How to make a herb/oil infusion

I was explaining to someone how I make Ellie’s Butt Salve and I mentioned herbal oil infusions. One of the gals I was talking to didn’t know how to make one so I figured I would write it all out and add pictures.

There are two ways to make herb infused oils. If you have fresh herbs you can use both ways but if you have time the way that is most recommended is to get a glass jar, (mason jar, or re-use a pickle jar, jam, whatever is glass really), and get the herb you would like an oil infusion of, (I have chamomile, plantain, nettle, comphrey, and will make ginger shortly), and some olive oil. Cold pressed is always best but you do not want to use extra virgin. Get the cheap second or third press of olive oil instead. One of my instructors said it actually has more benefit to the body and does not go rancid as quickly.

*Since writing this I have taken another class that recommends using extra virgin olive oil because of its purity and having a similar PH as human skin. The more classes I take the more I realize these things really are a personal preference.

Take your herbs and chop them up. The herb you are using will depend on what part of the plant to use. With infusions it is usually fine to use the whole plant but some parts of the plant have more medicinal benefit and beneficial oils in certain parts.

Put the herb chopping in the jar as full and well packed as you can. Pour olive oil over the herbs completely covering all of the plant material. The lack of air exposure is what will keep your herbs from not rotting so make sure you cover your plant matter completely! Get a wood stick (I use chopsticks), tongue depresser or something to run along the inside of the jar gently removing air bubbles from around the plant matter. Put a piece of cheese cloth over the top of the jar with a rubber band and let it sit in a cool dry place (I kept mine on a shelf in the mud room) for 6-8 weeks. You leave the jar open to air with fresh herbs so the water from the herb can escape the oil and not turn the oil rancid.  Invert jar a few times a day to make sure the herbs are always covered with oil.

callendula and plantain in a jar

Strain the oil into a container using the cheese cloth and squeeze out all of the oil from the plant material. When you squeeze out the oil at the end you will get some very beneficial oils so don’t be lazy, squeeze it good! Cap and label the oil (ex. Chamomile infused in olive oil) and store in cool dark dry place and use as needed.

This method only works with fresh herbs. It will not work with dry herbs so do not try it! It will just be a waste of your supplies and make you sad.

Straining plantain

The other way is with heat. This method can be used with fresh or dry herbs depending on the season and what you have. Your oil will not be as potent but it still works pretty darn well if you ask me. This is the method I use when I procrastinate or need a new oil quickly.

Get your herbs and olive oil and prepare as stated above. You can put the herbs either in a glass jar, like a mason jar, or a glass bowl, (I use a pyrex measuring cup, It can handle heat and the handle hooks onto the side of a pan easily and makes everything work wonderfully).

Get a sauce pan and add water. Set the pyrex into the pan with the handle hooked over the side making sure that the water level is not high enough to get into the pyrex when the water is boiling. (You don’t want extra water in your oil). This is called a double boiler method. Add herbs to the pyrex container and pour in oil. Turn on heat to the pan on medium low and let the water boil on low for 2-4 hours. You will have to add water as the water in the pan boils off. The longer you let it warm and infuse the more potent the oil will be. Refill water in pan as needed to maintain boiling and not to dry out pan (yeah I did that).

When the oil is well infused get a glass jar/measuring cup and a small mesh strainer, put cheese cloth inside the strainer and pour the oil through that into the jar. Once the remaining herbs cool enough squeeze the hell out of that cheesecloth and herbs (as said above) to get all those good lingering oils out. Enjoy your oil and store in a cool dry place for up to  a year. This oil can be used immediately and does not have to sit and wait.

You can also do the heat method with dried herbs in mason jars covered with olive oil in a very low heat crock pot (do not let the heat get over 100 degrees) or yogurt maker. In a crock pot do a double boiler method for 4-6 hours. Most crock pots get too hot, even on low setting, and will cook/fry your herbs leaving the oil with a cooked smell that is not pleasant. I am not a fan of this method. Yogurt makers maintain a lower level heat so using the double boiler method with mason jars leave the oil in the yogurt maker for 4 days, shaking twice a day. I have never tried this but it is in my medicine making book so I thought I would share.

Was that helpful? I hope so! How do you infuse your oils? What is your favorite oil to use?

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One response to “How to make a herb/oil infusion

  1. Awesome instructions Amanda, thanks 🙂 .

    Shlom,
    Love,
    Aunt Aimee 🙂

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