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.
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.
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.
- 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
- Good quality dried herb
- Natural wax paper
- Clean, dry glass jar with tight fitting lid
- Labels and permanent marker
- Vitamin E oil (optional)
- 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.
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.
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.
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 Introductory Herbal Course or in the Online Intermediate Herbal Course. Learn more about herbs and how to use them as medicine and as food.
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Marlene Adelmann is the Founder and Director of the Herbal Academy of New England. Marlene spent several years studying herbs in the Boston area and learning under some of the most revered modern herbalists, including Rosemary Gladstar and Susun Weed. She continues to practice plant medicine through ongoing correspondence courses and teaching others. "Learning about herbs and their healing power is a life long pursuit." With over 20 years experience in the field of culinary arts, Marlene is passionate about food as medicine and promotes good, clean eating in her writings. She is a gardener, wildcrafter, and medicine maker.