Herbal Oil Infusions
Are just pure liquid gold and they provide us with some of the most effective home remedies. Making a valuable addition to almost any recipes using oil.
Think, massage oils, ointments, soaps, moisturisers, scrubs, food recipes for salad dressings, marinating and cooking.
Herbs easily release the medicinal molecules from the plant matter and all those wonderful properties become suspended in the oil.
There are a few ways to go about making them so I will just list my two favorite methods.
Choosing an oil to use can be tricky because there are so many of them!
here is a quick break down of a few great options.
AVOCADO OIL: Rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, D, E and Beta Carotene.
Its slow to oxidize (go rancid) and has little to no smell.
GRAPE-SEED OIL: Great source of antioxidants. Its has no aroma and is light and easily absorbed into the skin. This oil doesn't have a long shelf life so small frequent batches are the best.
HEMP SEED OIL: Is a great source of amino acids, which are building blocks for healthy balanced skin. Its light and easily absorbed into the skin, along with all its bio-available nutrients. With an earthy, nutty aroma it can overpower the botanical infusion but the benefits are numerous.
Consider mixing with an odorless oil to balance out the scent.
JOJOBA OIL: Has little to no scent and is quickly absorbed into the skin. Its great for retaining moisture, creating a barrier for the skin and its anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties make it a valuable addition to skincare formulations.
MACADAMIA OIL: High in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, antioxidants and the skin easily absorbs it. A light oil with a mild nutty aroma.
ROSEHIP OIL: Contains a high amount of Vitamin C as well as linoleic and linilenic acids, which are responsible for boosting collagen production and aids healing and smoothing out the skins complexion.
SUNFLOWER OIL: A light, unscented oil that is often used for infusing plants commercially due to containing high amounts of Oleic acid which gives it a long shelf life. Rich in Vitamin C and vitamin E, amino acids, carotenoids and lecithin. Perfect for all skin types and is easily absorbed.
The best way to ensure the shelf life of any oil infusion is to use dried plants.
Fresh herbs contain water and those molecules are released into the oil which are insoluble. This opens the doors to bacteria and oxygen which turn the infusion rancid. It's very disappointing when that happens!
To use fresh herbs, wilt them for a few days first, this will dry them out and allow the process to unfold nicely.
I always recommend using organic herbs. This way you are avoiding adding any synthetic chemicals that can be attached the plant material and infused too. F@$% that!
The strength of the oil will depend on the plants and method used.
You can always do a double extraction to make it stronger. This is done by straining out the old/used herbs and replacing a new batch of herbs into the same oil. Then, just repeating the process. It will add more properties and aroma. You can do this up to four times if needed. But once will certainly embody a beautiful, medicinal infusion. Some herbs to inspire your inner alchemist are:
LAVENDER: Has anti-septic, anti-inflammatory properties. Its a great nervine relaxant. Lavender soothes irritations from mild skin abrasions like bites, stings, cuts and bruises. The colour won't transfer but the aroma can.
CALENDULA: Is an anti-fungal, anti-microbial herb that boosts collagen production, astringent, heals damaged and irritated tissues.
Ideal for using externally in baby products. Calendula will create a rich orange coloured oil. This herb doesn't have an aroma.
And if picked fresh, with the flowers for 6-7 days to release the most resin from the plant to infuse. Best method to extract the rich properties.
ROSE: Calms inflammation, tightens pores and soothes irritated skin.
The aroma or colour will not pass through the oil infusion but the beneficial properties do.
LEMON MYRTLE: Anti-septic, anti-viral, anti-fungal and very aromatic herb. Externally it soothes muscle pain and eases respiratory discomfort. Plus Lemon myrtle's scent infuses really well.
CHAMOMILE: Soothing and gentle for young skin or sensitive skin. The flowers will colour the oil and can be tricky to truly filter out. Repeat straining and or let the flowers settle to the bottom of the jar and decant accordingly.
ROSEMARY: The aroma is transferred well in an oil infusion along with its anti-bacterial, antioxidant, anti-spasmodic properties. It boosts circulation and calms the nervous system. Great for topical or culinary use.
