Herbal infused oils are lovely way to capture the healing properties of plants for use in massage oils, homemade creams and salves (like my DIY sleep salve) and natural beauty products. And unlike essential oils they are easy to do at home with a quantity of dried herbs.
What you need:
- Clean, dry glass jars
- Dried herbs of choice (some of my favourites include rosemary, peppermint, lavender and calendula).
- Carrier oil of choice – olive oil and coconut oil are popular
- Cheesecloth or similar for straining
- Double-boiler or pot (if using the heat infusion method)
- Sunny window (if using the sun method)
The solar-infused method:
- Fill a clean, dry jar with your herbs of choice
- Top with oil so that your herbs are completely covered
- Cap the jar and leave in a sunny window for two to six weeks, shaking daily or as often as you remember!
- Wait until the oil has taken on the colour and aroma of the herb.
- Strain off the herbs using cheesecloth or a similar fabric, leaving a beautiful, glistening herbal-infused oil
- Store in a glass jar in a cool, dark place.
The heat method
If you’re impatient (like me!) you can use the heat method. However please note most herbalists prefer to use the gentle power of the sun.
- Fill up a clean dry, jar with your herb or choice.
- Place the jar into a pan of boiling water to create a bain-marie. Make sure to secure the jar with a watertight lid to prevent any water or steam from entering.
- Allow to simmer for several hours until the oil takes on the colour and aroma of the dried herb
- Strain off the herbs using cheesecloth or a similar fabric, leaving a beautiful, glistening herbal-infused oil.
- Store in a jar in a cool dry place.
Of course if you want to be extra-fancy or make a large quantity you can use a double boiler but otherwise A simple jar is more than adequate.
A note on safety
In order to avoid bacterial nasties (including in rare instances, botulism) it’s important not to get any moisture into your infused oil along the way. That means using dried herbs, keeping hands and implements dry and keeping the oil capped so that no steam gets in during the infusion process.
However if you do want to use fresh herbs (I know I do sometimes), the extraordinary Susun Weed suggests allowing the oil to sit for several days so that the water in it settles to the bottom of the jar. Then you can carefully siphon off the oil into a new jar and leave the little water bubbles behind!
One more thing, if it’s winter (or you live in a cold climate) and you want to use this method, I suggest using olive oil rather than coconut oil. Although I love coconut oil it goes solid at temperatures below 24 degrees celsius (76 degrees farenheit) so it’s trickier to allow water bubbles to settle to the bottom.
What do I use my infused oils for?
While the possibilities are endless, here is a list of some of the most popular herbs for infusing and what they’re traditionally used for:
- Arnica – A popular remedy for bruises, sprains and swelling
- Calendula – A family favourite for minor wounds, cuts, scrapes and insect bites (see my post on Calendula for more information)
- Cayenne pepper – Makes a great warming rub for muscle pain
- Lavender – A gentle, antimicrobial oil for minor wounds, repelling insects, soothing headaches and relaxation/sleep (see my recipe for DIY sleep salve)
- Peppermint – Another treat for sore muscles and joints, soothing itches and scratches, and calming headaches.
- Rosemary – Soothes sore joints and arthritis, repels insects and makes a great beard oil, natural deodorant or hot-oil treatment for hair. Check-out my post on Rosemary and its uses for more information.
- Thyme – Makes a great chest rub, disinfectant for cuts and scrapes or repellent.
Where do I get the herbs?
Infusing oil is a great way to use any herbs you have growing plentifully in the backyard (or inside in pots!) so they don’t go to waste. But if you’re looking for something in particular you could try the following outlets.
US/Canada: Mountain Rose Herbs has an amazing selection of organic herbs complete with information regarding medicinal uses and precautions.
Do you make infused oils at home? What are your favourites and what do you use them for? Let us know in the comments section below.