Creating a Kitchen Pharmacy: How to Make an Herb Infused Medicinal Oil

Herb infused oils may sound intimidating, however I promise…if you can boil water, you can infuse herbs in oil.

Choosing the oil you will use should be based on availability, sustainability, and skin sensitivities. Herb infused oils can be made from oils such as: coconut, apricot, sweet almond, avocado, grapeseed, or sunflower. However, many crafters of herbal medicine will tell you that a good quality, organic olive oil is the best. This is primarily due to the stability of the oil and it’s resistance to oxidation and rancidity.

Fresh or Dry

High quality dried herbs make an extremely potent medicinal oil. Granted I have made plenty of excellent fresh herb infused medicinal oils — all without incident — however, the use of fresh herbs places your oil at a greater risk for bacterial growth due to the high moisture content of the fresh plant material…which can ultimately lead to a spoiled oil.

For the best results, and longest shelf life, use dried herbs when making medicinal oils.

Method of Preparation

There are primarily two ways to prepare herbal-infused oils:

1. Solar or Cold Infusion.
Fill a glass jar 1/3-2/3 full of herbs and then cover the dried plant material by filling the entire jar with your oil of choice. Stir to combine, and allow the oil and herb mixture to steep for two to four weeks in a warm and sunny location.

2. Hot Oil Extract.
Prepare a glass jar just as you would for a solar or cold infusion. Except for this method you should place the glass jar in a pot on the stove, or in a crock pot, that is filled with a few inches of water and set on the lowest setting. Be sure to put a towel on the bottom of the pot and infuse the oil and herbs for 4-8 hours, a day, or up to 3 days. Note: Watch the pot and add water as it evaporates.

Alternatively, according to Rosemary Gladstar in her book Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health, you may also do it this way; “Place the herbs and the oil in a double boiler and bring to a low simmer. Slowly heat for 30 to 60 minutes, checking frequently to be sure the oil is not overheating.”

After the infusion period, the oil must be strained through a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer and the herbs discarded.

Protecting, Preserving, and Prolonging

Once you have created your medicinal oil you are only one step away from making salves, balms, ointments, and lotions. However, you may not be able to immediately use all of your oil.

The following are a few tips for protecting, preserving, and prolonging the life of your medicinal oil:

  • Once your oil is done infusing, and strained, protect it from heat, light, and air. Using colored glass containers are very helpful in extending the life of homemade oil extracts.
  • If you wish, add a natural preservative directly to the oil (i.e. vitamin E oil, essential oils of benzoin, myrrh, or rosemary, grapefruit seed extract)
  • Generally herb infused oils will keep in on the shelf, in a cool, dark place for up to a year.
  • Refrigerate your oils if you have space.

Here’s a quick video of my favorite way to make an herb infused medicinal oil.

So now your ready to go! What oil infusions will you make?

Mountain Rose Herbs and the Bulk Herb Store are my go-to online shops for all of my medicinal remedy needs.

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Mountain Rose Herbs

Comments

  1. MarianneG says:

    This is a Great series. Thanks Andrea !

  2. Hi Andrea
    what do you mean by placing a towel at the bottom of the pot, when you are talking about using the crock put to infuse the oil?

    • Megan G says:

      I wonder what this means too, Marina.

      In the bottom of the pot [on the stove], and/or the bottom or the crock pot?

      • Megan G says:

        * of the crock pot?

        • Yes, in the pot. It goes into the water & to the bottom of the pot or crock pot, then, the jar of herbs & oil goes into the water & rests on top of the towel. The towel is to keep the direct heat from the jar, as well as to cushion the jar from bumping the pot, causing chips or breakage.

    • Inside the pot. The Jar on top of the rag.

  3. I am SO tickled with myself!! Made two this week!! One to make diaper salve for baby gifts and am making one now to make my son some “Dream Cream.” Feel so accomplished!! :)

  4. Vitamin E oil is a preservative? Does it work as a preservative in lotions and salves?

  5. Julia MacNeil says:

    Hi Andrea:
    How do you decide which herbs to infuse vs tincture? Is it totally dependant on what you are making or do some herbs lend themselves better to different methods?
    I am having a blast following this series….I LOVE it.
    Julia

    • I was wondering this myself. Thank you for asking.

