Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Infused Herbal Oils
As promised, I will give very basic instructions on how to make an infused herbal oil. These are general guidelines-every herb may be different so do some research or feel free to contact me if you have questions.
If you are trying this for the first time, I strongly suggest you use dried herbs. If you want to gather herbs from the wild or your garden, then lay them out overnight to partially dry (called wilting). This helps to get rid of excess water which may cause mold to form. One exception to this rule is pictured above-St. John's Wort. This is one of the few plants where only fresh material will work. The hypericum diminishes pretty quickly. This is the active healing constituent of the plant and gives the oil its' blood red color.
As for as which oil to use. you want to pick the more stable oils with long shelf lives. Olive oil is usually used but you can also choose coconut oil, sunflower oil, jojoba oil. Fragile oils like grapeseed will not last very long but it would be a nice choice if you intend to use your oil quickly and want a very light, easily absorbed oil.
I use a clean, dry canning jar and fill it with the desired amount of herbs. For comfrey, calendula, and other gentle herbs I usually fill the jar 1/2-2/3 full. For Arnica I use 1 part herb to 5 parts oil-again do your homework on every herb because they are all different. Then I fill the jar to the top with oil. This time of year when it's warm and we have lots of sunlight, I like to set the jar out in the sun during the day and let nature do the work for me. I leave it in the sun for 2 weeks (bring it in the house at night). If I want a really strong oil I will strain out the herbs and infuse it with another fresh batch of herbs for 2 more weeks.
You can also use a double boiler in the house if you want an oil in less time. I use this method in the winter. The key here is to not let the oil get too hot. I make sure the water in the bottom of the double boiler doesn't boil but is at a gentle simmer and I use a kitchen thermometer to monitor the temp of the oil in the top. I like to keep it at about 110 degrees but no more than 120. I try to let it simmer for 45 minutes or an hour then I turn off the heat and move the pan to a cool burner, then I put the lid on the top and let it continue to infuse while it cools. You can always strain and reinfuse with fresh herbs but I think once is enough here.
After my oil is infused and I am ready to bottle it I always double strain it. First I line a wire mesh kitchen strainer with layers of cheescloth and set over top a BIG measuring cup. I pour the herbs and iol into the strainer and let it drip until it won't drip any more. Then I line a funnel with muslin and pour the strained oil through the funnel into a clean amber or cobalt blue bottle. This gets the biggest chunks of herb out.
Make sure you label your bottles with the herb and date you made it. Store them in a cool dry place, away from direct sunlight and it will keep for about a year.