VANILLA BEANS (chopped, seeds and all): With a strong batch using an odorless oil you will get a sweet, subtle aroma. The seeds make it tricky to filter so needs a muslin cloth and patience.
ROSE GERANIUM: Such a beautiful plant to infuse. It's fragrant, gentle and relaxes the central nervous system. Has some great cleansing abilities. Leaves and stem can be used. The flowers have no aroma.
SAGE: Is a great anti-bacterial herb that will clean the skin from nasty microbes, offer valuable antioxidants and relax muscles and tension... A cooking oil of infused sage adds a tasty herbal flavour to salad dressings and marinades.
CHILLI: Perfect for cooking or added to an ointment for muscles tension. It will infuse the heat so be careful with the dosage/measurement.
MINT: A soothing, aromatic herb (any species from this genus work well) different properties for each variety. Great for culinary uses, think sweet treats made with oil. Or if used in soaps, balms and oils will increase blood circulation and is soothing to the skin.
COFFEE: Rich in antioxidants and will hold a mild aroma. Topically it can work to replace the skins natural oils and boosts collagen production.
A strainer. You could use a stainless steel one. A muslin cloth with a rubber band, clean hair-tie or a chux cloth. I use a muslin cloth and have cut and sown it to make a perfect size bag. Works great. Time and time again.
Sterilised glass jar with lid (Glass can be placed in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes and air dried on paper towel.)
Plastic lids need to be soaked in a sanitising solution.
Hospital grade solutions are usually a chlorine solution. Yuk right?! But it's all good if you use my crucial tip: After your lids or jars are sanitised, add 2 tablespoons of citric acid (good old vitamin C) to the water and let it sit for 10mins. Now it's SAFE to pour down the drain! Why? Because citric acid neutralises the chlorine content and restores the PH balance to normal. I have a blog coming about this because it's a huge reason DIY is so beneficial to our environment. I digress...
SOLAR INFUSION, SUNSHINE EXTRACTION, FOLK METHOD.
The ratio to stick to is 3 parts herb to 4 parts oil. (3:4)
1. Select and chop herbs. Using either a chopping board + knife or a mortar and pestle to break open the plant to promote it releasing the medicinal compounds easier. Keep in mind what your using to strain it.
2. Add to sterilised jar.
3. Pour oil in and ensure the plant mater is covered with around two one inch of oil.
We need to avoid exposing the plant to oxygen.
4. Place lid on tight and label the jar.
Label the date, plants and oil used.
5. Shake and place on a warm sunny window sill. And shake it once a day for anywhere between 2-6 weeks. The longer it's left the more potent it will be. But 2 weeks in will still give you a nice oil to work with. Especially for culinary purposes.
6. You can place a paper bag or tea towel over the jar if it's in direct sunlight.
It's not imperative however it will prevent the beneficial compounds (linoleic acid and vitamins) of the OIL from breaking down. The extraction of the herbal properties are not effected by this.
STOVE TOP INFUSION/ QUICK INFUSION
Follow the same directions above from 1 to 4. (Just don't label until it's done)
Place the glass jar inside a pressure/slow cooker half filled with water.
Dont pre-heat the appliance, to avoid shocking the glass with hot water and cold oil inside.
We are aiming for the oil to reach 30 'C. If it goes any higher we can lose various herbal properties.
Balance this by monitoring it and removing some of the water while slowly replacing it.
If you don't have a slow cooker. You can use a saucepan by:
Placing egg rings into the pan and putting 1-2 inches of water over the rings.
Use either a jar or a Pyrex jug to heat the infusion and monitor the temperature like above. Place it on top of the egg rings. Which serve to stop the glass sitting on the pan and heating to fast.
It can be easy to overheat or boil herbs and that will just make the volatile oils do what they do under heat. Rise and evaporate.
Heat the infusion for anywhere between 4-8 hours. Allow it to cool, strain liquid (every last precious drop) using a muslin cloth or fine metal strainer. Label with date, oil and plant ingredients.
Enjoy! This is such a wonderful way to practice herbal medicine at home.
The uses and benefits for these plant oils are one long list!
Consider using them where ever oil is an ingredient!