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.”
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.