If scented herbal oils are desired, you can add a few drops of essential oil (in this case, lavender essential oil) into the finished product.

      It is unlikely you sizzled your herbs because most low settings on crock pot are about 80-125 degrees. If you hear a frying noise, or see smoke, then it’s definitely too hot! Many crock pots don’t show their temperature settings, so if you have one of those cooking thermometers, it might be a good idea to test the temp of the oil next time.

      If you used extra virgin olive oil (the “extra virgin” is recommended) then the greenish color you are noticing is likely the natural color of the oil. If it became more green, it is likely because of the plant material it extracted. “Off” oils will appear milky and smell sour. Olive oil also has a distinctive scent itself – it’s best to make sure you are starting with good quality, fresh oil that isn’t old or cloudy.

      When making oils, we do recommend using dried plant material because the water content in fresh leaves can contribute to microbial growth. If fresh herbs are desired, it is best to make sure there is no water or dew on them, and allow them to slightly wilt first to help decrease the amount of water that will mix in with your oil. Even with fresh herbs, it is unlikely that your oil developed mold or anything immediately after infusing, but without looking at and smelling your oils, it’s hard to say for sure.

      We hope that helps, Denise!

      October 28, 2013
  • Beth Tully

    Hi, with the crock pot method, do you leave the lid off or on? I’m worried about condensation diluting the oil. Thanks for your great post I was looking for crock pot instructions but your other suggestions have given me some ideas as well.

    December 8, 2013
    • Herbal Academy

      Hi Beth! Good question. Your instinct is correct – we recommend leaving the lid off to prevent any condensation from forming and dripping back into the oil. If using dried herbs, condensation is unlikely, but it’s better to be safe rather than risk ruining a batch of oil! Thanks for writing and we hope you enjoy making your oils!

      December 9, 2013
  • Lisa

    Hi, I want to try some herbal infused oils to use in some skin care recipes. Is the botulism worry only for infused oils used for culinary purposes? I want to try rosemary in my herb garden but thought I would wash and dry it well first then dry it in bundles by hanging it upside down in a warm dark room for a couple of weeks. Is this the best way to dry my herbs? Is there a faster way? Once I tried oven drying my fresh herbs and they were crispy!
    Also I want to use my crockpot to infuse the oil. Can I put the dried herbs covered with my oil in a sterile jar then set it in the crockpot1/4″ full of water and cook on low? How long? I guess uncovered? Sorry for so many questions! Thanks! This is a fab-o site! Going on my Bookmark list!!!

    December 10, 2013
    • Herbal Academy

      Hi Lisa!

      Many herbalists do use fresh herbs in oils (usually wilting them for a day first to decrease moisture) but we feel it is safest to use dry herbs in oils being stored long-term, whether in cosmetic or culinary oils.

      When drying herbs, we recommend not washing them first unless you have used chemicals in your garden or if they are truly very dirty. Introducing moisture to the plant material after harvesting will risk mildew growth on the herbs. If the herbs are dusty, you can brush with a dry cloth. If you absolutely must clean them with water, you can lightly mist and gently dry with a clean, dry cloth; afterwards, be sure to keep a look out for mildew/mold growth during the drying process. Discard any herbs with fuzzy white growths or mold spots.

      There are many ways to dry herbs. Dark, warm, dry rooms with good air circulation are best. Hanging upside down is one way. If you choose this method, be sure to remove leaves around the stem area where you tie the bunch together, and tie maybe only 5 – 8 stems together to provide sufficient air circulation.

      You can also lay the rosemary stems in a single layer in a basket or something else mesh-y, like a cooling rack. Herbs with larger leaves may dry faster if de-stemmed prior to being placed in a basket.

      Some herbs dry faster than others, ranging anywhere from 1 – 3 weeks, depending on environmental humidity and herb. Rosemary should not take too long.

      The fastest way I’ve ever dried herbs is in my car! This method only works in the summer or early fall. On a warm (not too hot) dry day, lay herbs in baskets in your car, roll the windows half way down, and park in the shade. Voila! Completely dry herbs in just a couple of days! Make sure that no sunlight falls on the herbs and it doesn’t get too hot in the car (and that you’re not due for rain).