    • Great question! It totally depends on what I am trying to treat. I use my oil infusions for topical applications in order to treat skin conditions. Tinctures I generally make for oral consumption. The great thing about herbs is that many are multi-purpose and can be used in tincturing, teas, oil infusions, etc. If you are interested at all in learning the different uses of herbs I highly recommend that you add the book “Practical Herbalism” to your home library! It is SO helpful!

      Thank you so much for following the series :)

      • Andrea, I want to learn more about herbalism, but currently do not have the budget for the Practical Herbalism book….. do you suggest any others as well or should I just save up? :) Thank you for all of your amazing information!!

  6. Great info,thanks for sharing it! I added dried calendula pedals to grape seed oil about two months ago and left them in there. Do you think I left them in too long? I’ m not sure what to do with it now. Any ideas would be great, thanks.

  7. I am thinking Caledula infused coconut oil for my next lipbalm recipe!! Awesome, never would have thought of it!! Thanks!

  8. I place calendula petals in a jar with olive oil. I leave it in a cabinet away from light. I thought it was bad to leave olive oil in the sun. Does the infusion still work even if it is away from heat and light? Thank you.

    • Absolutely! It will work. But in the future — during the infusion process — it is helps the herbs release the medicinal properties to keep it in a sunny, warm spot. After you strain the oil…that’s when it should be protected. Great question Sue :)

  9. I have several jars going thanks to you Andrea!
    And I wanted to let you know I have passed on the Kreativ Blogger Award to you! http://seriouslythatsmylife.blogspot.com/2012/05/you-like-me-you-really-really-like-me.html

  10. I love this!

  11. Jenn Keller says:

    This is a great series – thank you!
    I haven’t had a chance to actually make anything yet; however I’ve started making my own herbal remedy guide to keep handy, and have also planted a few essential herbs in the garden based on what you’ve posted here.

    Do you know anything about catnip being an excellent mosquito repellent? I’ve read a few articles, here’s one:http://www.ehow.com/how_2312448_make-catnip-mosquito-repellent.html. It states that you should not apply it to children and I’m wondering why. Would it be ok to rub it on my child’s clothing?

    Thank you once again. Keep up the awesome posts!
    Jenn

  12. I make my herbal oil infusions in my Excalibur food dehydrator. I had a really hard time keeping the temp low enough (around 100 degrees is the recommendations I’ve seen) using the double boiler method and even the “warm” setting on my crockpot. The Excalibur has temp settings, so I can set it at 100 or 105 and just leave it for half the day. It’s so much easier and now I don’t worry about damaging the oils or the herbs by too hot temps. =-)

  13. Okay, my herbs keep floating to the top of my jar! Should I move them to a larger jar and add more oil? There is about 2 in. of oil at the bottom of the floating herbs. I want to make sure I don’t spoil it!

  14. Andrea, do you have a printable booklet made up of all your recipes????

  15. Can you do cold infusion with Myrrh Resin Gum and Frankincense Resin Gum?

  16. I just found this site and really like it. What is the series other people are talking about and how do I see your other videos?

  17. Another great source of herbs (and spices) is Frontier Natural Products Co-op. You can find them online, too.

  18. Will this herbal infusion be just as effective as an herbal infusion that was infused in the sun.

  19. Veena chaturvedi says:

    I have suffered from mainly facial eczema for years and have successfully used certain herbs to help me with the condition.Since, I have read a lot about the benifits of Kigellia Africana( have a lot of those trees around this place) is it possible to infuse the fruit of that tree in coconut oil or olive oil, which might help a lot many people here suffering from similar skin conditions. If you could advice I would be extremely grateful.
    Veena chaturvedi

  20. I,ve made a bunch of infused oils for different things so far ,,,,I had my husband put up glass shelves in two skinny kitchen windows to accommodate more jars even! Lol….but I always put my jars in a paper bag …so they still get the heat of the sun . Some oils may not do well with direct sun..so I just bag them all for protection..they still get what they need for the cold infusion…

  21. Andrea,
    I just got your email about using the Christmas tree for making an infused oil but this is my question- Do I pull all the needles off first and dehydrate them or how do you do that???? I’d love to use our tree before we place it in the woods right behind our home- it smells like Christmas in July b/c the tree still smells great and it makes a great nesting spot for some kinds of birds. Thanks so much!!

  22. What herbs should be used to infuse?

  23. I live in a very small room in employee housing. Is there any way to do this with a candle warmer or a tea kettle? Maybe leave it on the warmer a little longer? Please share your thoughts. :)

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