      The crock pot method you asked about is indeed another option for oil infusion. Just be sure absolutely no water splashes in! And yes, uncovered, to avoid condensation. Thanks for the questions, and have fun!!

      December 10, 2013
  • […] Instructions: Take 1/2 – 1 cup dried rose petals (organic if possible). Crush them in your hands or on a chopping board before adding them to a large clear jar.  Make sure your jar is filled nearly to the top with roses (leave about 2 inches of space).  Then pour olive oil over the roses until they are completely covered, leaving at least 1 inch of space to shake your oil daily.  Place the cap on, shake, and place by a sunny window if possible.  Shake daily and strain after 4-6 weeks depending on strength preference.  Once completed, use as a body oil, hair oil, a mask mix-in, etc. Alternatively, you can also use the stove-top infusion method. […]

    January 17, 2014
  • […] How to Make Herb Infused Oils […]

    February 13, 2014
  • Laura

    Hi, I was wondering if using dried roots changed the time/process at all? Thank you!

    February 15, 2014
    • Herbal Academy

      Hi Laura! I use the same amount of time to infuse dried roots, but I do try to make them as small as possible by chopping or grinding them (if they aren’t too tough).

      February 17, 2014
  • Cindi

    Hi Amber,

    Are there some dried plants that wouldn’t work as effectively in a hot oil infusion? For example, I was thinking of making an oil infusion of dried olives leaves for a skin infection my dog has. Do you think that olive leaves would be effective in this medium?

    March 4, 2014
    • Herbal Academy

      Hi Cindy! From the reports we’ve seen, it seems that olive leaf is most effective as an antimicrobial when it is freshly extracted so it is not likely that a dried olive leaf infusion would produce the results you’d like.

      March 4, 2014
  • Kate M.

    Hi!
    I went out and bought a big package of lovely organic basil thinking of make a nice basil/garlic oil of cooking. Now I’m reading all these warnings online about the botulism potential of just throwing it in a bottle and thinking I’m good to go!.. But I know that dried basil tastes nothing like the amazing fresh basil so I wanted to try and avoid having to dry it, if at all possible.. And as I’m not going to be able to use it all in one day- I was wondering if the hearing method eliminates the threat of the botulism? For instance, if I heated my fresh basil and fresh garlic in the oil would the bacteria “cook out”, so to speak, and no longer be an issue? Or should I just give it up and dry out the basil?

    March 4, 2014
    • Herbal Academy

      Hi Kate – the heating method won’t do much to stave off microbes (if there are any). We don’t want to fear monger, but do want to be clear that using dried herbs is the best way to minimize microbial growth. However, many people do use fresh herbs all the time in their oils; if you do so, it’s best to make sure they are completely dry (do not rinse) and even slightly wilted before infusing them. If you are concerned, which is understandable, an alternative you could consider is to freeze your basil. Pulse the basil with olive oil in a food processor and then freeze in single servings (however much you think you might use in your cooking on any given day) in airtight containers and then thaw as needed. This blog has some good tips on freezing fresh basil: http://www.kalynskitchen.com/2006/06/how-to-freeze-fresh-basil-weekend-herb.html

      Good luck!

      March 4, 2014
  • Kate M.

    **sorry for all the typos- my phones “autocorrect” has a mind of it’s own!**

    March 4, 2014
    • Amber Meyers

      I understand! :)

      March 5, 2014
  • I was wondering if there were any good uses for the spent herbs after infusing them such as in bath salts … because I try to utilize things as much as possible. I know I can compost them but if there were some kind of way to keep on using them for something else before I had to compost I would try to do that. Any thoughts would be appreciated and thank you so much.

    April 3, 2014
  • […] 5. How To Make Herb Infused Oils […]

    April 24, 2014

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The Herbal Academy of New England is both a Boston Herbal School and an online herbalist resource center. We provide herbalist consultations, natural weight-loss counseling, and herbal classes in Boston. Online Herbal Programs include the Introductory Herbal Course and the Intermediate Herbal Course. We also offer an abundance of free online herb articles including topics on medicine making, gardening, vegetarian recipes, and learning herbs articles.
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